Decision Ratified

Leroy Froom published his assigned 700-page book ‘Movement of Destiny’ in 1971. In this volume, He outlined a history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as few could ever imagine.

His historical account says we began as Semi-Arians, but steadily rose to become a strong Movement, able to take our place among mainline Protestant denominations. Together with them we wholeheartedly profess Christendom’s doctrine of the Trinity and the full deity of Christ.

Froom believed that by 1888 Waggoner had left all traces of Arianism and become a Trinitarian. He was said to be fully in harmony with Ellen White’s supposed belief that Christ is the eternal, second person of the Trinity. 

According to Froom, Waggoner’s introductory remarks at Minneapolis were to combat the false beliefs of Arianism. “He felt impelled to take note of certain false concepts, as well as to present the positive truth of Christ’s complete deity and eternal place in the Godhead, or Trinity…” Movement of Destiny p192.

This is absolutely incredible. Not once does Waggoner say his words are to combat anything; his message is presented as pure truth. 

The following year, Waggoner showed clearly where he stood, saying that “… both the Father and the Son were of the same nature, the Father was first in point of time. He is also greater in that He had no beginning, while Christ’s personality had a beginning.” Signs of the Times. Apr. 8. 1889. Clearly Waggoner was not a Trinitarian at this time of his life.

No wonder Froom’s book was not to be published for many years!

Froom said Waggoner’s primary purpose in his opening section, was “to present the majesty and glory, the transcendence and completeness of the eternal Godhood of Christ. It was to press home the immutable truth that Christ is not a created Being, with a beginning... At the very outset Waggoner had to firmly meet the persisting, neutralizing Arian view still maintained by some…” Movement of Destiny p200.

He said Waggoner presented Christ as “the coeternal, coequal, consubstantial Second Person of the Godhead.” Ibid. (Note the word ‘consubstantial’, or the Nicaean homoousion)

Leroy Froom said Minneapolis, “was a definite turn in the denominational tide… It was the great division point. It began the re-establishment of the supreme provision of Righteousness by Faith in Christ as ‘all the fullness of the Godhead’. That is ever to be remembered, irrespective of denials by some.” Ibid p257.

He said further, “It was the beginning of a new awakening – a period of growing ‘revival and reformation’… It aroused the Movement from the complacency of Laodiceanism… 1888 marked a new perception of the basic doctrine of the complete Deity of Christ, joined with Righteousness by Faith as the foundation truth of the Gospel and salvation…” Ibid p267.

Contrary to Froom’s report, Ellen White was so upset with the spirit of debate, argument, criticism and ridicule in 1888, she said, “it was the saddest experience of my life…” 1888 Materials. p179. 

An editorial in the Adventist Review stated the truth.  “In reviewing the history of the 1888 era, we are led to the conclusion that it was a time of unparalleled opportunity for the Seventh-day Adventist church.  The Lord actually gave His people the ‘beginning’ of the latter rain and loud cry… The attitudes and spirit of too many at that time made it necessary for God to withdraw this special blessing… 

It is clear that the fullness of the marvelous blessing God wanted to bestow upon the church was not received at that time nor subsequently.”  Editorial in the Adventist Review. May 27. 1976.

However, the tenor of Froom’s book has largely been accepted by the denomination in a belief that we have the truth and are prospering. 

In 1974, Leroy Edwin Froom was laid to rest, his life-work closed. 

The final step would now be the work of others. 

In 1980, the doctrine of the Trinity was to be discussed at the General Conference session, with a plan to make it an official doctrine of our faith.

Once again, caution was needed, as there were still non-Trinitarians among us.

Only five years earlier, a paper by Edward Edstrom was printed at the request of the Board of Walla Walla Valley Academy in book form called ‘Human Spirit – Divine Spirit’. (1975)

Edstrom’s belief in the Trinity had been challenged in 1954 when fellow pastors and workers in Central Africa were confronted by Moslems “who claimed ONE God Allah, while Christianity appeared to have THREE separate, distinct Gods that were called ONE.”  Human Spirit – Divine Spirit. Introd. iv. Edward Edstrom.  

It was obvious church leaders needed to be well-prepared when the subject came up for discussion.  Clearly Arian-type questions would not be tolerated.

The Trinity to be discussed was (as printed eight years later in ‘Seventh-day Adventists Believe’), “There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons. God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever present. He is infinite and beyond human comprehension, yet known through His self-revelation. He is forever worthy of worship, adoration, and service by the whole creation.”  Belief No. in 27 Fundamentals.

This wording states that God is singular -- He ‘is immortal’ -- and yet there are three co-eternal Persons, a unity of three co-equals in one God.  It does not say there is one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but a group of three Persons who make up God.

A number of brethren saw the confusion.

Charles Upshaw asked, “I have a question on Article 2, ‘The Trinity’. I believe when we first studied the document the term was ‘Godhead’. My objection to the use of the word Trinity is the fact that in many Christian congregations it refers to one God and also means one person. 

