|At Issue Index Doctrines Index Trinity Index Part 1|
Part 2: The Role of Ellen G. White
Andrews University Seminary Studies, No. 2, (Autumn 2003): 275-292.
In 1846 James White dismissed the doctrine of the Trinity as "the old unscriptural trinitarian creed." A century later, the denomination he co-founded voted its first official endorsement of a statement of "Fundamental Beliefs" that included reference to the Trinity. That a major theological shift occurred is no longer subject to debate. That most of the early leaders among Seventh-day Adventists held an antitrinitarian theology has become standard Adventist history in the forty years since E. R. Gane wrote an M.A. thesis on the topic. What is now disputed in some quarters is Gane's second hypothesis, that Adventist co-founder Ellen G. White (1827-1915) was "a trinitarian monotheist." Since the 1980s, that view has come under intense attack from some writers, mostly from outside the academic community. Nevertheless, the renewed scrutiny of the role of Ellen White in the development of the Adventist Trinity doctrine has raised enough questions to warrant a fresh examination of the issue.
Part 1 of this research identified six stages in the development of the Adventist doctrine of God, from opposition to the Trinity doctrine, to acceptance of the basic concept of one God in three divine persons. Part 2 will present evidence in support of a fourfold hypothesis: (1) That Gane's characterization of Ellen White as a "trinitarian monotheist" is accurate regarding her mature concept of God, from 1898 onward. In the 1840s, however, she did not yet have all the components of that view in place. Her mature view developed through a 40-year process that can be extensively documented. (2) That her writings describe two contrasting forms of trinitarian belief, one of which she consistently opposed, and one that she eventually endorsed. (3) That Ellen White's developing understanding exerted a strong influence on other Adventist writers, leading eventually to a substantial degree of consensus in the denomination; and (4) that the method by which early Adventists came to this position was by disallowing ecclesiastical tradition from having any normative authority and insisting on Scripture alone as the basis for doctrine and tests of membership. This rejection of tradition led them initially to some heterodox views that received severe criticism from the broader Christian community. Their dependence on Scripture, however, brought them eventually to what they believe is a more biblical view of the Trinity. This material will be presented under four subheadings, (1) Evidences for Change, (2) Varieties of Trinitarianism, (3) The Development of Ellen White's Doctrine of God and Its Influence on Other Adventist Writers, and (4) Conclusions.
At the core of the debate is the question regarding Ellen White's position and her role in the process of change. Some assume that Ellen White did not change, that she was either always trinitarian or never trinitarian. There is ample evidence, however, that Ellen White's beliefs did change on a number of other issues, so it is entirely plausible that she grew in her understanding of the Godhead as well. When she declared in 1849, "We know we have the truth," she was referring to the beliefs that Sabbatarian Adventists held in distinction from other Christian groups. She did not mean that there was no more truth to be discovered or that Adventists would never need to change any of their views.
The argument that her views did change is based on the recognition that at every stage of life her knowledge of God and His will was a combination of what she had learned through ordinary means such as parental training, church attendance, Bible study, and personal experience, andafter December 1844what she received through visions. Furthermore, she herself considered her visions as an educational process that continued in cumulative fashion for many years. Consequently, her personal understanding, especially in the earlier years, contained many elements not fully consistent with her later beliefs, because neither her personal Bible study nor her visions had yet called her attention to those inconsistent elements.
For instance, after her first vision in December 1844, she continued to observe Sunday as the Sabbath for almost three more years. She had not yet learned about the seventh-day Sabbath. A second example of a changed view was the discovery of the "time to commence the Sabbath" in 1855. For nine years after they accepted the seventh-day Sabbath, the Whites and most of the Sabbatarian Adventists observed the Sabbath from 6:00 p.m. Friday to 6:00 p.m. Saturday. Not until J. N. Andrews in 1855 demonstrated from Scripture that the biblical Sabbath begins at sunset, did Ellen White very reluctantly acknowledge that for nine years Adventists had been ignorant of the biblical time to begin the Sabbath.
A third example is what Adventists have historically called health reform. Until 1863, most of them, including James and Ellen White, were heavy meat eaters, even slaughtering their own hogs. Not until after basic denominational organization had been achieved, was the attention of the movement called to a broader platform of health principles, including complete proscription of pork products and the strong recommendation of vegetarianism.
In view of these and other areas of conceptual development, it is not particularly surprising that Ellen White should show both development and change in her view of the Godhead. Her writings about the Godhead show a clear progression, not primarily from anti- to pro-trinitarianism, but from relative ambiguity to greater specificity. Some of her early statements are capable of various interpretations, but her later statements, 1898-1906, are explicit to the point of being dogmatic. Her change of view appears clearly to have been a matter of growth and progression, rather than reversal, because unlike her husband and others of her associates, she never directly attacked the view of the Trinity that she would later explicitly support.
Varieties of Trinitarianism
The conceptual key that unlocks the enigma of Ellen White's developmental process regarding the Trinity is the discovery that her writings describe at least two distinct varieties of trinitarian belief. One of these views she consistently opposed throughout her adult ministry, and the other she eventually endorsed. The trinitarian concept that she opposed was one that "spiritualized" the members of the Godhead as distant, impersonal, mystical, and ultimately unreal. The concept that she favored portrayed God as personal, literal, and tangible. She did not initially recognize His trinitarian nature, but when she did, she would describe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as real individuals, emphasizing Their "threeness" as willing, thinking, feeling, social, and relational individuals, and explaining Their oneness in terms of nature, character, purpose, and love, but not of person. The basis of these differentiations will become clearer as we examine the historical context and process of her developing thought.
