Changes Continue

Many years were to pass before Froom was able to begin ‘Movement of Destiny’. He became Emeritus Professor of Historical Theology at Andrews University, taking classes one quarter of each year. Movement of Destiny p19.

He wrote his monumental works ‘Prophetic Faith of our Fathers’ and ‘The Conditionalist Faith of our Fathers’, but was all the while researching and planning the book he had been asked to write.

Froom said he “toiled away” in his “never-ending search”, saying little for many years;  until he had “something vital to report.” Ibid p22.23. 

Unexpected calls came from workers’ institutes, local and union ministerial retreats, theological workshops, and presentations to special groups, and he was happy to oblige. Ibid p19.

Invitations also came from other denominations, such as Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Reformed, Congregationalist, Unitarian, as well as an organisation of converted Roman Catholic priests. He took meetings for them all. 

Other invitations came from universities, such as Marburg in Germany, and a number of universities in the United States.  Extended exchanges were made between the Catholic priest Petrus Nober of the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome, who arranged for Froom’s articles to be translated and printed in ‘Revista Biblica’.Ibid 466.467.

Another project was to correct various Protestant encyclopaedias and religious reference works regarding Seventh-day Adventists. 

He said it was “most gratifying” to see the readiness with which their critics were willing to correct “our basic position”.  Much went on behind the scenes, quietly accomplishing their objectives. Ibid p468.

Once the Statement of Beliefs was in the Yearbook and Church Manual, the “next logical and inevitable step in the implementing of our unified ‘Fundamental Beliefs’ involved revision of certain standard works so as to eliminate statements that taught, and thus perpetuated, erroneous views on the Godhead.”  Movement of Destiny p422. It was now our books, encyclopaedias and commentaries that needed correcting.

The most conspicuous book that needed changing was ‘Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation’ by Uriah Smith. He had passed to his rest in 1903, and could not object.

However, such an undertaking meant treading on delicate ground, as there were still those who were, according to Froom, Semi-Arian. “It was a highly sensitive matter”, even to edit the book at all, let alone remove what Froom regarded as Arianism. Ibid p424.

In 1944, the revision of this book was undertaken, the main task being to eliminate every portion that said Christ was begotten of the Father. Sentence construction was improved, but no prophetic interpretations were altered.  (This is disputed by some today)

For example, the following was omitted from page 400 of the original book. “Christ is the agent through whom God created all things, but the Son came into existence in a different manner, as he is called ‘the only begotten’ of the Father.”

Two large portions have been omitted from page 429 and 430, part of which is shown below.   * that the Lamb sits on the throne with the Father. 

“Commentators, with great unanimity, have seized upon this * as proof that Christ must be coeval (same age) with the Father; for otherwise, say they, there would be worship paid to the creature which belongs only to the Creator. 

But this does not seem to be a necessary conclusion. The Scriptures nowhere speak of Christ as a created being, but on the contrary plainly state that He was begotten of the Father…  

But, while as the Son He does not possess a co-eternity of past existence with the Father, the beginning of His existence, as the begotten of the Father, antedates the entire work of creation, in relation to which He stands as joint creator with God… 

These testimonies show that Christ is now an object of worship equally with the Father; but they do not prove that with Him He holds an eternity of past existence.” p430. 1918 edition. 

The reaction came as Froom expected, and he said it was “rather vehement”. However, the council proceeded to approve the report of the committee, and the ‘Arian’ statements were eliminated. 

“Thus the volume was brought into theological harmony with our ‘Fundamental Beliefs’ statement in the Yearbook and Church Manual, the Baptismal Covenant and Vow.” p424.425. (Changes were also made to Spirit of Prophecy books, such as lower case changed to capital letters for Third Person)

There were more to come – later.

In 1946, small portions of Ellen White articles were placed in a compilation called ‘Evangelism’. This would be a very important volume in the process of change. Those on the committee were A.L. White, W.H. Branson, R.A. Anderson, Miss Louise Kleuser and J.L. Shuler. 

Under the heading ‘Misrepresentations of the Godhead’, critical portions of the prophet’s articles were placed together, many not even complete sentences. When reading the statements under such a heading, a subtle message is given.

