The Soteriological Implications of Douglass' View on the Humanity of Christ
Douglass' main Christological effort has concentrated on the humanity of Jesus
Christ. And this concentration has been for the distinct purpose of
challenging his readers to emulate the example of Jesus. Jesus Christ has been
set forth as Model for man as he seeks to follow in the footsteps of Christ.
This is clearly seen from a careful study of the two most significant
Christological productions of Douglass, namely, Jesus-The Benchmark of
, and Jesus, the Model Man162
When the motivating force of the example of Jesus remains in the realm of the
fruitage of the Christian life it is one thing, but when this example becomes
the driving force which must be emulated in order to assist God in bringing
the plan of salvation to fruition, there are certain clear soteriological
implications which emerge.
In studying Douglass' Christology it becomes apparent that a definite basic
pre-supposition exists. This pre-supposition is that Jesus Christ stood on
exactly the same level as fallen man with regard to basic performance.163
equipment, the only difference being in the realm of Hence, from birth to
death, what Jesus Christ was, man is; what Jesus Christ did, man can do.
Now this basic pre-supposition regarding Jesus and man is the foundation upon
which Douglass' soteriological edifice is erected. Let us observe how this
pre-supposition has affected Douglass' concepts regarding sin, man and the
l. Implications of Douglass' Christology in the understanding of sin
Because Douglass accepts Jesus Christ as equal to fallen man at birth
there must be some accommodation with regard to the doctrine of sin. If Jesus
Christ is not to be guilty of any type of original sin or of depravity, then
man must, likewise, be free from these states. Christ must have no distinct,
basic, advantage over fallen man. Hence, Douglass would not accept any
doctrine of original sin or of depravity that would make man or Christ guilty
While Douglass rejects the concept of original sin, he would accept that Jesus
Christ and fallen man both possess sinful natures. These sinful natures are
the result of thousands of years of sin and mean that hereditary weaknesses
and liabilities are passed on to man and Christ.165
In this way Douglass sees
the very real possibility of temptation arising from within as well as from
without. For Christ and man these sinful natures meant the reality of
tendencies and propensities to sin, weaknesses, liabilities and clamors of the
fallen nature. Jesus Christ successfully resisted the pull of His sinful
nature, but all other men have succumbed to temptation.
Because of Douglass' view on the basic equality of Christ and fallen man, he
sees sin in the realm of performance rather than state. The state of Jesus and
man is the same and hence is not basically incriminating. Sin is only seen as
a deliberate choice of wrong acts in thought, word and deed.
Douglass would, therefore, conclude that because Jesus constantly performed
without sinning man must be able to do the same. Because of their identity in
equipment, man should be able to reach the place where he stops performing
acts of sin. This ideal with regard to the cessation of sin in the life of man
becomes a driving force for Douglass.
2. Implications of Douglass' Christology for our understanding of man
For Douglass, Jesus Christ becomes the prototype of man. Jesus is the
benchmark and the Model for all men.166
Because of the equality of equipment, the quality life of Jesus becomes the
dominant ideal for fallen man. Hence, Douglass' emphasis on man's quality life.
There is a concentration on the importance of character, health,
happiness and self-development in man. Constant progress is necessary in order
for man to attain to the necessary level of Christ's life.
As Douglass sees the perfect performance of Jesus, he believes that man must
likewise perform perfectly. This emphasis on the role of perfect performance
has opened the door to some form of perfectionism for Douglass.167
Because of Douglass' basic Christological presupposition, the performance of
Jesus remains a constant motivating power. Hence, for Douglass man's
performance (sanctification) takes precedence over his state
Because man's fallen state is identical with the nature of
Jesus, the state of man is not the vital issue. It is man's acts of sin that
must be forgiven and then attention must be given to the eradication of wrong
performance. While the death of Christ on the cross provides forgiveness for
wrong acts, it is the indwelling life of Christ through the Holy Spirit that
provides victory over sin in the actual life. Man cannot really be satisfied
until his performance (sanctification) equals that of Jesus Christ.