The Development of Ellen White's Understanding of the Godhead
Three pieces of evidence are particularly significant for reconstructing the historical context of Ellen White's earliest references to the Godhead: (1) the role of "spiritualizers" in post-disappointment Millerism; (2) the polemics of James and Ellen White against those spiritualizers; and (3) a contemporary Methodist creed that the Whites (and other early Adventists) repeatedly cited in support of their rejection of traditional trinitarianism.
In the post-disappointment period of 1845, many former Millerites "spiritualized" the second coming, by interpreting the biblical prophecies of Christ's return as having a spiritual, not literal meaning. Hence the spiritualizers could believe that Jesus did come on October 22, 1844, not literally, but "spiritually." This view led to a wide range of aberrant behavior. Among the most extreme were the "no work" fanatics who believed that the seventh millennium had already been inaugurated as a Sabbath of perpetual rest, and that the way to demonstrate saving faith was to refrain from all work. Others of the "spiritualizers" dabbled in "mesmerism," joined the Shakers, or even became followers of occult spiritualism.
James and Ellen White believed this teaching was false, because it took a Bible doctrine that they believed was clearly intended to be "literal" and made it nonliteral or "spiritual." The core belief of Millerite Adventism was the literal, bodily, premillennial second advent. From this perspective, if the second advent is not a literal, bodily return of the same divine-human Jesus who ascended, but is rather some subjective spiritual "revelation" to the individual heart or mind, then the teaching of His literal return has been not just modified, but destroyedhence the phrase "spiritualize away." To "spiritualize away" means to take something intended as literal, and by calling it "spiritual" to so radically change the concept that it no longer has any real meaning.
For this reason both James and Ellen White came early to the conviction that they must oppose this spiritualizing as heresy. Ellen's polemics against this doctrine and its resulting behaviors are well known. James also wrote repeatedly in the post-Millerite Day-Star against these spiritualizing tendencies.
One of James's polemics against the spiritualizers included an antitrinitarian remark that implied a commonality of belief between the spiritualizers and the trinitarians. Apparently some of the "spiritualizers" were supporting their error by reference to what James called "the old unscriptural trinitarian creed." James charged that both the "spiritualizers" and the traditional trinitarians "spiritualize[d] away the existence of the Father and the Son, as two distinct, litteral [sic], tangible persons."
In maintaining that the Father and the Son are "real," "literal" persons, the Whites certainly didn=t doubt that "God is spirit" (John 4:24), but they insisted that as Spirit, God is still Someone real, tangible, and literal; not unreal, ephemeral, or imaginary. They felt that the terms used for Trinity in the creeds and definitions they knew of, made God seem so abstract, theoretical, and impersonal, that He was no longer perceived as a real, caring, loving Being. Thus the attempt to make Him "spiritual" rather than literal, actually "spiritualized Him away," that is, destroyed the true concept of who He is and what He is like.
A third piece of evidence confirms that James was indeed linking the spiritualizers with traditional trinitariansa group that were in almost every other way the theological opposites of the spiritualizers. A Methodist creed of the same periodand the way this creed was quoted and rebutted by other early Adventist writerssupports the suggestion of common ground between Ellen White's earliest statements about the person(s) of God, and the antitrinitarianism of her husband (although she never in print denounced trinitarianism as he did). The suggestion that there is a dual linkage herespiritualizers with philosophical trinitarians, and Ellen's concept of a personal God with James's antitrinitarianismmay sound far-fetched to many readers. But against the background of post-Millerite spiritualizers, consider the wording of a typical trinitarian creed of the time. One aspect of traditional trinitarianism espoused by some Protestant groups, but rejected by early Adventists, was the somewhat curious statement that "There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts." The early Adventists vigorously refuted this, citing several biblical passages that portrayed God as having both "body" and "parts."
This question was evidently on the mind of Ellen White as well. Twice in early visions of Jesus, she asked Him questions related to the "form" and "person" of God. In one early vision, she "saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. I gazed on Jesus' countenance," she said, "and admired His lovely person. The Father's person I could not behold, for a cloud of glorious light covered Him. I asked Jesus if His Father had a form like Himself. He said He had, but I could not behold it, for said He, 'If you should once behold the glory of His person, you would cease to exist.'"
Also about 1850 she reported, "I have often seen the lovely Jesus, that He is a person. I asked Him if His Father was a person and had a form like Himself. Said Jesus, 'I am in the express image of My Father's person.=" Thus she gained visionary confirmation of what her husband had written in the Day-Star in 1846, that the Father and the Son are "two distinct, literal, tangible persons." In terms of the trinitarian question, this is ambiguous. By itself it contains nothing contradictory to early Adventist antitrinitarianism, though it also offers no contradiction to her explicitly trinitarian declarations of the early 1900s.
Other hints of her early views came in 1858 with the publication of the first volume of Spiritual Gifts. Her belief in the Holy Spirit is not in question, for she links the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in Christ's baptismal narrative. But she does not mention the Holy Spirit in connection with the divine councils about creation and the plan of salvation. These statements, like the 1850 statements, are also ambiguous. They could be read without conflict by all early Adventists, regardless of their trinitarian or antitrinitarian leanings.
Perhaps her first statement that is clearly dissonant with her antitrinitarian colleagues comes in 1869 in a landmark chapter, "The Sufferings of Christ," where in the opening paragraph she asserts on the basis of Heb 1:3; Col 1:19; and Phil 2:6 that Christ in His pre-existence was "equal with God." At this point it becomes evident that if no one else was listening, her husband was. James White's early statements on the trinity are uniformly negative, but in 1876 and 1877 he followed her lead. In an editorial comparison of the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists with Seventh Day Baptists, he included the Trinity among the doctrines which "neither [SDAs nor SDBs] regard as tests of Christian character." "Adventists hold the divinity of Christ so nearly with the trinitarian," James White observed, "that we apprehend no trial [controversy] here." Clearly James was moving away from his early polemics against trinitarianism. A year later he proclaimed in the Review that "Christ is equal with God." He was not yet a trinitarian, but another remark in the same article shows that he was in sympathy with certain aspects of trinitarianism. "The inexplicable trinity that makes the godhead three in one and one in three is bad enough," he wrote, "but ultra Unitarianism that makes Christ inferior to the Father is worse." In asserting Christ's equality with the Father, James was echoing what his wife had written eight years earlier. For another evidence of her leading her colleagues, note that her assertions that Christ was uncreated preceded by more than two decades Uriah Smith's published acceptance of that concept.
