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Crosscurrents in Adventist Christology

by Claude Webster


III. Evaluation and Critique

We will now approach the evaluation and critique of Waggoner in two sections. Firstly, we will reflect on him as thinker, writer and theologian. Secondly, we will present a critique of his Christology, focusing on three important issues.

A. General Evaluation of Waggoner as Thinker, Writer and Theologian

In order to understand and evaluate Waggoner's contribution in Christology it is essential to first see this in the context of his general theological ability. After our survey of his Christological thought one comes to the conclusion that here was a man of no mean ability as a thinker, writer and theologian.

1. Waggoner, the 'thinker'

As a ‘thinker’ Waggoner occupies an important place in early Adventism. His scientific training and his logical approach to Biblical truth combined to produce an effective advocate of the Christian message. However, like all thought leaders he must be seen against the background of his time. Waggoner was both the product of Adventism as well as the innovator of a new era within the movement. Illustrative of the former role, we find him in the 1880's grappling with the problems regarding the relationship between the law, the gospel and righteousness. Due to its eschatological emphasis Adventism had tended to concentrate on the urgency of restoring the law and the Sabbath to their rightful place in theology, often to the neglect of a proper emphasis on Christ and the gift of God's righteousness.227 As a son of Adventism Waggoner, too, found his area of concern to be the question of the sinner's relationship to the righteousness of God revealed in the law of God.

In early Adventism the stress fell on the holiness and absolute authority of God, which had been compromised by the popular theological thinking of the day but which was to be restored before the coming of Christ.228 This was behind the emphasis on law and obedience and the idea of the Sabbath as the test of loyalty to ultimate authority. The only way to be ready for the coming of Christ was to live the life of total obedience to God and to make Him the final authority in one's life, above human opinion, reason, tradition or creed. It is against this backdrop that Waggoner's thinking must continually be seen. He never renounced these concerns even after leaving the employ of the denomination.229 'How can the sinner live the obedient life?' is the question that must always be seen in the background of everything Waggoner ever wrote if we are to evaluate him correctly. In this way Waggoner was a product of Adventism.

And yet this very preoccupation in pre-1888 Adventism was to result in the blazing of new trails as Waggoner adopted the role of innovator and champion of new ideas. Waggoner was an innovator, not in the sense that he rejected the emphasis on holiness and righteousness, but in his teaching of how it was to be found. Waggoner must be given the credit for recognizing that the tendency in some of the pioneers' thinking  was to move in the direction of legalism and semi-pelagianism.230 He called a halt to this tendency precisely because he saw that it failed to achieve the very objective it was aimed at - holy living and righteous conduct. In the place of all this Waggoner emphasized that Christ and His merits was the only way to find righteousness in this life. Grace, justification by faith, and later the indwelling Christ were seen to be the way to obedience and holiness. See him don the mantle of adventurous warrior as he presented his editorials on the moral law in Galatians in contradiction to the views of Smith and Butler. 231 The resultant contest between the young scholar and the church administrator was to ripen into the challenging theological presentations at the 1888 Minneapolis Session.

Waggoner's decisive theological contribution was to re-emphasize that we are saved by grace through faith and not of works. Concretely this meant we are saved by Jesus Christ alone. Christology inevitably was Waggoner's innovation central to Waggoner's thought. was to make Christ central.

2. Waggoner, the 'writer'

In this general evaluation we must also see Waggoner as a 'writer.' During the early days of Adventism, writing was a very important means of communication. Those believing 'the message' were a scattered people and initially there were no schools or seminaries. The ability write and disseminate one's viewpoint was vital for anyone wishing to make an impression on the public. Waggoner had ample opportunity to develop his skill as a writer in his capacity as editor of church periodicals both in America and England.232 We have also observed number of important books which came his pen.233 There is no doubt that Waggoner's style of writing developed and showed many signs of logic, persuasion, clarity and depth.234

It should be noted that Waggoner's ability as a writer is a primary contributing factor in the impact of his Christological views and in turn in shaping Adventism's Christology. Significantly, some current Seventh-day Adventist theologians of various shades of thought endeavor to find support in Waggoner.235

3. Waggoner, the 'theologian'

We now take opportunity to briefly look at Waggoner in the specific role as theologian.' In the early days of Adventism there were no actual trained theologians in the sense of Seminary-trained men with degrees. Despite this, men like J. N. Andrews and E. J. Waggoner developed into theologians of ability. Waggoner had received a medical training at Bellevue Medical School and a brief theological course at Emmanuel Missionary College. With a certain natural ability and application he developed into a theologian of stature.

Here was a man who was able to make use of the tool of the original languages of Scripture in his task as theologian.236 We have an illustration of his hermeneutical method at its best as he sought to interpret the Biblical message of the gospel in the book of Galatians as he dialogued with Butler in his pamphlet, The Gospel in the Book of Galatians (1888). Evidence of his systematic grasp of truth is clear in his work, The Everlasting Covenant (1900) as he saw the unified plan of God as expressed through the work of Christ, the Mediator. There are many examples of Waggoner's logical thought and the consistency of his themes. For example, running like a silver thread through all his writings is the presentation of God's unified and consistent plan of salvation throughout all time.

