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How the Spirit of Prophecy Met a Crisis:
Memories and Notes of the "Living Temple" Controversy
by W. A. Spicer


More Than Common Error

In the message, "Decided Action to be Taken Now," the teachings pressing in were described as " spiritualistic sentiments." Those who had received the ideas were said to have consented "to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil." It was in these terms that the messages of the Spirit of prophecy to the 1899 General Conference, twelve years before, had foretold the perils before us:

"Satan, in a deceptive garb still lurks in the tree of knowledge. The words of God spoken at creation, 'But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, ' come sounding along the line of ages to our day."—"Bulletin," 1899.

And, as quoted early in this review of experiences, the topic of the relation of God and nature was also dealt with the messages of 1899. It was along this line that speculative philosophy about God would bring peril to us. We did not understand what this meant then, but now these very deceptions had swept in upon us. It was spiritualism for Seventh-day Adventists. Recall that message at the 1903 General Conference, already quoted at length:

"Spurious scientific theories are coming in as a thief in the night.... you know that Satan will come in to deceive if possible the very elect.... He is coming in, pretending to be the great medical missionary."

Long had the messages tried to forewarn us. But there was something supernatural in the working of this thing. We who first came in contact with real inwardness of the teaching at close quarters had felt that power working in this philosophy. Friends of the teaching smiled at the idea that there was anything mysterious in it. For myself I knew there was mystic, hypnotic power in it. I knew by painful experience that I had to fight it, resist it in my soul or I would be swept off my feet. And I never got free from the paralyzing fear of it and challenge [of] it in face to face committee work. Yet some smiled at the idea of


danger. At the 1903 General Conference the author of the book in question declared:

"This talk about an awful crisis, and awful dangers; I want to say to you, There is nothing in it; there is nothing in it. The truth of the matter is that all we want is confidence, confidence in the truth, confidence in God, and confidence in one another."—

At the preceding Autumn Council, of 1902, one veteran minister,  to whom we had looked for years as a teaching leader, begged us to read the book, "Living Temple," with "confidence." It was that confidence in partaking of the mixture of truth and error dealing with speculative views of the Deity, that betrayed our brother. For two days in that council he had stood with the General Conference executives. Then time came when he spent some hours in counsel with promoters of the new ideas, and he came out as an advocate of them. In the Council he told us the book taught true ideas of God from the scientific standpoint. Now he would teach the same things from the Scriptures. Scornfully he told us that what a lot of Seventh-day Adventists needed was a "new God;" that many were worshipping a God altogether too small for the larger and true idea. He then set forth this idea from Scripture. It was later brought out by the Good Health Publishing Company as a tract entitled, "The Revelation of God."

Two paragraphs will suffice:

"'Hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand.' Open your hand as wide as you can, and hold it level, palm upwards. Note the depression in the middle of your hand. That is the hollow of your hand. Fill it with water and see how much it will hold without running over. And all the waters are measured in the hollow of God's hand as easily as those few drops of water lie in the hollow of your hand. Then if only his hand is so great that all waters lie in the hollow of it, how large is he himself? It is simply impossible for any human mind to conceive of the size that such a hand would have to be. Then if it would be impossible for any human mind to conceive of a true likeness even of the hand of God, how much less a true likeness of himself?

"Meted out heaven with the span.' The span is the measure from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the second finger. What is the compass of the heaven? Conceive it if you can. Yet the whole compass of the heaven is by him measured simply with the span. Then again, what is the size of that hand? No human mind can conceive of the compass of heaven. Then no human mind can conceive of the size of that span by which he meted out the heaven. And when no human mind 


could possibly conceive only the size of the hand, the reach of the span with which he meted out the heaven, how infinitely beyond all reach of human thought is any true conception of the form of God."

The fatal error was the assumption that the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40) was endeavoring to impress us with the greatness of God's form. It is "the greatness of His might" (Verse 26) that the prophet is describing in these figures of speech. This philosophic view, set forth as the true one, was but repeating the ancient heathen philosophy of the Universe-God, sometimes thus given colossal members and parts, and again represented as an ether-like personality pervading all. The Hindu philosophy says: All this (universe) is Brahma." And Pike, an old Washington jurist, professor, and philosopher said of the Persian view: "It was thought the universe should be deemed an immense being." In the Egyptian and other philosophies, he says:

"The universe was a living and animated being like man.... This was the Universe-God, which the ancients adored as supreme Cause and God of gods.... God, in the view of Pythagoras, was One, a single substance, whose continuous parts extend through all the universe. The world or universe was thus compared to man... Thus he made the universe a great intelligent being, like man—an immense deity."