Brick by conceptual brick, (perhaps without even being aware of it herself) she was slowly but surely dismantling the substructure of the antitrinitarian view, and building a trinitarian view. In another clear break with the prevailing semi-Arian consensus, she declared in 1878 that Christ was the "eternal Son." Ellen White did not understand his eternal Sonship to imply derivation from the Father. Sonship in His preexistence denoted that He was of the same nature as the Father, in unity and close relationship with the Father, but it did not imply that Christ had a beginning. For in taking human flesh Christ became the Son of God "in a new sense." From the perspective of His humanity, He for the first time had a "beginning," and also, as a human, He began a new relationship of dependence on the Father.
An even more fundamental departure from the "old view" emerged in 1888, in the context of the struggle over the law in Galatians [3:19-3:25] and a clearer view of justification through substitutionary atonement. Ellen White and others came to the realization that a broader concept of the atonement and of righteousness by faith demands the full Deity of Christ. "If men reject the testimony of the inspired Scriptures concerning the divinity of Christ," she wrote, "it is in vain to argue the point with them; for no argument, however conclusive, could convince them. [1 Cor 2:14 quoted.] None who hold this error can have a true conception of the character or the mission of Christ, or of the great plan of God for man's redemption" (emphasis supplied). Christ is "one with the eternal Father,one in nature, in character, and in purpose," "one in power and authority," she proclaimed, "the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God." The context shows that her phrase "the only being" contrasts Christ to the angels. Nevertheless, this statement precedes the fuller exposition of the role of the Holy Spirit.
In 1890, she followed up her 1888 affirmation of Christ's unity with the Father (in nature, character, and purpose) with perhaps her last major statement that can still be read ambiguously. "The Son of God shared the Father's throne, and the glory of the eternal, self‑existent One encircled both." Retrospectively, this phrase harmonizes perfectly with her later statements (especially Desire of Ages 530) that Christ is "self-existent" and that His Deity is not "derived" from the Father. It is also possible, however, to read the sentence from a binitarian or even semi-Arian perspectivethat Jesus, exalted to the Father's throne in the presence of the angels, was "encircled" by "the glory of the eternal, self-existent One," i.e., the Father. Patriarchs and Prophets, where the phrase appears, was an amplification of an earlier work, Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1 (1870), where the corresponding phrase says simply, "The Son was seated on the throne with the Father." The surrounding context in both works is similar, reflecting her earlier perspective, while the new phrase, "the glory of the eternal, self‑existent One encircled both," reflects her growing understanding in 1890.
A pamphlet published in 1897 carried the next major component in her developing doctrine of God, that the Holy Spirit is "the third person of the Godhead." This concept would receive wider attention and more permanent form in The Desire of Ages (1898), where she repeated and made emphatic the previous two points: "In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived," and the Holy Spirit is the "Third Person of the Godhead." In 1899 she confirmed the other side of the paradox, that in "person," Christ was "distinct" from the Father. Here the essential trinitarian paradox of the unity of God in a plurality of persons is clearly articulated, and her trinitarianism is essentially complete. All that remains for her capstone statements of 1901 and 1905 is to affirm most explicitly that the three "eternal heavenly dignitaries," the "three highest powers in heaven," the "three living persons of the heavenly trio," are one in nature, character, and purpose, but not in person.
Thus there is a clear progression from the simple to the complex, suggesting that Ellen White's understanding did grow and change as she received additional light. Fernando Canale has pointed out that this progression is similar to the one presented in the NT. In the gospels, the first challenge was to convince the disciples that Christ was one with the Father. Once their concept of monotheism had been expanded to accept "one God" in two divine persons, it was comparatively easy to lead them to recognize the Holy Spirit as a third divine person.
The Kellogg Crisis and the Capstone Statements
As noted above, Ellen White's writings on the Godhead address at least two distinct varieties of trinitarian beliefone she consistently opposed, and another she eventually came to agree with. Her differentiation between these two views of the Trinity became most explicit during the Kellogg crisis of 1902-1907. Because certain of the writings of both J. H. Kellogg and Ellen White during this period have been seriously misunderstood in recent years, it is necessary to consider this controversy in some detail.
Dr. J. H. Kellogg, medical superintendent of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, was the leading person of scientific credentials among SDAs at the turn of the twentieth century. Possibly influenced by intellectual companions from outside Adventism, he eventually theorized that the life of every living thingwhether tree, flower, animal, or humanwas the very presence of God within it. His view was a form of pantheism, of which traces can be found in his public presentations in the 1890s, but the "crisis" did not break until 1902.
Following the Battle Creek Sanitarium fire of February 18, 1902, Kellogg proposed a fund-raising plan to finance the rebuilding. He would donate to the Review and Herald Publishing Association the manuscript for a new book on health. If the Review and Herald would donate the costs of publishing, and if the 73,000 members that composed the Seventh-day Adventist church in 1902 would undertake to sell 500,000 copies at one dollar each, the proceeds would both pay off long-standing debts and rebuild the sanitarium. This plan was accepted. The Living Temple was primarily a handbook on basic physiology, nutrition, preventive medicine, and home treatments for common ailments. But the title page quoted 1 Cor 6:19 about the body being the "temple of the Holy Ghost," and here and there Kellogg incorporated his theological views.