Another hallmark of Waggoner's theology was his totally Christocentric approach to dogma.237 Waggoner also had a good grasp of church history as we see from his Fathers of the Catholic Church (1888) in which he extracted evidence from the church fathers illustrative of their departure from Biblical truth.238

His accent on the doctrine of justification by faith as exhibited in his The Gospel in the Book of Galatians likewise showed evidence of familiarity with In this same pamphlet showed that he was able to grasp the signified issues and had the ability to see consequences or presuppositions in particular arguments.

Finally, it must be stated that Waggoner's ability as a theologian gave his Christology its power and thrust.

B. A Detailed Evaluation of Waggoner's Christology  

It was in the area of Christology that Waggoner was to make a significant contribution as a theologian within the ranks of Adventism. In his "Confessions" he traces his deep interest in Christology from that remarkable revelation which he experienced early in his ministerial career.239With growing conviction Christ became pivotal to his developing theological scheme.

In order to evaluate Waggoner's Christology we must do it against some norm. That norm could be the Scriptures, the historical Christian creeds, or his own Christological convictions at the time of the 1888-1890 era. The first two would require more space than is available and we have thus chosen the third alternative.240

By 1890 Waggoner's Christology had the following clear marks of identity. The first was a strong conviction regarding the essential deity of Christ; the second referred to the actuality of the humanity of Christ in that He took upon Himself man's sinful nature and was actually made sin on account of the sinful human race; the third accepted the sinlessness of Christ in every aspect of His life of action, thought and deed; the fourth mark is his emphasis on the consistency of the plan of salvation throughout history. The work of Christ is seen to be uniform and consistent and his soteriology is thus essentially anti-dispensational.

One must also bear in mind Waggoner's whole theological burden at this time of his career. He recognized the sinfulness of man and his inability to achieve righteousness. Righteousness was equated with the moral law and sinful man was not able to render obedience. The gospel of Jesus Christ was the answer to man's dilemma. This gospel was based on the reality of the divinity of Christ which gave significance to the atonement. In the Incarnation Christ was made sin for man and did bear the sins of the whole world. Through His death Christ has paid the penalty of the broken law and can offer the gift of righteousness to all. Justification by faith is the all-embracing power that offers the sinner a right-standing with God and brings the power of Christ into the life. Through faith righteousness is obtained and the believer is made righteous and through the indwelling Christ can render complete obedience to the law of God.

There are three chief problem areas to be considered in the evaluation of Waggoner's Christology: Firstly, the development of his thought poses a problem for the question of what constituted the essential heart of his Christology. Secondly, what role did Waggoner's view that Christ took man's sinful nature in the Incarnation play in his overall Christology? Thirdly, was Waggoner's 'demonstration group' at the end of time consistent with his idea of the anti-dispensational nature of Christ's work?

1. The essential heart of Waggoner's Christology as a key to his later deviation

In seeking to evaluate Waggoner's developing Christology against the norm of his own 1890 position the question must be raised as to whether it remained consistent throughout or whether any metamorphosis took place contributing toward his later pantheistic outlook. Waggoner himself maintains in his "Confessions" that his 1916 theological position was but the natural development of his 1888 presentations.241

During the 1890's Waggoner moved steadily from an emphasis on the historical events of Christ and the cross to an emphasis on the existential event of the cross in a believer's heart. The internal and immanent Christ appeared to gather greater importance than the Christ of history.242 As this emphasis continued it was only logical that the internal Christ would take on greater importance in living the life of righteousness. This theological stance would also be favorable to a growing stress on the doctrine of perfection. And with the merging of the existential and internal Christ with the human will, the distinction between Deity and human nature became blurred. This loss of distinction between Deity and nature in general is a hallmark of pantheism.243

Why was it that Waggoner's Christology became blurred in the mists of pantheism? Was it simply an accident that the parasite of pantheism grew out of Waggoner's theology as Wieland affirms?244 Or was it as a result of the loss of distinction in theology as McMahon indicates?245 While it is true that this blurring of distinction did take place and finally resulted in the identification of Deity with nature, we would like to suggest that there is an underlying contributing cause to this whole progression. One cannot simply say that everyone who maintains that 'righteousness by faith' implies the internal work of sanctification as well as the puntiliar declarative work of justification by faith will end up in the quagmire of pantheism as McMahon would seem to indicate.246

I would like to suggest that while Waggoner was greatly used of God in the 1888-90 era of Adventism by bringing to his church a startling message of man's inadequacy, God's holiness, heaven's provision of justification by faith, Christ's authority in His divinity and the free gift of Christ's righteousness, Waggoner did not go far enough in cutting himself free from a preoccupation with man and his righteousness. Perhaps without his realization, Waggoner was still a child of the 19th century which lived under the shadow of Schleiermacher with his anthropocentric emphasis.247 Waggoner, likewise, had been interested in man and how he could keep the law. He made the great discovery that man could keep the law by faith in Christ instead of his own works. But his Christology still remained man-centered. Like an eagle bursting into the heavens his Christology appeared to soar into the firmament of God's free grace immediately after 1888 only to plunge into an anthropocentric plummet as the 1890's proceeded.

