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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   X


It was after 1898 that the Adventist Church began publishing Trinitarian sentiments with increasing frequency. Ellen G. White’s book, The Desire of Ages appeared in this year with its unequivocal definition of Christ’s place as equal in power and authority with the Father, and of the Holy Spirit as "the third person of the godhead."1 The markedly Arian or anti-Trinitarian conceptions which continued to be published in Adventist literature after this point, appeared only in those works written at an earlier date, or in 1898 before Desire of Ages had made its impact. It is true that certain members of the Church at various times since then have adhered to and circulated Arian views, but for the most part these have not been published by the Denomination.


In 1898 and 1900 the Review and Herald printed three articles from "The Kng’s Messenger," all of which were clearly Trinitarian in teaching. The first appeared in 1898 and was entitled, "The God-man."2 It said, "the God-man is Immanuel, God with us,God with us in the person and presence of the Holy Ghost." Here the Holy Spirit is a divine person. The second article, appearing in January 1900, deprecated the fact that Christians worship the Father and the Son, but "will not give the place of power and authority to their representative, the blessed Holy Ghost."3 The pronoun "he" is used throughout in reference to the Holy Spirit.

The third article, appearing in April 1900 is even more convincing as evidence of the changed tenor of thinking among Seventh-day Adventists. The Holy Spirit is spoken of as "one with and sent by the Father and the son."4 He possesses personality for, "he would make us know his personality, but ever in living connection with Christ."5 And finally the reader is admonished, "Let him make you know, beloved, how surprisingly beautiful are the blended personalities of our triune God, manifested by the personal presence of the Holy Ghost."6 Then after so many years of opposition to the doctrine, the Church now possesses a "triune God," while the Holy Spirit is accepted as a Person and a member of the Deity.

J. Edson White wrote of Christ in 1898 as, "standing equal with the Father in the realm of Heaven, and in all the created universe."7 R. A. Underwood in the same year indicated that his view of the Holy Spirit had changed. He wrote, "It seems strange to me now, that I ever believed that the Holy Spirit was only an influence, in view of the work He does."8

He continues by explaining Satan’s design of destroying faith in the personality of the Godhead,"the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…"9 S. N. Haskell, in 1900, spoke of Christ as "the Son of God, equal with the Father."10 In 1903 Haskell stressed that God and Christ possess distinct personality and form.11 J. M. Cole in 1929 wrote, "Our Lord Jesus Christ is to His people an Eternal Father, because He is eternally the same, ‘the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.’"12


A. T. Robinson writing for the Review and Herald in 1929, leaves a doubt in the reader’s mind as to his true position. He states, "there is ‘one God’ to whom the sinner must be reconciled, or else go down to eternal death. there is ‘one mediator,’ through whom alone such reconciliation can be effected."13 His article is headed "One God and One Mediator," and, whether intentionally or not, he gives the impression that the one God is the Father only. He is to become the Supreme Ruler of the universe. "When the Plan of Salvation is completed, there will be a reunion of the ‘whole family in Heaven and earth,’ over whom one Supreme Father will precede."14 As proof he quotes 1 Cor. 15:28. The reader cannot do otherwise than receive the impression that in the mind of the writer there lingers the doctrine of the subordination of the Son to the Father.


F. M. Wilcox in 1931 left no doubt as to his meaning when he wrote, "on the contrary, the bible represents Christ as very God, as deity itself; he partook of the very nature and essence of the eternal Father."15 Wilcox then proceeded to define the current position of the Church on the subject:

We recognize the divine Trinity,the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,each possessing a distinct and separate personality, but one in nature and in purpose, so welded together in this infinite union that the apostle James speaks of them as "one God." James 2:19.16

Wilcox quotes the 1931 Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook in support of his statement. This was the first year in which a Trinitarian formula of belief was inserted into the Yearbook. It read as follows:

2. That the Godhead, or Trinity, consists of the Eternal Father, a personal, spiritual Being, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite in wisdom and love; the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, through whom all things were created and through whom the salvation of the redeemed hosts will be accomplished; the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, the great regenerating power in the work of redemption. Matt. 28:19

3. That Jesus Christ is very God, being of the same nature and essence as the Eternal Father.17

This is the official belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The 1962 Yearbook repeats this statement of faith in substantially the form in which it first appeared in 1931.18


1E. G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Cal.: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1898), p. 671.

2The King’s Messenger, "The God-man," Review and Herald, LXXV (September 20, 1898), 598.

3The King’s Messenger, "The Third Person," Review and Herald, LXXVII (January 16, 1900), 35.

4The King’s Messenger, "Blended Personalities," Review and Herald, LXXVII (April 3, 1900), 210.



7J. E. White, The Coming King (Battle Creek, Mich.: Review and Herald Publishing Co., 1898), p. 15.

8R. A. Underwood, "The Holy Spirit a Person," Review and Herald, LXXV (May 17, 1898), 310.


10S. N. Haskell, "Christ in Holy Flesh, Or a Holy Christ in Sinful Flesh," Review and Herald, LXXVII (October 2, 1900), 634.

11S. N. Haskell, "The Personality of God," Review and Herald, LXXX (October 8, 1903), 9.

12J. M. Cole, "The Everlasting Father," Review and Herald, CVI (January 31, 1929), 19.

13A. T. Robinson, "One God and One Mediator," Review and Herald, CVI (October 31, 1929), 6.


15F. M. Wilcox, "Christ Is Very God," Review and Herald, CVIII (October 29, 1931), 3.


17"Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists," Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1931), p. 377.

18Ibid., 1962, p. 5.

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