Douglass would see the performance of Jesus linked very closely with His
obedience to the law of God. In fact, for Douglass the most important reason
for the Incarnation is that Jesus Christ came to show that He and fallen man
could perfectly keep the moral law of God.169
Because of the equality of
Christ and fallen man, the whole question of man's obedience and man's keeping
the law perfectly becomes a major issue for Douglass. The 'great controversy'
over the law is settled not only by Christ's performance but by the necessary
perfect performance of man. The 'controversy' will only be settled when a
significant number of people reduplicate the perfectly obedient life of Jesus
While Douglass views man's faith in Christ as helpful, it becomes imperative
for him that man develop the same faith that Jesus had by reliance on the
Man is quite capable, with God's help, of demonstrating this
similar faith. Having developed the faith which Jesus exercised, Douglass sees
man as having a vital part in vindicating God. For Douglass it is not
sufficient that Jesus Christ should vindicate the law and His Father. Man must
have an important part in this vindication process. Only when fallen man
participates in Christ's perfect obedience and in keeping the law as He did
will the vindication of God be complete.171
In Douglass' soteriology his concept of Christ's humanity has driven him into
the absolute necessity of fallen man reduplicating the perfect life of Jesus
in order to complete the plan of salvation. For Douglass only those who equal
the performance of Jesus, even if it be for a short period, are 'safe to
3. Implications of Douglass' Christology for eschatology
We will also note how Douglass' basic presupposition that Jesus Christ
equals fallen man except in performance has influenced his eschatology.
Because Douglass accepts that man's performance has not always equaled that of
Christ, he has developed and refined what is called the 'harvest'
The time must come even if it be at the end when fallen man will
reduplicate the life of Jesus. In the 'harvest' principle Douglass has found
an answer to the problem of man's apparent inadequacy. Just as the plant grows
from the seed to the stalk and then to the full grain, so Douglass sees each
generation of believers growing and developing until we come to a generation
which has achieved maturity and perfection. The 'harvest' principle is
Douglass' soteriological solution to the demand of his Christological
In Douglass' eschatology the problem of the delayed Advent has assumed
important significance. He scribes this delay, not to the fact that the gospel
has not been proclaimed or to the fact that world conditions re not ripe for
this event, but to the fact that his Christological pre-supposition has not
Douglass believes that the Advent is being delayed because
fallen man has not yet realized his destiny, namely, of reduplicating the
performance and lifestyle of Jesus Christ.
Likewise, Douglass understands that the heavenly sanctuary has not yet been
'cleansed' because man is till falling short of the lifestyle of Jesus.175
Only when fallen man reaches the place where he equals the performance of
Jesus and stops sinning will the sanctuary be 'cleansed.' The reduplication of
the life of Jesus in the flesh will synchronize with the final 'cleansing' of
the records of sin in the heavenly sanctuary.
Even the presentation of the gospel is closely inked to Douglass'
The reason why the gospel message has not
been finalized and accomplished is because the life of fallen man has not
equaled that of Christ's life. The gospel in reality is seen in the lives of
God's children and if this picture is defective the gospel of the kingdom is
not being proclaimed effectively. Only when God's people live like Christ
lived, will the gospel message be effective and the end will come.
While in his prophetical interpretation Douglass has opposed the
and while at times he has upheld the uniform method
of salvation by faith as a Matterhorn principle,178
he has slipped into a
soteriological dispensationalism because of his Christological
pre-supposition. If fallen man can equal the life of Jesus Christ, Douglass
faces the problem that either only those who achieve this ideal for a certain
length of time will be saved or God will save some by a less exacting standard
than others. It would appear that Douglass has chosen the second alternative
and sees God's requirements for perfection as higher in certain times than
others. The challenge for fallen man to perform like Christ is always present
but for Douglass it was more urgent after 1844 than before179
and today it is
more vital than at any other period. In fact, only when a generation of
believers reduplicate the life of Jesus will the problem of sin be finally
settled. For those who wish to live through the 'time of trouble' and be alive
when Jesus returns the standard of salvation will be higher than for those who
have died before Christ returns.
In this section we have seen that Douglass' Christology has very clear
implications for his understanding of soteriology especially as this relates
to the problem of sin, the doctrine of man and the understanding of
162 Jesus, the Model Man
is the Adult Sabbath School lesson prepared
by Douglass for the world Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath School for the