While preliminary readers of the manuscript were pleased with what it said about physiology, they sharply criticized some of its speculations about the doctrine of God. Despite this criticism, Kellogg pressed ahead with publication. On December 30, 1902, however, while the Review and Herald Publishing Association was in the midst of printing the first edition, the publishing house burned to the ground. Among other losses were the printing plates and unfinished copies of The Living Temple. Kellogg promptly took the manuscript to another printer and contracted for 3,000 copies at his own expense.
When the book was finally distributed, the most flagrant departures from established Adventist theology appeared in the opening chapter, "The Mystery of Life." "God is the explanation of nature," Kellogg declared, "not a God outside of nature, but in nature, manifesting himself through and in all the objects, movements, and varied phenomena of the universe." Evidently reacting to some of his prepublication critics, Kellogg sought to blunt or circumvent their objections by specific reference to the Holy Spirit. He reasoned that if the Holy Spirit could be everywhere at once, and if the Holy Spirit were also a Person, then no one could say that the God Kellogg set forth as dwelling in all things was an impersonal God. "How can power be separated from the source of power?" Kellogg asked? "Where God's Spirit is at work, where God's power is manifested, God himself is actually and truly present." In claiming that God's power equals His presence, Kellogg blurs his logic, as a brief example will show. A military commander can issue orders to mobilize the armed forces, and through those orders the leader's power reaches right down to the home of an individual soldier, but that's clearly different from the commander visiting that home in person.
Then Kellogg spins his defining metaphorthe most quoted paragraph from The Living Temple.
Kellogg's theory was vigorously debated in the church for several years. Since leading Adventists had pointed out its weaknesses, Ellen White hoped at first that it would not be necessary for her to get involved. But by September 1903 Kellogg's views were gaining adherents. When he claimed publicly that the teachings of The Living Temple "regarding the personality of God" were in accord with the writings of Ellen White, she could remain silent no longer. "God forbid that this opinion should prevail," she declared.  "We need not the mysticism that is in this book," she continued. "[T]he writer of this book is on a false track. He has lost sight of the distinguishing truths for this time. He knows not whither his steps are tending. The track of truth lies close beside the track of error, and both may seem to be one to minds which are not worked by the Holy Spirit, and which, therefore, are not quick to discern the difference between truth and error."
In a follow-up letter, she zeroed in on the core issue: "The Lord Jesus . . . did not represent God as an essence pervading nature, but as a personal being. Christians should bear in mind that God has a personality as verily as has Christ."
A few weeks later, in a letter to former General Conference president G. I. Butler, Kellogg defended his view: "As far as I can fathom the difficulty which is found in the Living Temple [sic], the whole thing may be simmered down to this question: Is the Holy Ghost a person? You say No." (Butler was of the older antitrinitarian school who held that the Holy Spirit was an aspect or power of God, but not a person.) Kellogg continued: "I had supposed the Bible said this for the reason that the personal pronoun 'he' is used in speaking of the Holy Ghost. Sister White uses the pronoun 'he' and has said in so many words that the Holy Ghost is the third person of the God-head [sic]. How the Holy Ghost can be the third person and not be a person at all is difficult for me to see."
Here is a fascinating example of Kellogg as a debater. Essentially he is saying, "I have been misunderstood. I didn't claim that the Father is in everything; it is the Holy Spirit who is in everything. And if the Holy Spirit is a person, then Ellen White is wrong in saying my view undermines the personality of God." Thus he sought to outmaneuver Ellen White's reproof and maintain the legitimacy of his own opinion.
Butler, however, was not fooled. "So far as Sister White and you being in perfect agreement is concerned, I shall have to leave that entirely between you and Sister White. Sister White says there is not perfect agreement. You claim there is . . . I must give her the credit . . . of saying there is a difference."
Kellogg is here telling casuistic half-truths to Butler, attempting to portray the "pantheism" of Living Temple as simply a scientific perspective of the same doctrine of God that Ellen White had expressed in Desire of Ages. That is what Kellogg wanted his readers to believe, but that does not make it true, although Ellen White herself acknowledged that "to minds which are not worked by the Holy Spirit" it might seem so.
As the conflict dragged on into 1905, Ellen White wrote another document that exposed the matter to the church in such stark lines that it could not be misunderstood. The manuscript offers perhaps the most radical, foundational indictment she ever wrote against a false view of the trinity, followed by one of her most explicit descriptions of what she considered to be the true understanding of the Godhead. In this document, published in 1905, she labels the first view "spiritualistic," "nothingness," "imperfect, untrue," "the trail of the serpent," and "the depths of Satan." She said those who received it were "giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, departing from the faith which they have held sacred for the past fifty years."
In contrast to this view which she unsparingly denounces, she sets forth another view which she regarded as "the right platform," in harmony with "the simplicity of true godliness," and "the old, old times . . . when, under the Holy Spirit's guidance, thousands were converted in a day." The antagonism between two opposing views could scarcely be drawn in more stringent terms in a theological context, than a disagreement between doctrines of "seducing spirits" and the doctrine of "the old, old times" of the original Pentecost. She is talking about two contrasting doctrines of the trinity. Here is the first, attributed explicitly to "Dr. Kellogg" and his associates in "our leading medical fraternity."
Then, in the very next sentence, she defines what she understands to be the truth about the Godhead.
In charging that Kellogg, with his "spiritualistic" trinity doctrine was "departing from the faith" Adventists had "held sacred for the past fifty years," she clearly refutes the assumption that all doctrines of the trinity are the same and that objection to one demands the rejection of all. She is clearly distinguishing between two varieties of trinitarianism.