While sanctification and man's keeping the law is an important and necessary fruit of salvation it must never become the end purpose of our Christology. Christology must be to God's honor and glory and for the vindication of His plan and purpose. While Waggoner started with God's grace in the gift of justification by faith he ended in an existential, internal, immanent, inherent and mystical Christ of the inner life in which the focus of attention became increasingly anthropocentric.248

Could it be that Waggoner was so concerned with the dichotomy Law-Gospel that he failed to perceive the lore fundamental dichotomy between God-Man? Does not his loss of all distinction between God and man in the later stages of his development point in this direction? Would it not have been better if Waggoner had seen in Christ the climax and fulfillment of God's great plan of restoration in the bridging of the gulf of sin in the person of Christ - God with us? Did he not, instead, see Christ only as a means to a greater end - the righteous living of the saints? And does this not wallow Christology up in Anthropology? These questions re an integral part of Waggoner's Christology.

If Waggoner had continued with his Christocentric emphasis of 1890 and not slipped into an anthropocentric stance he would have avoided the pitfalls of pantheism.

For those who live in the 1980's and look back to Waggoner the choice still remains. One can find in Waggoner the Christocentric emphasis on God's holiness, man's inadequacy, the blessings of justification by faith and the resultant growth in sanctification. Or one can discover in Waggoner the anthropocentric emphasis on the internal and immanent Christ in the heart of man with its strong leaning toward the primacy of sanctification, obedience and perfection.

2. The role of Christ and sinful human nature in Waggoner's Christology

We have already observed that while Waggoner upheld the sinlessness of Christ in act he did believe that Christ took man's sinful nature upon Himself. Whether by this Waggoner meant that Christ came into the world a sinner by nature like all other men is not clear.249

Adventist scholars and theologians have reacted differently to Waggoner's concepts on the sinful nature of Christ. This reaction has depended very often on their own Christological and soteriological leanings. Froom has avoided the issue of Waggoner's position on the sinful human nature of Christ; Wieland has accepted it into his soteriological scheme; McMahon rejects Waggoner's purported view; while Fred Wright has accepted and embellished it.250

We wish now to maintain that whatever the exact nature of Waggoner's view on the humanity of Christ might be, his concept on the 'sinful nature' of Christ is not an essential element for his total Christology and soteriology. By this we mean that much of the impact of an 'example theology' is lost for two reasons.

Firstly, in 1889 Waggoner was teaching that Christ could not sin because of His divinity. We have given clear evidence for this.251 In other words, if sin is not possible for Christ because of His divine nature, then the degree of the actuality of His 'sinful' human nature loses its relevance.

Secondly, in his unfolding Christology and soteriology during the 1890's, Waggoner began to lay greater and greater stress on the internal and immanent Christ within the heart of the believer. We have given much evidence for this in the present chapter. The existential Christ is the one who lives in the believer's heart and takes over the actual obedience. It is the faith of Christ operative in the believer that produces the law-abiding life. In this view we submit that the human Christ who lived in Palestine and the actual nature of His humanity is not an essential element. In fact, we have even seen that Waggoner believed that the Christ was far more important than the flesh in which He appeared.252

In this connection we must mention that by 1900 it would appear that Waggoner had developed a speculative philosophy in regard to Christ. This was all part of his pantheistic tendencies and his emphasis on the immanent Christ. It seems that there was an identification of the infinite and the finite as Waggoner enlarged on Christ's presence in all men, saints and sinners. We have also noticed his tendency to identify Christ's presence in the natural world. Was there a clear distinction in Waggoner's mind at this time between the humanity and the divinity of Christ or were these merged? Did he not lose the uniqueness of the historical Jesus as he insisted on the divine Christ merging so closely with all men and even nature? It appears probable that by this time Christ had become a universal principle for Waggoner rather than a historical person.

Waggoner's soteriology was, therefore, not really based on the concept that what Jesus Christ did in His humanity on earth man can do today by following His example and relying upon the power of God as Christ did. Rather than this 'example theology' Waggoner taught the power of the internal and existential Christ within the heart. We repeat that this concept makes the debate on the actuality or the degree of the 'sinful nature' of Christ irrelevant, at least to some extent.