Yet in our explanation we refer to three co-eternal persons, and in Article 3 we refer to a triune God. I would like to suggest that we either change the title to ‘The Godhead’ or ‘The Triune Godhead’.” Adventist Review. May 1st 1980. ‘Fifteenth business meeting. Fifty-third General Conference session. April 25. 1980. 1:30 P.M. Session proceedings’.

W. Duncan Eva responded, “We discussed this back and forth. We had both, and we did not like that. Now we have used one of them and this isn't popular. We had ‘Godhead’ in the old Manual and we didn't like that. I think it would be better just to ask the folk to express what they would prefer. Trinity to me seems to be a perfectly good word, even though we don't like some of its connotations.  Many other words have connotations we are not happy with either.” Ibid. (All statements are from the session, not necessarily in order;  the font changes for variety)

Another brother commented. “I do recognize and accept the Trinity as a collective unity, but I would have a little difficulty in applying the pronoun He to the Trinity or the Godhead.  For me this has deep theological implications.”  (J.H. Bennett)

“It seems to me we have a conflict or a contradiction in this statement, 'There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of Three co-eternal Persons.'  Would not it be more clear if we were to say,  'There is one God consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit'?  

We begin with 'one God’, then, without any explanation, we use 'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.' Later, we go to 'a unity of Three'.”  (H.J. Harris)

“I think we ought to be very careful in using terms that the Bible does not use of Him. When we framed this statement we tried to use Biblical phrases as much as we could.”  (Richard Hammil)

“I would suggest that when this goes back to the committee, Sister White's writings  be studied  to see what term  she used to describe God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Let us use a lot of her terminology to define this. Whatever decisions are made and expressions found, let us be content with them.”  (Paul Chima)

Brother Lesher brought out an important point.

“I am concerned about words and phrases that would seem to limit God or to change the view of God that is given to us in Scripture… I presume that the speaker was referring to the use of 'They' in paragraph 2.”  

(“The Godhead is infinite and beyond human comprehension, yet known to the extent that They have chosen to reveal Themselves. The members of the Godhead have revealed Themselves through the works of Their hands in nature…”)

Lesher continues. “And, of course, the statement of Scripture is that 'The Lord our God is One Lord.'  And to speak of 'They' or some other pronoun than 'He' would make us tritheist, instead of believing in one God… The idea of three Beings that are One is a mystery, and it seems to me that we should not try to remove all of that mystery from the statement.” (W. R. Lesher)

Although these brethren had problems with wording, their questions did not threaten the overall plan to adopt the Trinity.

In discussion it was stated that Seventh-day Adventists do not believe in a creedal Trinity like the Catholic Church and the Protestant churches, who believe God does not have body parts.  (See Anglican Thirty-nine Articles) 

Instead it was stated that we have a Biblical teaching of the Trinity, just like we have the Biblical Sabbath.  Sister White’s writings were quoted, showing her to agree with the teaching of the Biblical Trinity, and that James White had objected to the creedal teaching. 

Brother G.N. Banks asked the following question. 

“Is our position as fundamentalists-believers that the Godhead is a unit of three equal members, pre-existent to all things, and that there was a period when there was no Sonship involved – just three members of the Godhead? 

Is that our position? Did the term Father come into play only in relationship to the Sonship experience as a result of sin and the need of the atonement?”

The General Conference president, Pastor Neil Wilson, responded, “Well, you are getting into an area that could lead us into certain Arian complications.” 

Duncan Eva quelled further discussion, “Mr Chairman, we did not want to get into those areas that Elder Banks has talked about, but we felt confident in using the word Father because that is the word Jesus gave us to use: ‘Our Father which art in heaven’.” Adventist Review. Apr 24. 1980. p18.

It was a deliberate sidestep. 

It had taken many years of subtle and deceptive moves, but the Trinity doctrine was officially voted into the Seventh-day Adventist Church at the Dallas session, 1980. 

“Like the great ecclesiastical powers of ages past, the Advent Movement has solidified its beliefs in rigid dictum, proclaiming to all its adherents the final results of its own erudite investigation.”

The Statement of Belief now reads:

2. Trinity. There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons. God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above  all,  and  ever  present.  He  is  infinite  and

beyond human comprehension, yet known through His self-revelation. He is forever worthy of worship, adoration, and service by the whole creation.  (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 14:7.)

Is the Adventist Trinity the same as the Roman Catholic Trinity?

Many would say - No

The Creed of Athanasius says in part, “We worship One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance.  For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is One, the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.” Catholic Creeds.

From a Catholic Encyclopaedia. “The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion — the truththat in the unity of the Godheadthere are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Personsbeing truly distinct one from another.” Catholic Encyclopaedia

Semantics? The same doctrine, but different words?