Significantly, Ellen White condemns Kellogg's view of the Trinity in almost identical terms to those used by her husband James in 1846 when he condemned the "old unscriptural trinitarian creed" for "spiritualiz[ing] away the existence of the Father and the Son, as two distinct, literal, tangible persons." This supports the interpretation that she was at least in partial agreement with him in 1846, and that she later saw similarities between the creeds that claimed God was "invisible, without body or parts" and Kellogg's "spiritualistic representations" of God under metaphors of light and water.
Further, Ellen White claims that in Kellogg's heresy she "recognized the very sentiments" she had opposed among spiritualizing ex-Millerites in 1845 and 1846. The implication is that the spiritualizing of the post-disappointment fanatics, the creedal teaching that God is formless and intangible, and Kellogg's impersonal concepts of God were all associated by James and Ellen White under the general heading of "spiritualistic theories."
This is directly germane to the current debate, because some have claimed that Kellogg's view which Ellen White condemned is the same view of the trinity later accepted by the churcha claim that is not supported by the evidence. She clearly rejects the view of the trinity that makes God seem distant, untouchable, impersonal; and embraces a literal, biblical view of the trinity, a view that shows God as including three individual divine personalities, who in nature, character, purpose, and love are one.
Her latest affirmations of one God in three persons are fully in harmony with the first explicitly trinitarian belief statement among Seventh-day Adventists, written by F. M. Wilcox in the Review and Herald in 1913. "Seventh-day Adventists believe," Wilcox explained, "1. In the divine Trinity. This Trinity consists of the eternal Father, . . . the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . [and] the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead"
Part 1 of this study noted that the 1946 General Conference session was the first to officially endorse belief in the Trinity, just 100 years after James White's strong rejection of that idea in the 1846 Day-Star. This change was not a simple reversal. The evidence is that Ellen White agreed with the essential positive point of James's belief, namely that "the Father and the Son" are "two distinct, litteral [sic], tangible persons." Subsequent evidence shows that she also agreed with James's negative point: that the traditional, philosophical concepts held by many trinitarians did "spiritualize away" the personal reality of the Father and the Son.
Soon after this she added the conviction, based on visions, that both Christ and the Father have tangible forms. She progressively affirmed the eternal equality of Christ and the Father, that Christ was not created, and by 1888, that an adequate concept of the atonement demands the full and eternal Deity of Christ. Only in the 1890s did she become aware of the full individuality and personhood of the Holy Spirit, but when she did, she referred to the Holy Spirit in literal and tangible terms much like those she had used in 1850 to describe the Father and the Son. By 1905, she explicitly declared her belief in three divine persons united in one God.
This confirms the fourfold hypothesis with which this article opened. First, E. R. Gane's characterization of Ellen White as a "trinitarian monotheist" is accurate regarding her mature concept of God, from 1898 onward. She never, however, used the term "Trinity" to describe her belief about God. Perhaps the closest she came was her use of the phrase "heavenly trio." A likely reason why she consistently shunned the term "Trinity," even after she had embraced certain aspects of trinitarian teaching, is the second hypothesis: that she had become aware of two varieties of trinitarian belief, one that she embraced and one that she vehemently rejected. An uncritical use of the term "Trinity" might appear to endorse philosophical concepts to which she was diametrically opposed.
This seems especially plausible in light of the third hypothesis, that as she endorsed conceptual steps toward a biblical trinitarianism, her developing understanding exerted a strong influence on other Adventist writers, leading eventually to a substantial degree of consensus in the denomination.
Fourth, the method by which the early Adventists sought to separate the biblical elements of trinitarianism from the elements derived from tradition, was to completely disallow tradition as a basis for doctrine, and struggle through the long process of constructing their beliefs on the basis of Scripture alone. In doing so, they virtually retraced the steps of the NT church in first accepting the equality of Christ with the Father, and second, discovering Their equality and unity with the Holy Spirit as well. In the process, their theology showed temporary similarities to some of the historical heresies, particularly Arianism. Their repudiation of tradition as doctrinal authority was costly in terms of the ostracism they endured as perceived "heretics," but their dependence on Scripture brought them eventually to what they believe is a more biblical view of the Trinity. A controversial corollary is the conviction that the classical formulation of the Trinity doctrine, resting as it does on Greek philosophical presuppositions of timelessness and impassibility, is simply incompatible with a thoroughly biblical theological system.
Not an objective observer, but a systematic theologian deeply involved in the development of the Adventist doctrine of God, Fernando Canale has written extensively on the distinction between a theology based on Greek philosophical presuppositions, and one based on biblical presuppositions. He argues that
Canale makes a strong case for his contention that because Adventists, "departed from the philosophical conception of God as timeless" and "embraced the historical conception of God as presented in the Bible," they were enabled to develop a genuinely biblical view of the Trinity.
 James White, Day-Star, January 24, 1846, 25.
 "Fifteenth Meeting," General Conference Report No. 8, Review and Herald, June 14, 1946, 197. For a discussion of the historical context, see Jerry Moon, "The Adventist Trinity Debate, Part 1: Historical Overview," Andrews University Seminary Studies 41 (Spring 2003): 122-123.
 See Russell Holt, "The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination: Its Rejection and Acceptance" (Term Paper, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, 1969); Le Roy Edwin Froom, Movement of Destiny (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1971), 148-180although Froom's pleading on the basis of Millerite statistics that a "majority" of the Adventist founders were trinitarian (ibid., 147) has not been supported by the evidence; Merlin Burt, "Demise of Semi-Arianism and Anti-Trinitarianism in Adventist Theology, 1888-1957"(term paper, Andrews University, 1996); Woodrow W. Whidden, "Salvation Pilgrimage: The Adventist Journey into Justification by Faith and Trinitarianism," Ministry, April 1998, 5-7; Fernando L. Canale, "Doctrine of God," in Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, ed. Raoul Dederen, Commentary Reference Series, vol. 12 (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000): 117-150; and Woodrow Whidden, Jerry Moon, and John W. Reeve, The Trinity: Understanding God's Love, His Plan of Salvation, and Christian Relationships (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2002), 190-220.