3. The 'demonstration' model and Waggoner's anti-dispensational stance

Why does Waggoner bring forward the concept of a special 'demonstration' group in the end-time in whom "all the fullness of God" will be manifest253 when he has been so consistently anti-dispensational in his entire treatment of the work of Christ?254

For Wieland the sanctuary message calls for a unique and special work of Christ and a 'demonstration' model would fit this theology. Writing about sinless living and asking the right questions at the right time Wieland writes: "And the right time is this time of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, while our great High Priest is completing His work of final atonement. Christ is to accomplish a work unique in human history, since sin began."255 For Wieland the work of Christ in the most holy apartment of the heavenly sanctuary since 1844 calls for this special unique work of Christ. Wieland believed that Waggoner and Jones derived their concepts from 'the great controversy' motif, the idea of the cleansing of the sanctuary and from the three angels' messages.256

It must be stated that Waggoner could hardly have based his 'demonstration' model upon the Adventist sanctuary doctrine for in his "Confession of Faith" (1916), he states that he had abandoned this teaching earlier.257Wieland finds it difficult to accept that Ellen White would have given her blessing to the work and teachings of Waggoner up to at least 1896 if the latter had either deviated from the 'truth' or entertained faulty theological concepts.258 Speaking of the time from 1888-1896 Wieland says on this issue: "The only way to charge apostasy on Waggoner during this period is to discredit Ellen G White by assuming that she was either naive and misinformed or derelict in her duty."259 We submit that Ellen White's endorsement of Waggoner's message does not necessarily mean that she was in agreement with every aspect of his theology.260

It could well be that Waggoner was led to express his 'demonstration' model on the basis of other concepts such as the 'great controversy' motif or the teaching of the three angels' messages of Revelation 14 with their call to obedience. We, nevertheless, state that in view of Waggoner's abandonment of the Adventist Sanctuary doctrine and in the light of his anti-dispensational stance relative to the work of Christ, that in the end Waggoner was not consistent in postulating a unique 'demonstration' model in the light of his consistent Christology.

C. Conclusion

Let it be clearly understood that Waggoner made a definite contribution to the life of the Adventist community in 1888 and subsequent years. His Christology and soteriology proved to be a distinct advance in Adventism causing severe opposition in some quarters. There is no doubt that he was used of God to give heaven's message at Minneapolis and in subsequent years. Ellen White joined heart and hand in supporting his ministry.

To be used of God and to give heaven's approved message does not require infallibility in the message. God still works through human, fallible instruments and while the message can carry God's blessing and approval, it is not handed to man on a silver platter. It is still given in human words and concepts. Furthermore, even if Waggoner's developing theology subsequent to 1888 showed signs of deficiency or even if he abandoned certain teachings which he formerly upheld, God's blessing is not automatically removed. God works through fallible, dedicated human instruments to bring His message to the world.

We all should face the task of proclaiming Christ with humility. Even though one has been called of God and truth has taken possession of the soul it is well to remember that our grasp of God's infallible truth may well be fallible. God is prepared to use humble instruments who continually seek for truth as a light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,

While Waggoner showed clear signs of an ontological approach to Christology in his earlier years he appeared to move imperceptibly towards a speculative and existential application of this aspect of dogma in his later years.


  227 See Ellen White in "Christ Prayed for Unity Among His Disciples," Review and Herald, March 11, 1890: "As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God. We must not trust in our own merits at all, but in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth." [back]

228 Mention should be made of the Methodist roots of Adventism as quite a group of the Millerite founding leaders were Methodists. See Froom, Movement of Destiny, p.146, where he lists 11 names including that of Ellen Harmon. The Methodist emphasis on sanctification and holiness is well known. [back]

229 We know that Waggoner returned to the U.S.A. from England in 1903. There is divided opinion as to whether he taught for a short time at Emmanuel Missionary College. (See Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, p.1385; Richard W. Schwarz, Letter to E. C. Webster, June 23, 1982). He then worked at the Battle Creek Sanitarium during the years 1904, 1905. Schwarz says one can consider this denominational employment if one takes the Sanitarium as a church institution at the time. He says this may be open to question. When Waggoner's wife divorced him in the winter of 1905-6, this effectively ended any kind of denominational service he might have had at the time. (See Schwarz, Letter June 23, 1982).[back]

230 While evidence can be found for a firm belief in Jesus Christ and the gospel (see A. V. Olson, Through Crisis to Victory, pp.16-24), it was the very emphasis on the law and the Sabbath which made Adventism vulnerable to these dangers. Olson says: "It was because many early Seventh-day Adventist preachers in their public ministry placed their principal emphasis on the law and the Sabbath instead of on Christ" (Ibid., p.24). See also Ibid., pp. 9-15, the chapter entitled "Preachers of the Law;" also Arthur Spalding says that while the fathers of the Second Advent cause believed in the atoning grace of Christ as the sole means of salvation "the trend was to legalism" (Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, Vol. 2, p.286).[back]

231 We have already referred to this incident. See footnote 25 of this chapter. [back]

232 Principally, The Signs of the Times (1884-1891) in the U.S.A. and The Present Truth (1892-1903) in England. On his return to the U.S.A. he was associate editor of The Medical Missionary periodical from 1903-1905.[back]