The book ‘Evangelism’ achieved its purpose, and Froom was elated. Years later, he wrote to Anderson saying, “You know what it did with men in the Columbia Union… They either had to lay down their arms, and accept those statements, or else they had to reject the Spirit of Prophecy.” Letter from Leroy Froom to Roy Allen Anderson. Jan.18. 1966.

In fact, it has worked so well, that even today ‘Evangelism’ is one of the first books used in a Trinitarian discussion. And it is true, to deny the portrayed message of the chapter appears to be a denial of the Spirit of Prophecy. Herein lies the power of sub-headings connected with incomplete sentences and small portions of paragraphs.

In 1952, a book was copyrighted called ‘Principles of Life’, and printed in 1956. It has been used by school children as their Bible Doctrines study book.   One paragraph says, “While God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate and distinct beings, yet they are ‘one in nature, in character, in purpose’. (PP34:1), working in such close relationship as to be one.” Principles of Life p28.  The wording ‘beings’ would probably be unacceptable to Trinitarians today.

Time has now moved on to 1955, and Walter R. Martin, an Evangelical, working in harmony with Donald G. Barnhouse,  Editor of ‘Eternity’ magazine, has approached church leaders to meet and discuss the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. He was working on a book about cults and wanted to know what we believed. Martin was acquainted with T. Edgar Unruh through correspondence, and he knew of Froom through his volumes on history.

The meeting was arranged between R. Allan Anderson, Walter E. Read, and LeRoy E. Froom, with the full approval of the General Conference president Reuben R. Figuhr.  T. Edgar Unruh acted as chairman.

Were Adventists a cult?  That was the question of the Evangelicals. 

Martin had furnished the group with a long list of questions, and it was Leroy Froom’s task to write out the answers. He had stayed up until 2.00am, and in the morning was able to hand over twenty pages of notes. 

It was a momentous day. 

After the discussion was over, Martin announced that he had been mistaken about several of our teachings, and had come to the conclusion that Adventists were not a cult. 

Extending the hand of fellowship he said, No, you are definitely not a cult. Seventh-day Adventists can be accepted as fellow Evangelicals by the mainline Protestant churches of America! 

He then asked that our denominational leaders be sent a series of questions on our major beliefs, the answers to be acceptable to Ecumenicals. These would be placed in articles for ‘Eternity’ magazine. He also asked the denomination to write a book for all church members on the beliefs given in the meetings, and have it sent to Protestant public libraries throughout the world.  Martin himself would publish his book exonerating Seventh-day Adventists. 

There is no doubt Martin was seeking to cement the answers given by our leaders, as his reputation, and that of the Evangelical leaders, were at stake.

In September 1956, an article appeared in ‘Eternity’ that Barnhouse called “a bombshell article.” Few would be in a position to read it, but word spread by word of mouth.

Two months later, an article appeared in ‘Ministry’ magazine under the title ‘Changing Attitudes of Adventism’.  An article by Froom accompanied the heading entitled, ‘The Atonement the Heart of our Message’.

The meetings with Martin covered important doctrinal areas, such as the investigative judgment, the nature of Christ, the atonement, sinless perfection. 

Some years later R. Allan Anderson said he had been asked before the meetings began – “What do you folks believe about the Trinity?”  Adventist Review Sep 8. 1983 p3.

This aspect is not often highlighted. One can study the ‘Eternity’ magazine articles and not realise this subject was even part of the discussions.

Anderson’s comments continued, “The answers to their earnest questions lengthened into days of prayerful discussions. Our answer concerning the Godhead and the Trinity was crucial, for in some of the books they had read Adventists were classed as Arians.” Adventist Review. September 8. 1983 p3. 

At Campus Hill Church in 1989, Loma Linda, Walter Martin said the following words, “When I first met with L. E. Froom, he took me to task for about fifteen minutes on how I could ever possibly think that Adventism was a cult. 

‘Adventism rings as true as steel.’ 

I said, ‘Do you think Arius was a Christian?’ 

He was an excellent church historian, and he said, ‘Of course he wasn't a Christian, he denied the deity of Jesus Christ.’ 

I said, ‘So did Ellen White.’ 