Bert B. Beach wrote in his book ‘So Much in Common’ regarding our beliefs. “The member churches of the World Council of Churches and Seventh-Day Adventists are in agreement on the fundamental articles of the Christian faith as set forth in the three ancient symbols (Apostolicum, Nicaeno-Constantinopolitum, Athanasium). This agreement finds expression in unqualified acceptance of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Two Natures.” So Much in Common p.40. (Brackets in statement refer to the creeds)

One thing is certain, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has moved away from the pioneer belief on the Godhead, as was stated by George Knight.   “Most of the founders of Seventh-day Adventism would not be able to join the church today if they had to subscribe   to  the  denomination’s   Fundamental  Beliefs...” 

especially the one which “deals with the doctrine of the Trinity.” Ministry. Oct 1993. p10.

Imagine denying membership to James and Ellen White, Joseph Bates, John Loughborough and others! 

Once the Trinity had been made official, it was necessary for our new books to reflect the Trinitarian doctrine. Leroy Froom had fulfilled this work, now it was the responsibility of others.

In 1996, a devotional book entitled ‘Ye Shall Receive Power’ was printed, in which the prophet’s words were changed.

In 1899, Ellen White wrote, “Why should we not prostrate ourselves at the throne of divine grace, praying that God's Spirit may be poured out upon us as it was upon the disciples? Its presence will soften our hard hearts, and fill us with joy and rejoicing, transforming us into channels of blessing. 

The Lord would have every one of His children rich in faith, and this faith is the fruit of the working of the Holy Spirit upon the mind. It dwells with each soul who will receive it, speaking to the impenitent in words of warning, and pointing them to Jesus, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. It causes light to shine into the minds of those who are seeking to co-operate with God, giving them efficiency and wisdom to do His work.” Signs of the Times. Sep 27. 1899.

If you look carefully, you will see that Ellen White has used the word ‘it’ four times, and one ‘its’ when speaking of the Holy Spirit. In the devotional ‘Ye Shall Receive Power’ p59, ‘it’ has been changed to ‘He’ or ‘His’ and ‘Him’.   See also ‘Ye Shall Receive Power’ p93, 151, 164, 183, 303, 318, 319, 321, 323, 325, 344 for other changes.  

(The word ‘spirit’ is a neutral word, as is the word ‘soul’, and when referring to either of these in a sentence, we can say ‘it’.   Even a baby can be called it, if you are unaware of its sex. In fact, doesn’t a nurse announce the birth of a baby with the words ‘It’s a boy’ or ‘It’s a girl’? A woman might say of her crying baby, ‘Give it to me’.  There is no disrespect in using ‘it’ in any of these cases)

In 2005, the baptismal vow was revised to read: “Do you accept the teachings of the Bible as expressed in the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and do you pledge to live your life by God’s grace in harmony with these teachings?”

For the first time in Adventist history, the church has based membership on a creed. The prophet had told us ninety five years earlier, “The Bible, and the Bible alone, is to be our creed.” Review & Herald. Dec 15. 1885.

As a response to Ted Wilson’s inspiring sermon at the 2010 General Conference, the church at large has begun to pray for revival and reformation. It is good to pray for the latter rain; we all long for “global rain”, the refreshing from the Lord. Hope Channel.

However, we must consider an important vision given to Ellen White in 1846 of two companies, both praying to the Father for the Holy Spirit. The issue at the time was whether the presence of Jesus was in the holy place or in the most holy place of the sanctuary. 

Those whose faith remained in the holy place, prayed to the Father for the Holy Spirit.  It was Satan who answered their prayers, sending light and power. The people thought the Father had sent the Holy Spirit. 

The other group followed Jesus by faith into the most holy place and prayed to the Father for the Holy Spirit. Their prayers were answered by God, who sent light, power, love, joy and peace.   Early Writings p55.56.

Today the issue still relates to where Jesus is.   We do not question that He is in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, but what about His Spirit?

Again there are two companies. 

One group is praying to the Father for the Spirit He shares with His Son. They know it is the omnipresent Spirit that unites them with their God, Christ, and all believers, and they long to be one.  John 17:21-23.

The other group also prays to the Father. 

They believe the Spirit is another Person, God the Holy Spirit,  separate from the Father and the Son, a divine Person in His own right. Their faith is in Jesus who is in the most holy place, but as He is unable to be with His people in the flesh, He sends the Holy Spirit as His representative.

Brothers and sisters, it is a fearful thing to say, but one group will receive the wrong spirit. 

Oh Lord, have mercy upon us all!

There is only one answer. There must be careful, prayerful and diligent study of God’s Word, and a willingness to put aside pre-conceived ideas to hear God’s voice saying – This is the truth. If we do not love truth, God will “send” or allow “strong delusion that (we) should believe a lie.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.

And remember, the counterfeit latter rain will fall before the genuine.

Do you think it will only fall on Babylon?

Ask yourself the question -- Who is the devil determined to deceive right until the end – the remnant or Babylon?

We have been warned.

The Adventist Church is now being prepared for Satan to work his lying wonders among us, and “those who have not stood firmly for the truth will unite with the unbelieving, who love and make a lie. When these wonders are performed, when the sick are healed and other marvels are wrought, they will be deceived.” 3 Selected Messages p407.408.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear...” Revelation 3:22.