233 We refer the reader to footnote 1 of this chapter. [back]

234 As an example of logic and persuasion we point to Waggoner's, The Gospel in the Book of Galatians (1888), in which he addressed himself to the arguments of G. I. Butler's The Law in the Book of Galatians (1886). See also Waggoner's series entitled, "The Divinity of Christ," in The Signs of the Times of March 25, April 1, 8,15,22; May 6, 1889. To illustrate clarity of thought see his series of 16 studies on Romans given at the 1891 General Conference Session, "Letter to the Romans - Nos. 1-16," General Conference Bulletin, 1891. While we might not agree with all of the theology in The Glad Tidings (1900), we do refer to this book as an example of Waggoner's depth of thought and expression. Leroy Froom, no mean writer himself, has high praise for Waggoner's Christ and His Righteousness (1890). He is especially impressed with Waggoner's presentation of the Deity of Christ. Froom believes that this book was the basis of Waggoner's presentation at Minneapolis (1888) and while there are others who deny the certainty of this, we note Froom's approval of Waggoner's style. He speaks of his "marvelous studies;" of "his truly historic presentation;" of "his pedagogical principle of repetition for emphasis;" of "Waggoner's epochal message;" how that he "phrased his thoughts with exactness, and in full understanding of their import." For Froom's commendation see Movement of Destiny, pp. 269-280. In commenting on the one section where Waggoner implies a beginning for Christ, Froom writes: "As we have said, Waggoner's presentation was marred by this deviation from strict Biblical exegesis and sound theology. But it must be judged as a whole and not by a single unfortunate slip" (Ibid., p.293).[back]

235 Note, for example, particularly L. E. Froom in Movement of Destiny, pp.269-299, as he approvingly discusses Waggoner's presentation of the deity of Christ in Christ and His Righteousness (1890). R. J. Wieland has practically total endorsement for Waggoner's view on the divinity and humanity of Christ in his book The 1888 Message; An Introduction (1980).[back]

236 Waggoner had spent some time at the Battle Creek College during the Brownsberger era. Sydney Brownsberger had completed an M. A. Degree in the classics at the University of Michigan (1869) and was appointed principal of the Battle Creek School in 1873, a post he held until 1881. (For a history of the founding of the original school by Goodloe Harper Bell in 1868, its official adoption by the church in 1872, the dedication of the College on January 4, 1875, and the whole Brownsberger era from 1873-1881, see Emmett K. Vande Vere, The Wisdom Seekers, pp.15-41). The curriculum records show that Waggoner could have studied Latin, Greek and Hebrew. The classical course required six years each in Latin and Greek, while the three-year Theology course also offered Hebrew. We are not sure how long Waggoner was at the College but his later writings and lectures demonstrate the use of Greek. See his reference to the Greek when discussing the problem of Christ as "the beginning of the creation of God" in Rev. 3:14 in Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 20,21; also in his 18 lectures on Hebrews at the General Conference of 1897 -"Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 1," The Daily Bulletin, p.9; "Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 2," The Daily Bulletin, ("It is not indicated in the best Greek texts," p.24); "Lecture No. 4," The Daily Bulletin, p.44; "Lecture No. 5," ("That word 'contrite' means rubbed together until it is dust"), The Daily Bulletin, p.56; "Lecture No. 8," The Daily Bulletin, p.103; "Lecture No. 10," ("Now that word Comforter is from the very same Greek word that is used in 1 John 2:1," The Daily Bulletin, p.211); "Lecture No. 18," General Conference Bulletin, 1897, p.10. Waggoner's daughter recollects that while they were living in California in the 1880's she remembers her father studying and reading Hebrew aloud (see Pearl Waggoner Howard, "Dr. E. J. Waggoner, Biographical Sketch and Background," p.4).[back]

237 0ne example is the Christ-centered approach to creation evidenced in his The Gospel in Creation (1895). See also his long series on "The Gospel of Isaiah," which ran in the weekly, The Present Truth, for 18 months from January 5, 1899, until June 21, 1900.[back]

238 In this book of 392 pages Waggoner commences with a discussion of the heathen world and its philosophy, focusing on Plato, and then moves on through some of the early church fathers, like Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and Origen, ending with the papal apostasy. In this work Waggoner quotes liberally from sources such as Neander, Eusebius of Caesarea, Philip Schaff, Farrar, Mosheim, Joseph Bingham, Henry Milman and Adolph Harnack to mention some. [back]

239 See footnote 5 of this chapter for details. [back]

240 The early Christology of Waggoner had crystallized by the time of the appearance of his Christ and His Righteousness (1890). Its presentation of the divinity of Christ was different from much of that offered on the current Adventist scene. This was particularly true of such aspects as the essential equality of the Son with the Father in nature and substance. Froom in his Movement of Destiny presents evidence for the Arian and semi-Arian position on Christ within Adventism prior and subsequent to Waggoner (see pp.148-180). We have already observed that Gane in his paper, "The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian views presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G. White Answer" (especially pp.5-66; 104-110), paints a more vivid picture than does Froom concerning the strength of the anti-Trinitarian stance within Adventism. (For more details on Gane's paper we refer the reader to footnote 25 in chapter two of this dissertation). We have also noted that Adventist scholars of differing theological schools can look back with common approval to the major features of Waggoner's Christology during this period. In addition, Ellen White endorses and supports Waggoner's 1888 position. (This does not mean that Ellen White was in total agreement with all of Waggoner's theology even at this date. She could say: "Some interpretations of Scripture given by Dr. Waggoner I do not regard as correct" (Manuscript 15, 1888). For a sample of her support see Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91,92; Ms. 5, 1889; Review and Herald, March 5, 1889; Ibid., September 3, 1889. For these reasons we can use the Christology of 1888-90 as a useful norm in evaluating Waggoner. [back]