 Erwin R. Gane, "The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian Views Presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G. White Answer" (M.A. thesis, Andrews University, 1963).
 See, e.g., [Fred Allaback], "The Doctrine of the Trinity in Adventist History," Liberty Review [5250 Johnstown Road, Mt. Vernon, Ohio], October 1989, 4-5, 7-8; Lynnford Beachy, "Adventist Review Perpetuates the Omega," Old Paths [Smyrna Gospel Ministries, HC64, Box 128-B, Welch, WV], vol. 8, no. 7, July 1999, 1-14; David Clayton, "The Omega of Deadly Heresies," n.p., n.d. [ca. 2000], in my files; idem, "Some Facts Concerning the Omega Heresy;" and Bob Diener, The Alpha and the Omega (Creal Springs, IL: Bible Truth Productions, [ca. 1998]), videocassette.
 Canale, Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, 150.
 For example, John Kiesz, an antitrinitarian of the Church of God (Seventh Day), speculates that Ellen White was a "closet trinitarian" who kept that view to herself for half a century until in the 1890s she suddenly broke her silence to challenge the then majority view of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination (History of the Trinity Doctrine," Study No. 132,
 Ellen G. White to Brother and Sister Hastings, March 24‑30, 1849 (Letter 5, 1849), pp. 5-6; in Manuscript Releases, 21 vols. (Silver Spring, MD: Ellen G. White Estate, 1981, 1987, 1990, 1993), 5:200.
 "We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn," she wrote in 1892. "God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed" (E. G. White, "Search the Scriptures," Review and Herald, July 26, 1892, par. 7).
 "With the light communicated through the study of His word, with the special knowledge given of individual cases among His people under all circumstances and in every phase of experience, can I now be in the same ignorance, the same mental uncertainty and spiritual blindness, as at the beginning of this experience? Will my brethren say that Sister White has been so dull a scholar that her judgment in this direction is no better than before she entered Christ's school, to be trained and disciplined for a special work? . . . I would not dishonor my Maker by admitting that all this light, all the display of His mighty power in my work and experience, has been valueless, that it has not educated my judgment or better fitted me for His work" (E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church, 5:686).
 It should be noted that when she and James White did accept the Sabbath, their acceptance was based initially on Bible study prompted by reading a tract by Joseph Bates. Later the correctness of this view was confirmed by vision (Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White, vol 1, The Early Years, 1827-1862 [Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1985], 116, 120-121.
 See, e.g., Lev 23:32 and Mark 1:32; J. N. Andrews, "Time for Commencing the Sabbath," Review and Herald, 4 Dec. 1855, 76-78.
 A. L. White, Ellen G. White, 1:322-324.
 Richard W. Schwarz and Floyd Greenleaf, Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh‑day Adventist Church, rev. ed. (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2000); D. E. Robinson, The Story of Our Health Message: The Origin, Character, and Development of Health Education in the Seventh-day Adventist Church 3d ed. (Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1965), 75, 81. Most Adventists were already opposed to the use of alcoholic beverages.
 Schwarz and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 53-54. For the most extensive investigation to date of post-disappointment Millerism, its division and disintegration, see Merlin D. Burt, "The Historical Background, Interconnected Development, and Integration of the Doctrines of the Sanctuary, the Sabbath, and Ellen G. White's Role in Sabbatarian Adventism from 1844 to 1849" (Ph.D. dissertation, Andrews University, 2002), 60-272.
 Burt, dissertation, 145.
 Enoch Jacobs, editor of the Day-Star led in this move (Burt, 231-242).
 Burt, 242; George R. Knight, Millennial Fever and the End of the World (Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1993), 260.
 See, e.g., E. G. White, Life Sketches, 85-94.
 Burt (146-147) lists four such items, each titled "Letter from Bro. White," in Day-Star Sept. 6, 1845, 17-18; Oct. 11, 1845, 47; Nov. 29, 1845, 35; and January 24, 1846, 25 .
 James White, Day-Star, January 24, 1846, 25; Ellen Harmon's first published writing was "A Letter from Sister Harmon," in the same issue of the Day-Star, January 24, 1846, 31-32.
 James White, Day-Star, January 24, 1846, 25.
 In 1877 Ellen White quoted John 4:24 KJV : "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (E. G. White, Spirit of Prophecy 2:143). In 1904 she wrote, "God is a spirit; yet He is a personal being, for man was made in His image" (E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1904, 1948), 8:263. James White held that God is "a Spirit being" (idem, Personality of God [Battle Creek, SDA Pub. Assn., (ca. 1868)], 3).
 Several Adventist writers cited almost the same creedal phrases. D. M. Canright quotes two creeds, Methodist and Episcopal. The Methodist creed included the phrase "without body or parts," whereas the Episcopal creed specified that God is "without body, parts, or passions." Canright claimed knowledge of "other creeds" that went "still further" and said that God is "without center or circumference" (D. M. Canright, "The Personality of God," Review and Herald, Sept. 5, 1878, 81; cf. ibid., Sept. 19, 1878, 97; cf. J. B. Frisbie, "The Seventh Day-Sabbath [sic] Not Abolished," Review and Herald, March 7, 1854, 50. Cf. James White, Personality of God.
 Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1856), 15.
 For instance, Exod 24:9-11; 33:20-23; John 1:18; Heb 1:1-3; Uriah Smith, The State of the Dead and the Destiny of the Wicked (Battle Creek, MI: SDA Publishing Assn., 1873), 27-30. Note Smith's polemic against any "mystical interpretation of our current theology" (ibid., 27).
