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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





"The Commentary" section of the Review and Herald consisted in 1886 of a column of questions and answers. G. W. Morse in answering the question as to whether the Father’s throne will be in Heaven and Christ’s on earth, stated that the New Earth will be Christ’s kingdom. But God the Father will always be the Supreme Ruler of the universe, governing from His throne in Heaven, and reigning "jointly with the Son in the New Earth."1 His point seems to be that the Son is a dependent ruler of just a small segment of God’s dominions, this earth, while the Father is the "supreme ruler" of the entire universe.

In a previous article of the same year Morse distinguished between Christ, and the "great God" of Titus 2:13. He wrote:

A literal translation of the words italicized reads thus: "And the appearing of the Lord of the glory of the great God," etc. Thus it is seen that it is the glory of the great God as manifested in the appearing of his Son , that we are to look for, and not the great God himself.2

Thus he does not regard Christ as the great God, but as a dependent Being.


Writing for the Signs of the Times in November 1889. C.P. Bollman declared that the Spirit of God "is essentially divine."3 But he does not go so far as to portray the Holy Spirit as a distinct personality and member of the Deity. This Spirit is the "power" of God by which the Son created all things. The Spirit is "an essential part of God, and therefore, necessarily divine," but "it" remains to Bollman an impersonal power.4


The 1889 Yearbook was the first to include a definition of the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. The statement of their understanding of God is interesting in that it is such that both Trinitarians and anti-Trinitarians could subscribe to it without violating their respective convictions. The declaration reads:

I. That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the Creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal; infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit. Ps. 139:7.

II. That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom he created all things, and by whom they do consist; . . .5

The identical statement appeared in the Yearbook of 1905. The Trinitarian of course could agree with the entire passage. He would interpret it his way, including Christ and the Holy Spirit in the term "one God" in item I. But so could the anti-Trinitarian agree with it. He would interpret the passage to mean that only the Father is eternal. He would be, to the Arian, the "one God" referred to in item I. There is no indication in this declaration that the Arian views of the "Smiths, Canrights and Waggoners" in the Adventist Church had been superseded by Trinitarianism.


Back in 1890, before he left the Adventist Church E. J. Waggoner expressed himself on the subject of the pre-existence of Christ in a manner consistent with what we have discovered to be the traditional explanation given by Seventh-day Adventist writers up to this time. In his work Christ and His Righteousness he wrote, "We know that Christ ‘proceeded forth and came from God’ (John 8:42), but it was so far back in the ages of eternity as to be far beyond the grasp of the mind of man."6

To E. J. Waggoner, at least at this stage of his career, Christ had a beginning. There was a time when He had not existed. His life was derived from that of the Father. This view was in no way regarded by Waggoner as a contradiction of his remark a little farther on in the same work to the effect that Christ is God by inheritance possessing the attributes of Deity.7 Nor would it necessarily be ruled out by what Waggoner wrote in 1900 that, "‘Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead,’ are associated on equal terms. ‘I and my Father are one.’ John 10:30. They both sit upon one throne. Heb. 1:3; 8:1; rev. 3:21."8 Even Uriah Smith, for all his Arian pronouncements, conceived of Christ as "the Associate Majesty of Heaven equal with the Father, and sharing equally in the glory;…"9 This equality was conferred upon Him, hence He is not God in the same sense as the Father. Waggoner’s remark in 1900 that both Father and Son "sit upon one throne" is, however, a departure from the position of G. W. Morse that the Father, as Supreme Ruler, has His throne in heaven while the Son has His on this earth.

After leaving the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and shortly before his death, E. J. Waggoner wrote out his Confession of Faith. In it we read this declaration:

From the simple truth that Christ is "the image of the invisible God,"the shining forth of His glory, the manifestation of His unchangeable character,Himself the same yesterday, and all the yesterdays, and today, and forever, we must believe and know that from the days of eternity of old until now, Christ has exercised the three-fold office of Prophet, Priest, and king.10

Had Waggoner altered his former stand so that now he conceived of Christ as a Being without beginning? Had he now accepted the Trinitarian doctrine of the eternal pre-existence of Christ? Taking the statement in isolation from his former utterances one would probably conclude that. The phrase, "from the days of eternity of old until now," strongly suggests this. But Waggoner had written in 1850 that Christ came into existence "so far back in the ages of eternity …"11 The "days of eternity" of the 1916 declaration might well have reference to the infinite period which, in Waggoner’s earlier work, was said to have elasped since Christ "came forth from God."


1G. W. Morse, "How Many Eternal Thrones," Review and Herald LXIII (October 12, 1886), 634.

2G. W. Morse, "The Great God," Review and Herald, LXIII (May 11, 1886), 299.

3C. P. Bollman, "The Spirit of God," The Signs of the Times, XV (November 4, 1889), 663.


5"Fundamental Principles of Seventh-day Adventists," Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Battle Creek, Mich.: Review and Herald Publishing Company, 1889), p. 147.

6E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness (Oakland, Cal.: Pacific Press Publishing Co., 1890), p. 9, cf. 19, 21, 22.

7Ibid., p. 12.

8E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings (Oakland, Cal.: Pacific Press Publishing Co., 1900), p. 13.

9Uriah Smith, Looking Unto Jesus (Battle Creek, Mich.: Review and Herald Publishing Co., 1989), p. 11.

10E. J. Waggoner, Confession of Faith ([n.p.], 1916), p. 8.

11cf. ante, p. 42.

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