241 At the beginning of his "Confession of Faith" (1916), Waggoner wishes to show that his present position is a logical development from Minneapolis (1888). He writes: "You remember Minneapolis. I am making bold to ask you, if you come to some things that you feel inclined to dissent from, to point out to me where there is a break in the logical sequence" (p.4). While Waggoner himself would not admit of his later deflection toward pantheism, both his supporters and critics admit of this aberration in his later theology. The only difference is that his supporters place the development of his pantheistic sentiments later than do his critics, and the supporters see Waggoner's pantheism as a parasite to his theological scheme while his critics see the development as a logical outgrowth of Waggoner's whole theology. Wieland sees Waggoner as basically sound throughout the decade following 1888. He writes: "And the complete balanced picture of what they [Waggoner and Jones] taught in the decade after Minneapolis must be a fair understanding of what was implicit in the message given in 1888" (R. J. Wieland, The 1888 Message: An Introduction, 1980, p.11). When preparing his revised edition of The Glad Tidings (1972), he realized that pantheistic sentiments should be removed and he editorially removed the more blatant statements. For a comparison of the two books note, for example, the 1900 edition, pp.80-81, 85, 87-88, 117, and 169; and compare with 1972 edition pp. 42, 44, 45, 62, and 91. Wieland does not make any reference to this in his foreword. In private correspondence to Tarling, Wieland admits of the pantheism of the book. He writes: "The pantheism was not inherent in his understanding of Righteousness by Faith but a parasite. Hence I wished to restore the message as nearly as I could to its original purity as he gave it in the early 1888 era" (Wieland to Tarling, July 14, 1977, quoted in Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man (1979) by D. P. McMahon, p.178). Incidentally, there is no substantial evidence for Wieland's statement regarding The Glad Tidings in the foreword to his edited version: "I discovered that the message of this book was in reality a transcript of studies that Dr Waggoner gave personally to a gathering of ministers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the fall of 1888" (p.6). If anything, Waggoner's The Gospel in the Book of Galatians (1888) would be closer to the mark. On the other hand, McMahon sees Waggoner in decline during the years 1892-1897 (see his book, Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, chapter 8, pp.117-145). He maintains that Waggoner slowly lost the sense of distinction in his theology during these years. Amongst others he mentions such distinctions as between justification and sanctification, law and gospel, human nature of Christ and human nature of other men, Christ's work on the cross and in our hearts, the believer and unbeliever, physical and spiritual light, heaven and the believer's heart. He believed that thus Waggoner was losing the proper distinction between the Creator and the creature and so his theology became pantheistic (see Ibid., pp.118,119). While McMahon believes that Waggoner first expressed his pantheistic ideas in 1894 (see Ibid., p.147) and that Waggoner, furthermore, expressed pantheistic ideas strongly in his lectures on Hebrews at the 1897 General Conference Session (see Ibid., pp.148-159), he nevertheless sees this gradual loss of distinction in Waggoner's theology developing years earlier and preparing the ground for his pantheistic ideas. [back]

242 As evidence for this see footnotes 148-152, 215-217, 224-226 of this chapter.[ back]

243 The classical exponent of the philosophy of pantheism was Spinoza. However, there are different forms of the pantheistic theory. Some see God as immanent in the universe of finite things and others see God as a pervading presence. (For a brief discussion of pantheism see The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th edition, Vol. 17, London: The Encyclopaedia Britannica Co., 1929, pp.190,191; see also Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Vol. IV, London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1958, pp. 205-263). In connection with Waggoner, it was at the 1901 General Conference Session that he first spoke about pantheism by name. It could well have been that some were raising questions as to his position. After speaking about the life of Christ manifested in us and God's life coming through the air and light, Waggoner said: "Some people call this 'pantheism.' Perhaps they know what the word means, but they do not know what they are talking about" ("Bible Study," General Conference Bulletin, April 14, 1901, p.223). He then defines pantheism as that form of heathenism which says that everything is God. He says that this is not so, but God is above all and through all and in all. He continues to indicate that some people speak of this power manifested in all creation as the power of God, but not saving power; that there is divine power and creative power. Waggoner then says: "That is pantheism" (Ibid.). Note again his defense. He says that someone not thinking clearly has written: "There is life manifested here and there, but it is not God's life." Waggoner then states that that is pantheism, because if it is not God's life, then the life in the plant is inherent in the creature. If you have another supply of life beside God then you have another god. Then one would believe that the creature is God. (see "Present Truth," The Medical Missionary, September 1903, p.223). Thus Waggoner denied that his line of thought was pantheistic. Despite this denial we must admit that if Waggoner had not subscribed to pantheism, then he certainly showed evidence of pantheism. It is of interest to ask whether it was actually John Harvey Kellogg or Ellet Joseph Waggoner who was responsible for leading the Adventist Church to the brink of its pantheism crisis in 1903. With Kellogg's Living Temple as the tip of the iceberg it is assumed by most that Kellogg was the culprit. There are others, however, who view Waggoner's developing immanent Christology of the 1890's as an important underlying motive factor. 0. A. Olsen, president of the British Union Conference, wrote in 1903 to A. G. Daniells, General Conference president, and referred to the long-term roots of the theology found in the Living Temple and, indeed, looked beyond Kellogg, a non-theologian, to the theology of E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones during the 1890's. Olsen noted Waggoner's claim that Waggoner himself had been the source of the theology in Kellogg's book. See Bert Haloviak, "Ellen White and A. T. Jones at Ottawa, 1889: Diverging Paths from Minneapolis," 1981, p.1, obtainable from the General Conference Archives. [back]

