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The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian Views Presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G. White Answer

by Erwin Roy Gane

 

C H A P T E R    I

THE PROBLEM AND DEFINITIONS OF TERMS USED

From time to time individual Seventh-day Adventists arise who adhere to an anti-Trinitarian mode of belief. They often quote the founding fathers of the Church as having been in agreement with their position. They regard the official Trinitarianism of modern Adventism as a reversion to paganism, or at best, as Satanís counterfeit conception of God, characteristic of Papal dogma.

I. THE PROBLEM

Statement of the Problem. It was the purpose of this study (1) to examine the literature of Seventh-day Adventists, especially that published between 1844 and 1900, with a view to discovering the extent to which Arian or anti-Trinitarian views have been held by writers and members of this church; (2) to gain evidence making possible an explanation of adherence by the Church to whatever conception of the Deity was found to have been predominant; (3) to present the Ellen G. White answer to each of the major positions held by Seventh-day Adventist anti-Trinitarians.

Importance of the Study. It is important for Seventh-day Adventists to be informed as to the doctrinal history of their own Church. It should be possible for Adventists to be able, in respect to any doctrinal position, to say whether their present belief is that to which the Church has always subscribed, or whether Adventist thought on the subject has progressed beyond certain imperfect and undeveloped concepts. To be able to demonstrate that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has always adhered to certain fundamental beliefs is to provide historical verification that, from its inception, it has fulfilled a distinctive spiritual role. But to claim that a certain doctrine held today has always been accepted by the Church, when in fact it has not, is at best careless, and at worst dishonest. It is, therefore, important that the history of Adventist thought on the nature of God be impartially investigated.

II. DEFINITIONS OF TERMS USED

Adventist. Throughout this thesis when reference is made to the Adventist Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as distinct from other Adventist groups, is intended.

Arian. The term Arian for the purpose of this thesis has reference to the belief that Christ was brought into existence by the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is not a person but a influence. Therefore, an Arian as defined here is distinct from the liberal, humanistic Arians who represent Christ as a mere man.

Anti-Trinitarian. The term anti-Trinitarian is used throughout to refer both to the Arian ad to other variants from the Trinitarian position.

Monarchianism. The term Monarchianism as used in this thesis has reference to Modalistic Monarchianism, a teaching propagated by the Sabellians in the third century AD. They maintained that in the Godhead the only differentiation was a succession of modes or manifestations. The one God revealed Himself as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They refused to distinguish between these three as distinct personalities. To them, Christ and the Holy Spirit were other manifestations of the Father. They held that the doctrine of the Trinity postulated the existence of three Gods.

Spirit of Prophecy. The term Spirit of Prophecy is used as a reference to the writings of Ellen G. White. Although Seventh-day Adventists understand this term to have a broader application to all divinely inspired prophecy, yet they consistently use it in a restricted sense to apply to the prophetic gift as manifested in the life and work of Ellen G. White.

Socinianism. The doctrine which makes of Christ a mere man. He is thought to have been created by God wholly perfect, and endowed with special authority and a faithful revelation of Godís will. In the United States in the nineteenth century Socinianism was one branch of Unitarianism.

Unitarianism. The Christian thought and religious observance which rejects the doctrine of the Trinity and emphasizes the unipersonality of God. The Unitarian movement in America in the first half of the nineteenth century was predominantly Arian. Most American Unitarians at this stage held that Christ is inferior to the Father, yet more than a mere man, having been created before the beginning of the world.

III. ORGANIZATION OF REMAINDER OF THE PAPER

The procedure followed in presenting the evidence discovered has included an examination of all that a particular Seventh-day Adventist writer presented on the subject, dealing with his utterances in their chronological order. The writers have been examined, for the most part, in the order in which they first expressed themselves on the subject. Thus Uriah Smith is dealt with before J.N. Loughborough because he first wrote on the subject in 1859. Loughborough first utterance was in 1861. All the evidence in regard to Uriah Smithís view is presented in one section, even though this involves reference to later periods of the Churchís history. This arrangement makes it possible for an over-all view of the position of each writer. In each case the writerís complete view of the Deity, including the discussion of the Holy Spirit and of Christ, is examined. The views of Ellen G. White are presented in the final three chapters of the thesis.

Throughout this thesis italics in quotations are those of the author being quoted.


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