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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 doctrine of Trinity has been a fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist church since 1931. In the earliest years, however, most early church leaders were anti-trinitarian. What caused the change? Erwin Gane examines the various beliefs of prominent leaders in the early years as shown in their writings. He also documents the differences between their thought and that of Ellen White and shows how she led the church, through a gradual process that avoided direct confrontation,  to the fully Trinitarian position which is held today.

Erwin R. Gane,  M.Div., M. Th., is well known to the members of the SDA church, since his last 9 years of service before retirement were at the General Conference as editor of the Adult Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly.  Previous to this he taught religion classes at Avondale College in Australia, Union College, and Pacific Union Colleges in America.  He has also pastored churches in Australia and the USA. He and his wife are now retired in Angwin, California.

This previously unpublished Masters Thesis by Erwin Roy Gane, written June 1963 for the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, is reproduced here by permission of the author.


This research examines the literature of Seventh-day Adventists to discover the prevalence of Arian or anti-Trinitarian views and the Ellen G. White answer to these views. 

Since the Yearbooks published from 1931 to 1962 indicate official acceptance of Trinitarianism, special attention was given to the earlier history of the Denomination to determine whether this was from the beginning the accepted understanding of the Deity.


I. The Problem and Definitions of  Terms Used
II. The Belief of the Earliest Pioneers of the Adventist Church 
III. Early Militant Anti-Trinitarians
IV. Uriah Smith an Influential Arian
V. Smith Supported By His Contemporaries
VI. Canright an Anti-Trinitarian Apologist
VII. From Canright to Waggoner
VIII. From Morse to E. J. Waggoner
IX. From 1890 To 1898
X. A Change After 1898
XI. Washburn Attempts to Revive Old Position
XII. A Questionable Conclusion
XIII. Ellen White a Trinitarian Monotheist
XIV. Ellen G. White on the Absolute  Deity of Christ
XV. Ellen G. White on the Personality  and Deity of the Holy Spirit 
XVI. Summary

The writer wishes to acknowledge gratefully the courteous assistance of Dr. and Mrs. T. H. Jemison, who readily made available the resources of the Ellen G. White vault, and of Mrs. T. Patterson, Seminary Librarian, who made possible the use of old and rare documents. The writer is indebted to Dr. Leif Kr. Tobiassen and Dr. K. Strand for their willingness to share knowledge of the history of Seventh-day Adventist doctrinal thought.

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