244 Evidence for Wieland's assertion has been given in footnote 241 of this chapter. [back]

245 See also footnote 241 for reference to McMahon. [back]

246 McMahon says: "Confounding righteousness by faith and sanctification was fatal for Waggoner's theory of sanctification" (Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, p.112). He believes that when it is taught that sanctification is by faith alone, and especially that Christ takes over completely in the life, there is danger of perfectionism and eventually pantheism (see Ibid., p.113). While we must acknowledge a distinction in justification and sanctification, and that in the gift of righteousness by faith in the Pauline sense one is accounted totally righteous, is it not true that Christ is our justification and sanctification and that when we truly accept Christ by faith we are accounted all that justification or sanctification demands? There is also then an on-going impartation in sanctification which never ends in this life. [back]

247 It would be interesting and important to discover what factors had an influence on Waggoner's theological thought. Usually one does not develop in isolation to other thinkers. Would Waggoner have discovered all his concepts simply by individual Bible study? We have sought to find out what commentaries and which theologians Waggoner read in order to answer some of these questions. Future research could investigate his use of sources and reading habits. We have already mentioned Waggoner's use of Luther in his Signs articles (see footnote 72) and we also looked at Waggoner's Fathers of the Catholic Church (1888). In producing this work he did wide reading as we have already mentioned in footnote 238. This included many encyclopaedias and also a host of church historians. Mention of some of these has already been made in the footnote just referred to. One could well ask whether Waggoner was not influenced by some aspects of Hegelian thought, possibly not by reading Hegel himself, but writers in English who had imbibed his philosophy. [back]

248 In our study of Waggoner's theology we do not find a clear and forthright doctrine of the Holy Spirit. At least the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit as a part of the Godhead is not emphasized. The prevailing attitude towards the Holy Spirit in Adventist circles at the time of Waggoner's work was anti-Trinitarian, accepting the Holy Spirit as a divine influence from God. (For example, Uriah Smith, leading editor of the Review and Herald said in a sermon at the 1891 General Conference Session: "The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God; it is also the Spirit of Christ. It is that divine, mysterious emanation through which they carry forward their great and infinite work." See General Conference Bulletin, IV, arch 18, 1891, p.146. See also Froom's evidence in Movement of Destiny, 1971, pp.151-180. Also E. R. Gane, "The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian views presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G. White Answer," pp. 20-24). In the light of the above it is not surprising that Waggoner was influenced by his contemporaries in regard to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. In his developing Christology, Waggoner gave greater emphasis to the abiding presence of Christ in the heart and could it be that without a clear teaching on the Deity or personality of the Holy Spirit, Christ took over the work of the Holy Spirit in Waggoner's thinking? In time this led to a lessening of the emphasis on the historical work of Christ in His earthly life and death. The historical Christ was almost lost in the form of the existential Christ who usurped the work and role of the Holy Spirit in the heart. [back]

249 In his The Gospel in the Book of Galatians (1888) Waggoner states that Christ was born under the condemnation of the law and carried this condemnation in His life and death on the cross. While he indicates that Christ was made like unto His brethren in order that His sinless life could be an encouragement to man he also indicates that Christ was made sin not on His own account but on the account of sinners (see footnotes 40-44). Waggoner was perhaps the most outspoken on the equality of Christ with sinners in his January 21, 1889, Signs of the Times article, "God Manifest in the Flesh" (see footnotes 75-80). We have also noted the emphasis in his Christ and His Righteousness (1890). In an article in The Present Truth, December 20, 1900, Waggoner discusses the fact that Christ had a whole line of sinners in His ancestry and then writes: "How could He be spotless with such a godless ancestry? - It was all due to His miraculous birth" ("The Miraculous Birth"). Of course, once we grant the 'miraculous birth' of Christ we are admitting a distinct difference between Christ and all other men. [back]