Dr. Froom replied, ‘What!’ 

I said,  ‘Yes’,  and opened up  a suitcase  and produced  at least twelve feet of Adventist publications stacked up and marked for Dr Froom's perusal. And for the perusal of the committee to check the sources in there.” Walter Martin - taped conference at Campus Hill Church in Loma Linda. January 1989. 

He said the committee was in“mortal shock”, and Martin went on to say that Ellen White had denied the eternal deity of Christ in the beginning,  relegating  Him  to the place  of a second  deity,  but that she later changed her belief and taught the Trinity, being influenced by Uriah Smith. 

The suggestion that Uriah Smith influenced the prophet is ridiculous. Smith wrote a book called ‘Looking unto Jesus’ the same year Ellen White printed ‘Desire of Ages’, and it was clearly non-trinitarian. Both were advertised in the same church papers.

It took some days for the committee to peruse the material. When they met again, it was stated, “Well, a great deal of these things… are there, and we agree with you, and we don’t agree with the statements. They do not reflect orthodox Adventist theology, and we reject it.” Ibid.

Donald Barnhouse wrote in his ‘Eternity’ magazine, “Immediately it was perceived that the Adventists were strenuously denying certain doctrinal positions which had been previously attributed to them…. The Adventists specifically repudiate any teachings by ministers or members of their faith who have believed, proclaimed, and written any matter which would classify them among Arians.”  Eternity. September, 1956. 

Obviously historian George Knight and William Johnnson were correct in saying our doctrines have been changed, however, the change began much earlier than the Martin and Barnhouse episode, as has been shown in this book.

Concluding these meetings a book was published entitled, ‘Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions of Doctrine’, “prepared by a representative group of Seventh-day Adventist Leaders, Bible Teachers, and Editors.” Questions on Doctrine. Front page 1957. 

Section 4 on the ‘Deity and Eternal Pre-existence of Christ’ states, “It is frequently charged that Seventh-day Adventists deny the actual deity and eternal pre-existence of Christ, the Eternal Word.” The question is then asked, “Do you believe in the Trinity?” Questions on Doctrine p35.

The answer is very subtle. 

“Our belief in the deity and eternal pre-existence of Christ, the second person of the Godhead, is on record in our ‘Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists’, appearing annually in our official Yearbook and in our authoritative Church Manual… Moreover, those who are baptized into the Adventist Church subscribe to the ‘Summary of Doctrinal Beliefs’ appearing on our standard Baptismal Certificate…” Ibid p35. 

The way had been prepared many years earlier.

After the printing of this book, Donald Barnhouse stated, “The Adventists fortunately deny the logical conclusions to which their doctrines must lead them; i.e. a negation of the full validity of the atonement of Christ.”

It was suggested that the denomination go on public record denying certain erroneous statements.

Our response was, “No… those early statements were the declarations of individuals or groups, not of the Church as a whole, and had never committed the denomination. Our later formal declarations were clear, Biblical, sound and ‘orthodox’.” Movement of Destiny p483.

But the Evangelicals insisted. 

Finally, a statement was prepared, which read: “The belief of Seventh-day Adventists on these great truths is clear and emphatic. And we feel that we should not be identified with, or stigmatized for certain limited and faulty concepts held by some, particularly in our formative years. This statement should therefore nullify the stock ‘quotations’ that have been circulated against us.” Questions on Doctrine. Question No.3. p31.32. Quoted in Movement of Destiny. p484.

‘Questions on Doctrine’ further states, “But with the passage of years the earlier diversity of views on certain doctrines gradually gave way to unity of view. Clear and sound positions were then taken by the great majority on such doctrines as the Godhead, the deity and eternal pre-existence of Christ, and the personality of the Holy Spirit…

A few, however, held to some of their former views, and at times these ideas got into print. However, for decades now the church has been practically at one on the basic truths of the Christian faith.” Ibid p30.31.

It had been agreed upon that ‘Questions on Doctrine’ would be placed in Martin’s bookshop, as well as his book ‘The Truth about Seventh-day Adventists’, and that both books would be available through the Adventist Book Center. According to Ralph Weitz, a non-Adventist who has studied Adventists for many years, the ABC did not carry Martin’s book.

