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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




Some short time ago, certain updated, unsigned, mimeographed documents were circulated by the Seventh-day Adventist leadership in answer to some of the positions taken by M. L. Andreasen. Document 1 entitled, "Uriah Smith’s Restricted View of the Atonement," states, "both Smith and Waggoner were in the minority group of Arians, or anti-Trinitarians, as regards the Godhead, following the crisis of 1844."1 Document II, entitled, "J. H. Waggoner’s Position on the Atonement" states:

However, it is essential to note, first, that our founding fathers came out of diversified denominational backgrounds. Many were Trinitarians, while a few came from the "Christian Connection," which was militantly Arian, or anti-Trinitarian. But some of these few rose to positions of prominence among us. Smith and Waggoner both held Arian views. Both were writers and editors, and interwove Arian views into their writings.2

In the light of the evidence presented in this paper, it might justifiably be asked, where is the proof that in the early history of the Seventh-day Adventists "many were Trinitarians," or that the anti-Trinitarians were a minority?  Almost every utterance on the subject published in Adventist literature prior to 1898 was Arian or anti-Trinitarian. The Spear article was a notable exception, but it was a reprint of an article written by a non-Adventist writer, and it contained the doctrine of the subordination of the Son to the Father, which was quite acceptable to the Adventist anti-Trinitarian, but quite unacceptable to the later believer who concurred with the 1931 statement of belief.

As has been shown, there was prior to 1898 considerable diversity of belief on the subject of the nature of God. Bordeau in 1890 regretted this. But the present writer has been unable to discover any evidence that "many were Trinitarians" before 1898, nor has there been found any Trinitarian declaration written, prior to that date, by an Adventist writer, other than Ellen G. White.

The statement quoted from the document, "J. H. Waggoner’s position on the atonement," strongly suggests that it was the few who came from the "Christian Connection," and who rose to "prominence among us," who are regarded as responsible for the dissemination of Arian, or anti-Trinitarian views among Adventists,3 Smith and Waggoner are then cited as holding Arian views. But no evidence is given that these men came from the "Christian Connection," as the statement would suggest. As has been shown, James White and Joseph Bates came from this organization, but it is not known who else. And is it to be believed that all the Adventist writers examined in this thesis, who presented Arian opinions, came from the Christian Connection? Of course that was not so. The truth is as stated by the document quoted above, that "our founding fathers came out of diversified denominational backgrounds."4 This fact, and the fact that so many were Arians, is sufficient to prove that the origin of a few from the "Christian Connection" is not adequate explanation of the anti-Trinitarianism consistently appearing in Adventist literature.

Of course the writers and editors of any church organization will be a minority group. So they were in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But this minority group happened to present, almost without exception, anti-Trinitarian statements in articles and books. This certainly does not look like evidence that "many were Trinitarians." If Trinitarians were so numerous it is strange indeed that some of them did not put their views in writing. Some would perhaps blame Uriah Smith for preventing this. Then why did not Trinitarian articles appear in the years when James White was editor of the Review and Herald? And what evidence is there that Uriah Smith exercised such an over-riding influence that for decades he succeeded in excluding from publication, in any form, the Trinitarian beliefs of the majority of Adventists?


1"Uriah Smith’s Restricted View Of The Atonement" (Paper supplied by L. E. Froom, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, [n.p., n.d.]), p.1. (Mimeographed).

2"J. H. Waggoner’s Position On The Atonement" (Paper supplied by L. E. Froom, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, [n.p., n.d.]), p.1. (Mimeographed).



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