second quarter of 1977. Jesus-The Benchmark of Humanity
joint-publication by Herbert E. Douglass and Leo Van Dolson also appearing
in 1977. A comparison of the contents of the two productions will show their
interdependence upon each other. We would anticipate that the book was an
outgrowth of the Sabbath School manuscript prepared by Douglass. Each work
contains thirteen chapters and we list these in two columns to demonstrate
Jesus, The Model Man Jesus-The Benchmark of Humanity
1. God with Us. l. God with Us.
2. God with Us. 2. God with Us.
3. Model Child and Youth. 3. The Teenager's Best Friend.
4. Model Overcomer. 4. The Model Overcomer.
5. Model Man of Prayer. 5. Prayer Makes all the Difference.
6. Model Witness. 6. Friend of Non-church Members.
7. Model of Integrity. 7. Putting the "Grit" back into Integrity.
8. Model Teacher. 8. Prince of Teachers.
9. Model of Sociableness. 9. Whose "Light" is about to Dawn?
10. Model of Faith.10. The Faith of Jesus.
11. Model of Humility.11. He Emptied Himself.
12. Model of Love.12. "Inasmuch".
13. The Model Waiting13. Our Measure is too Short. to be Reproduced.
Although the wording in each chapter in these two productions differs there
is a similarity of thought and content. [back
Douglass writes: "Jesus was like fallen humanity, identical in form
and nature, except that He did not sin. That means He was like fallen
humanity in every respect from the stand-point of human equipment, including
basic desires and needs. But He was not like fallen humanity from the
stand-point of human performance: He did not sin" (The Humanity of
, mimeographed document, p.14). [back
In An Historical Footnote
, 1975, Douglass briefly discusses the
book Questions on Doctrine
and is quite clearly opposed to its
presentation of Adventist Christology. When opposing what he calls 'the
transmitted sin syndrome' he writes: "Although there are many
variations, the idea seems to surface that either all men are born guilty,
or that all men are born sinful" (page 4). Quite clearly Douglass is
opposed to this concept. [back
, pp.40-42. [back
This is the basic described in footnote 162. [back
See "What Jesus Achieved Will Be Reproduced in the Last
, pp. 46-51. [back
The emphasis of Douglass' writings is far heavier on performance than on
state. See, for example, his Review and Herald
series on "Ellen
White's Eschatological Principle" (May 23-August 29, 1974); the series
on "How the Church Becomes Convincing" (May 15-August 21, 1975);
and the series on the "Importance of the Sanctuary Truth"
(September 4-December 4, 1975). This preference for sanctification over
against justification was also seen in the early 1960's. Douglass wrote:
"On this point of imparted righteousness pivots the whole plan of
salvation. Imputed righteousness to cover struggling reconciled sinners
proves that God is merciful but not that He was fair in asking His
creatures, angels or men, to obey His law as the only avenue to achieve
happiness" ("Hastening the Advent," Part IV, Gleaner
August 28, 1961, p.1). [back
Although Douglass gives several reasons for the Incarnation, we submit
that the weight of evidence in his writings favors this one. [back
See "Faith, the Key to the 'Last Generation", Faith, Saying
Yes to God
, pp.85-95. [back
See "The Integrity of God's Government Vindicated," Perfection
pp.52-56. After speaking of God's ways being vindicated by the life of Jesus
Christ and the lives of all Christians to follow, Douglass states:
"Yet, the most dramatic demonstration was to be made in the last
generation of Christians to live on earth. Just as soon as this
demonstration is revealed there will be no further need of continuing the
experiment of sin" ("Hastening the Advent," Part IV, Gleaner
August 28, 1961, p. l). [back
See footnote 89 of this chapter. [back
See footnote 125 of this chapter. [back
A careful analysis of the chapter, "What Jesus Waits For," The
, pp.92-114, will reveal the truthfulness of this claim. See also Perfection
This is basically the whole thrust and message of the book Why Jesus
See Douglass' presentation "What is the Gospel?" mimeographed
document, 19 pages. Available from the Biblical Research Institute. [back
See The End
, pp.28-64. Also "No Prophetic Significance for
Modern Israel," These Times
, August 1974, pp.3-5 In this article
Douglass takes an antidispensational stance. [back
Note Douglass' words: "The awesome Matterhorn truth of the New
Testament is that there is no spiritual distinction between the men of faith
in the Old Testament and the men of faith in the New" (The End
p. 47). The same words found in "No Prophetic Destiny for Modern
Israel," Review and Herald
, November 22, 1973, p,9 .[back
Douglass writes: "One of the most urgent messages of the sanctuary
doctrine to Christians since 1844 is that something special is required of
God's followers in terms of character development that may not have been so
crucial to the development of the church heretofore" (Why Jesus
, p.45). [back