Leroy Froom said he was indebted to the Spirit of Prophecy and Ellen White’s “contribution” to ‘Questions on Doctrine’.  He wrote, “We here unfold the Ellen White coverage on the Deity of Christ and its involvements. It is sublime in scope.  Here is penetration, comprehensiveness, balance, dependability.  No other writer in our ranks has ever approached it in coverage. Our greatest theologians have not come anywhere near to matching its impressive outline or content… 

We have nothing to be ashamed of – and everything to be proud of – in Ellen White’s contribution to the full truth of the Deity of Christ in this day of widespread challenge and repudiation of His eternal pre-existence and complete Deity, His atoning death, literal resurrection, actual ascension, and imminent personal return. Here is an anchor, a guideline, a blueprint to have and to use. Here is set forth the solid faith of Seventh-day Adventists.” Movement of Destiny p494.5. 

We wonder what Ellen White would have said about her ‘contribution’ to ‘Questions on Doctrine’, the most controversial book in our recent history. 

Sometime after the Evangelical visitors had met with our four church leaders in 1955 and 1956, two* men made a decision to commit a criminal act. Were it not for the quick-thinking of a brother, the outcome would have been very different. We do not know the identity of these two men, but their evil deed is written in the books of heaven.   *assumed to be two or three men.

Claude Holmes was employed by the Conference as a lino type operator.  He was a very strong believer in the Spirit of Prophecy, believing it to be equal with the Bible. In a letter to Willie White in 1926, he wrote, “I love your mother's writings. They are all scripture to me.” Letter to W.C. White. Oct 31. 1926. ‘Ministry’ magazine. Dec 2000. 

Both Holmes and Washburn believed the 1919 Bible Conference discussions on the prophetic gift discredited the prophet, and both believed they needed to defend the integrity of the Spirit of Prophecy. Ibid. (Holmes had a brilliant memory and was often called upon for Spirit of Prophecy references. In 1914, he borrowed and copied 300 pages of unpublished testimonies. Later his name came into disrepute for issuing a protest against two teachers at Washington Missionary College for their teachings and ‘light esteem’ of prophet’s writings. He encouraged two others to do the same. All three were disfellowshipped.

With this background, we can understand the concern of Holmes when he learned of the plan to burn a large number of Ellen White’s letters. Thankfully, one of his duties was to tend the incinerator.

When the time came, he stoked the fire to a hot blaze without much fuel. He let the coals burn down, but as he stoked them, they gave out a hot blaze. The men thought the fire was hot enough to throw in the Spirit of Prophecy letters and small books. 

And they did – hundreds of precious pages.

Holmes closed the door of the furnace, closed the damper, then shut off the air. The men stayed a while, and seeing the flames around the papers, were satisfied and they left.

The materials smouldered, but in a short time the fire was smothered out. It was now possible to rescue most of the precious materials. 

Claude Holmes kept the singed letters and books until he retired, knowing he would lose his sustentation if it became known what he had done. When he retired, he gave them all to a Dr. Hayes. 

When the doctor died, his estate was deeded to the Conference, except for his library and personal belongings, which were to be auctioned. Many had heard about the fire and were at the auction. 

The letters and books sold for $10, $25, and $50. Many still had burn marks on them. 

(When this experience was told many years ago by Willard Santee, he had a number of the pamphlets in his possession. He also had a letter from the bequeathed estate library that tells the story. [The letter may have been written by Claude Holmes, although his name is not on it] The letter is dated 1957. 

It was printed in a magazine entitled ‘Liberator’, after which a brother from Colorado contacted Pastor Santee to confirm the event. This brother had been told by Elder J.S. Washburn what had taken place, as well as the name of the faithful custodian who salvaged the pamphlets. Later the brother met Claude Holmes and heard the story firsthand) Audio tape ‘Circle of Apostasy’ by Willard Santee.

Today the letters are known as Special Testimonies Series A and B, written from 1890 to 1913. All are short, but contain much counsel to physicians, educators and ministers, self-supporting schools and the health work.

Praise God for the Spirit of Prophecy writings. They are so precious, and such a blessing to us.