250 When Froom discusses Waggoner's work Christ and His Righteousness in his Movement of Destiny he devotes a short section to Waggoner's handling of the humanity of Christ (see pp.197,198). Froom interprets Waggoner as meaning that Christ was 'made' sin for us only vicariously. Froom only stresses those features of Waggoner which agree with his own strong views on the essential sinlessness of the nature of Christ. Wieland accentuates the idea that Waggoner believed that Christ came in sinful flesh (see the chapter "Christ Tempted as We Are," The 1888 Message: An Introduction, pp.41-51). This is important to Wieland's soteriology as he believes that sinless living by God's last-day saints will be a reproduction of what Christ did and will vindicate God (see the chapter "Sinless Living: Possible or Not?" Ibid., pp.92-118). McMahon is quite outspoken in ascribing to Waggoner a firm belief in Christ possessing a sinful human nature. He writes: "We have already seen how he taught that Christ came in a sinful human nature possessing all the sinful passions and evil tendencies common to all men" (Ellet Joseph Waggoner, pp. 139-140). McMahon might have expressed Waggoner's views too strongly, but after stating it thus he rejects the concept totally. Fred Wright, a former Seventh-day Adventist (and yet, no doubt, claiming to be of the traditional line and having views very similar to the early Brinsmead), has strongly supported Waggoner and ascribed to him the concept of the sinful human nature of Christ. (See his book The Destiny of a Movement, Palmwoods, Queensland: The Judgment Hour Publishing Co., 1976).[back]

251 See footnote 87 as we discussed this issue. [back]

252 See footnote 122 where we noted that Waggoner in 1900 stated that the flesh was not Christ. [back]

253 See footnote 154 where we quoted from The Everlasting Covenant, p.366.[back]

254 We have given much evidence in this chapter on the clear concept of the uniformity of the work of Christ and the identity of the gospel to Abraham, Paul and the modern world. Note, for example, footnotes 129 and 136.[back]

255 Wieland, The 1888 Message: An Introduction, p.93.[back]

256 See Ibid., p.11.[back]

257 Note his words: "Also, twenty-five years ago, these truths, coupled with the self-evident truth that sin is not an entity but a condition that can exist only in a person, made it clear to me that it is impossible that there could be any such thing as the transferring of sins to the sanctuary in heaven, thus defiling that place; and that there could consequently, be no such thing, either in 1844, A.D., or at any other time, as the 'cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary'" (pp.14,15). This would mean, according to Waggoner, that he had abandoned the distinctive Adventist sanctuary teaching by 1891. Some have felt that this might be an exaggeration on the part of Waggoner (see Letter A. 0. Coetzee, Andrews University, to E. C. Webster, July 27, 1982. Coetzee is, no doubt, reflecting the opinions of some at Andrews, but no evidence is given for this assertion. It could even be a subjective appraisal). Wieland believes that when Waggoner wrote this 'Confession' in 1916 he was an embittered, defeated and confused man, having suffered opposition from his brethren, and that he had overstated his case. He does not accept at face value Waggoner's probably unedited statement. He rejects it on the grounds of silence (he says there is not a line in Waggoner's writings between 1891 and 1902 to indicate that he had abandoned the sanctuary teaching); on the grounds of Ellen White's endorsement of his message between 1891 and 1896 (see footnote 258); on the grounds that he believes Waggoner did teach the distinctive Adventist Sanctuary doctrine during the period from 1891 to 1902 and cites one evidence, namely, Present Truth, May 23, 1901.See Wieland, The 1888 Message: An Introduction, pp.157,158.[back]

258 Note this sentiment in his The 1888 Message: An Introduction, pp.11,40.[back]

259  Ibid., p.40.[back]

260 While it is true that Ellen White gave approval and support to the general thrust of Waggoner's 1888 message it does not mean that she was in total agreement with that message or with Waggoner's unfolding theology during the 1890's. Even at Minneapolis Ellen White could say: "Some interpretations of Scripture given by Dr. Waggoner I do not regard as correct" (Manuscript 15, 1888). She also said that some things presented by Waggoner in Galatians were not clear to her and did not harmonize with her previous understanding. Further: "I know it would be dangerous to denounce Dr Waggoner's position as wholly erroneous. This would please the enemy. I see the beauty of truth in the presentation of the righteousness of Christ in relation to the law as the doctor has placed it before us" (Ibid.). Her subsequent approval of Waggoner's 1888 message and her labors together with Waggoner during 1889-1891 must not be seen as a blanket approval of every item of his theology. Did she support Waggoner's concept expressed in The Signs of the Times (1889) that Jesus Christ could not sin because of His divinity? (See footnote 87 of this chapter). While she spoke of Christ coming in fallen human nature and taking man's sinful nature did she agree with Waggoner when he expressed in 1889, 1890 that Christ had the same sinful tendencies and passions as all men? (See footnotes 75-80 in this chapter). Evidently she took a different line when she wrote to Baker of Australia in 1895 (see footnotes 232-236 in chapter two). And if one compares Waggoner's presentations on Hebrews at the 1897 General Conference Session with Ellen White's The Desire of Ages (1898) can one not detect a radical difference between Waggoner's treatment of Christ, where he tends to blur the distinction between the infinite and the finite, and Ellen White's historical, objective and yet spiritual treatment of Christ? Consult also the paper presented to Andrews University in partial fulfillment for a course in Development of Seventh-day Adventist Theology by Age Rendalen, "The Nature and Extent of Ellen White's Endorsement of Waggoner and Jones," 1978, pp.1-42.[back]

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