It was conceived that great power must imply great size. It was thought Deity must be great in form in order to be great in power. So came the idea of colossal form, such as we had pictured to us in the vestry of the Tabernacle in that Council of 1902.

The error was due to failure to apprehend that which is the only hope of our salvation. God's power is manifested by His word. He is "upholding all things by the word of His power." He saves us by this all-powerful word which works within. It is not infinite form but infinite power and love and mercy. The sinner redeemed will not have to search the universe to view, a little at a time, a form that the logic of the philosophy must necessarily picture as greater than the universe, one whose smallest measurements—it is an awful suggestion—must be beyond all human conception. The redeemed, in the flesh, immortal, will "see God." They can approach a Father upon His throne in the heavenly temple. "They shall see His face." And by the Father's side we shall 


see "the man Christ Jesus"—"this same Jesus" that the disciples saw—in form like unto the Father.

The heathen philosophy takes the thought away from infinite power, which is our hope of salvation, to fasten it upon the mind-staggering conception of infinite form. It is truly a god "that our fathers knew not," as the record of Israel says, speaking of idolatry that crept into the Exodus movement.

The message, "Decided Action to be Taken Now," said of the issue facing us: "The development seen in the cause of God is similar to the development seen when Balaam caused Israel to sin just before they entered the promised land."

The Bible story of the way in which the ancient people of Israel were lured into idolatry seemed heretofore to have recorded perils from our own path to the promised land; but here we were in danger of going into idolatry ourselves. This "commingling" of the pantheistic idea of a pervasive personality in living things with the other idea of an infinite form seems illogical, but it is characteristic of some of the ancient heathen philosophies. And the author of "Living Temple" laid hold of the idea of colossal form as soon as it was set forth before us in that Council. A paragraph was added to the proofs, and appeared as follows when the book was published:

"A hand large enough to hold the waters of the earth in its hollow, would be as large as the earth itself. Hence, no human eye could ever see more than a very small fraction of it at a time. A span great enough to mete out even the earthly heavens, would cover at least 9,000 square miles. Try to form a conception of a hand of much proportion; when out-stretched, the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger would be 9,000 miles. The height of a person is nine times the length of the span, so the height of being with such proportions must be at least 81,000 miles. It is just as easy to conceive of a person filling all space as of a person having a height equaling ten times the diameter of the earth."—"Living Temple," p. 33

One might ask, How could the same book teach both these ideas—of God as intelligence pervading all nature, and as a colossal form? How could both ideas be set forth together? But this seeming contradiction is characteristic of pantheism. One of the most often quoted portions of the Khandogya Upanishad (14th hap., 3rd part) had this declaration:


"All this is Brahma (That is, everything is God)......He is myself within the heart, smaller than a corn of rice, smaller than a canary-seed, or the kernel of a canary-seed. He also is myself within the heart, greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than heaven, greater than all these worlds."—"Literature of the East," Vol. 9, p.111.

The flinging about of these new-old teachings, infected with the contagion of spiritualistic heathenism, led the Spirit of prophecy, to rush off that first message to catch us in the midst of the Washington Council. The message cried out:

"It is something that can not be treated as a small matter than men who have had so much light, and such clear evidence as to the genuineness of the truth we hold, should become unsettled, and led to accept spiritualistic theories regarding the personality of God. These doctrines, followed to their logical conclusion, sweep away the whole Christian economy. They estimate as nothing the light that Christ came from heaven to give John to give to His people. They teach that the scenes just before us are not of sufficient importance to be given special attention. They make of no effect the truth of heavenly origin, and rob the people of God of their past experiences, giving them instead a false science."

Until the Spirit of the Lord lifted up a standard against it, the teaching was spreading like a plague. It was spiritualism for Seventh-day Adventists.

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