 The creed in question was a Methodist creed, and she had been raised Methodist. Furthermore, she was closely associated with early Adventists who cited this creedal detail as one of the unbiblical aspects of trinitarianism.
 Ellen G. White, A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views [Visions] of Ellen G. White (Saratoga Springs, NY: James White, 1851) reprinted in Early Writings of Ellen G. White (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1882, 1945), 54.
 E. G. White, Early Writings, 77, emphasis hers.
 While there is no record of her denouncing the "trinitarian creed" as did her husband, note the similarity of expression between her view in 1852 and what he wrote in 1868: "The Father and the Son were one in man's creation, and in his redemption. Said the Father to the Son, 'Let us make man in our image.' And the triumphant song of jubilee in which the redeemed take part, is unto 'Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, forever and ever.'"
AJesus prayed that his disciples might be one as he was one with his Father. This prayer did not contemplate one disciple with twelve heads, but twelve disciples, made one in object and effort in the cause of their master. Neither are the Father and the Son parts of the 'three-one God.' They are two distinct beings, yet one in the design and accomplishment of redemption. The redeemed . . . ascribe the honor, and glory, and praise, of their salvation, to both God and the Lamb" (James White, Life Incidents , 343, all emphasis added).
 The title was an explicit assertion of her claim to have received the gift of prophecy.
 Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, vols. 1, 3 (Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press of the Review and Herald Office, 1858; Steam Press of the SDA Publishing Association, 1864), 1:17-18, 22-28; 3:33-34.
 Ellen G. White, "Testimony 17 (1869)," in Testimonies for the Church, 9 vols. (1855-1909; reprint Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1948), 2:200; cf. "The Son of God was in the form of God, and he thought it not robbery to be equal with God" (E. G. White, Spirit of Prophecy , 2:10).
 "To assert that the sayings of the Son and his apostles are the commandments of the Father, is as wide from the truth as the old Trinitarian absurdity that Jesus Christ is the very and eternal God" (James White, "The Faith of Jesus," Review and Herald, Aug 5, 1852, p. 52).
 James White, "The Two Bodies," RH Oct. 12, 1876, 116; cf. Froom, Movement of Destiny, 178.
 James White, "Christ Equal with God," Review and Herald, Nov. 29, 1877, p. 72.
 Ellen G. White, "The First Advent of Christ," Review and Herald, Dec. 17, 1872, par. 4; later published in Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2 (Battle Creek, MI: SDA Publishing Association, 1877), 9-10; cf. E. G. White, "Bible Study," Review and Herald, Jan 11, 1881, par. 3.
 Uriah Smith, Thoughts on the Revelation (Battle Creek, MI: SDA Publishing Association, 1865), 59, calls Christ the first created being; a view repudiated in Looking Unto Jesus (Battle Creek, MI: Review and Herald, 1898), 17, 12.
 Ellen G. White, "An Appeal to the Ministers," Review and Herald, August 8, 1878, par. 4; Ellen G. White to E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones, Feb. 18, 1887 (Letter 37, 1887), in Manuscript Releases,15:25, par. 3 (also in idem, 1888 Materials, 28.3); idem, "'Search the Scriptures.' John 5:39," in Youth's Instructor, August 31, 1887, par. 1; idem, "The Truth Revealed in Jesus," Review and Herald, Feb. 8, 1898, par. 2.
 E. G. White, "Christ Our Only Hope, Signs of the Times, Aug. 2, 1905, reprinted in E. G. White, Selected Messages, 1:226-228.
 Ellen G. White, Great Controversy (1888 ed.), 524. Cf. E. J. Waggoner's assertion that "Our object in this investigation is to set forth Christ's rightful position of equality with the Father, in order that His power to redeem may be the better appreciated" (Christ and His ighteousness [Oakland, CA: Pacific Press, 1890; facsimile reprint, Riverside, CA: The Upward Way, 1988]; 19).
 E. G. White, Great Controversy (1888 ed.), 493, 495.
 Ellen G. White, Great Controversy (1888 ed.), 493; idem, Patriarchs and Prophets (1890), 34.1; cf. idem, "That We Might Be Partakers of the Divine Nature," Signs of the Times, Oct. 14, 1897, par. 3.
 Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (1890), 36.
 Patriarchs and Prophets (1890) was an amplification of an earlier work, Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1 (1870), where the corresponding sentence says simply, "The Son was seated on the throne with the Father, and the heavenly throng of holy angels was gathered around them." E. G. White, Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1 (1870), 17.
 Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers, No. 10 (1897).
 Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, 530, 671.
 "The world was made by him, 'and without him was not anything made that was made.' If Christ made all things, he existed before all things. The words spoken in regard to this are so decisive that no one need be left in doubt. Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore.
"The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father" (Ellen G. White, "The Word Made Flesh," Review and Herald, April 5, 1906, par. 6-7, italics supplied [reprinted from Signs of the Times, April 26, 1899]).
 E. G. White, Manuscript 130, 1901, in Manuscript Releases, 16:205, quoted in idem, Evangelism (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1946), 616 (but erroneously attributed to Ms. 145, 1901); idem, Special Testimonies, Series B, no. 7 (1905), 51, 62-63, quoted in Evangelism, 617.3, 615.1.
 Fernando L. Canale, "Doctrine of God," in Handbook of SDA Theology, ed. Raoul Dederen, 128-130.
 On the Kellogg Crisis, see R[ichard]W. Schwarz, John Harvey Kellogg, M.D. (Nashville: Southern Publishing, 1970; reprint, Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1981), 174-192; idem, Light Bearers to the Remnant, (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1979), 282-298; Jerry Moon, W. C. White and Ellen G. White: The Relationship between the Prophet and Her Son (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1993), 274-320.
 Froom, Movement of Destiny, 351.
 W. A. Spicer, "Pantheism Here and in Its Ancient Setting," in How the Spirit of Prophecy Met a Crisis: Memories and Notes of the "Living Temple" Controversy, , chapter 13., accessed September 18, 2003.
 See J. H. Kellogg, "God in Man, No. 1," "God in Nature, No. 2," and "God in Man, No. 3," in General Conference Daily Bulletin, 1897, 72-84.
 J. H. Kellogg, The Living Temple (Battle Creek, MI: Good Health Pub. Co., 1903).
 Kellogg, Living Temple, 28-30.
 J. H. Kellogg, Living Temple, 28.
 Ibid., 29.
 W. A. Spicer, (n. 55 above); W. W. Prescott, "Suggestions on Matter Found on Galleys 1-129, Inclusive, of Matter for Dr. Kellogg's New Book, The Living Temple," Record Group 11, A. G. Daniells, 1901-1950, J. H. Kellogg Case File, General Conference Archives, Silver Springs, MD.
 E. G. White to the Teachers in Emmanuel Missionary College, Sept. 22, 1903 ("Teach the Word"), in Spalding and Magan's Unpublished Manuscript Testimonies of Ellen G. White, 1915-1916 (hereinafter referred to as Spalding-Magan Collection (Payson, AZ: Leaves-Of-Autumn Books, 1985), 320.
 Ibid., 320-321.
 Ibid., 324. Kellogg hinted in Living Temple (29-32) that the concept of a personal God was an (ultimately unfactual) construct for the benefit of immature minds, implying that intellectuals like himself could perceive the reality beyond the anthropomorphic accommodation.
 George I. Butler had been president of the General Conference (1871-1874, 1880-1888) and in 1903 was president of the Southern Union.
 J. H. Kellogg to G. I. Butler, Oct. 28, 1903a [one of two letters from Butler to Kellogg on the same date], Center for Adventist Research, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI.
 G. I. Butler to J. H. Kellogg, April 5, 1904, emphasis supplied.
 E. G. White, "Teach the Word," Sept. 22, 1903, in Spalding-Magan Collection, 321.
 E. G. White, Special Testimonies, Series B, no. 7 (1905), 63.
 Ibid., 62, alluding to Rev 2:24.
 Ibid., 61.
 Ibid., 63-64.
 Ibid., 62.
 Ibid., 62-63.
 See note 80 below.
 E. G. White, Selected Messages, 1:203.
 Ibid., 204.
 Bob Diener, The Alpha and the Omega, videocassette.
 Bible texts that Ellen White cited as supporting various aspects of a trinitarian view include Rom 8:16 (Evangelism [Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1946], 617); 1 Cor 2:10-14 (ibid.); John 16:7-14 (ibid., 616); John 14:16-18, 26; 16:8, 12-14 (Desire of Ages, 669-671); and Col. 2:9 (Evangelism, 614).
 F. M. Wilcox was editor of the Review and Herald from 1911-1944, and one of the original five trustees appointed by Ellen White to superintend her estate.
 [F. M. Wilcox], "The Message for Today," RH, October 9, 1913, p. 21.
 Jerry Moon, "The Adventist Trinity Debate, Part 1: Historical Overview," Andrews University Seminary Studies 41 (Spring 2003): 122.
 James White, Day-Star, January 24, 1846, 26.
 "We need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds, unseen by human eyes; that the Lord God is our Keeper and Helper. He hears every word we utter and knows every thought of the mind" (E. G. White, "Talk at Avondale School," March 25, 1899, in Sermons and Talks, vol. 2 [Silver Spring, MD: E. G. White Estate, 1994], 136-137; also in Evangelism, 616 and Manuscript Releases, vol. 7 [Silver Spring, MD: E. G. White Estate, 1990], 299).
 E. G. White, Special Testimonies, Series B, no. 7 (1905), 62-63, quoted in Evangelism, 615.1.
 Canale, Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, 150.
 Ibid, 148-150. On a more popular level, see Moon, "The Trinity in the Reformation Era: Four Viewpoints," in The Trinity, by Whidden, Moon, and Reeve, 166-181.
 Fernando Luis Canale, A Criticism of Theological Reason: Time and Timelessness as Primordial Presuppositions, Andrews University Seminary Doctoral Dissertation Series, vol. 10 (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1983), 359; 402, n. 1; idem, ADoctrine of God," in Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, ed. Raoul Dederen, 117-118, 126, 128-129, 132, 138-140, 145, 148-150.
 Canale, "Doctrine of God," in Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, 148.
 Canale elaborates (ibid., 150): "Finally, having departed from the philosophical conception of God as timeless and having embraced the historical conception of God as presented in the Bible, Adventists envisage the relation between the immanent and economic Trinity as one of identity rather than correspondence. The works of salvation are produced in time and history by the immanent Trinity [Fritz Guy, "What the Trinity Means to Me," Adventist Review, Sept. 11, 1986, 13] by way of its different Persons, conceived as centers of consciousness and action. Consequently, the indivisibility of God's works in history is not conceived by Adventists as being determined by the oneness of essenceas taught in the Augustinian classical traditionbut rather by the oneness of the historical task of redemption [Raoul Dederen, "Reflections on the Doctrine of the Trinity," AUSS 8 (Spring 1970): 20]. The danger of Tritheism involved in this position becomes real when the oneness of God is reduced to a mere unity conceived in analogy to a human society or a fellowship of action. Beyond such a unity of action, however, it is necessary to envision God as the one single reality which, in the very acts by which He reveals Himself directly in history, transcends the limits of our human reason [W. W. Prescott, The Saviour of the World (Takoma Park, MD: Review and Herald, 1929), 17]. In no way could human minds achieve what the classic doctrine about the Trinity claims to perceive, namely, the description of the inner structure of God's being. Together with the entire creation, we must accept God's oneness by faith (James 2:19)."