Sister White was in vision, and before her was an iceberg. She was told to, “Meet it firmly, and without delay.” 1 Selected Messages p200.
“The engines were put on at full force, and the vessel crashed into the iceberg. There was a tremendous shock, and the ship quivered from stem to stern; but she rebounded from the shock unhurt, and went safely on her way. After seeing this representation, I knew what work I must do. I knew that I must meet the errors that were coming in among us.” 1 Sermons and Talks p344.
The year was 1903, and a crisis was in full force.
Dr John H. Kellogg had begun to teach clients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium a view of God that was not in harmony with Adventist understanding. When Brother Palmer and his wife read an article of Kellogg’s in the ‘Good Health’ magazine, Sister Palmer said, “That seems like another god.” 1919 Bible Conference transcript. Jul 13.1919.
Lectures had been given at the 1899 and 1901 General Conference sessions by Kellogg and others, saying, “There is an intelligence that is present in the plants, in all vegetation… Wherever God’s life is, God Himself is. You cannot separate God and His life. That is the reason why God is everywhere… God is in me, and everything I do is God’s power; every single act is a creative act.” General Conference Bulletin. Second quarter. 1901.
Ellen White also spoke at these two sessions, where she said, “Nature is not God, and never was God. The voice of nature testifies of God… but nature is not God.” General Conference Bulletin. March 6. 1899.
But the major challenge came in 1903.
Kellogg had printed a book entitled ‘Living Temple’ in which he had placed his theories. Ellen White said they were “spiritualistic” and “akin to pantheism”. Special Testimonies B. No.6. p41. Not only that, but these teachings were the “alpha of deadly heresies.” 1 Selected Messages p200.
In vision Ellen saw “a platform, braced by solid timbers – the truths of the Word of God. Someone high in responsibility in the medical work was directing this man and that man to loosen the timbers supporting this platform…
This foundation was built by the Master Worker, and will stand storm and tempest. Will they permit this man to present doctrines that deny the past experience of the people of God?’ The time has come to take decided action.” 1 Sel. Messages. p204.
In the first edition of ‘Living Temple’, Kellogg said, “There is present in the tree a power which creates and maintains it, a tree-maker in the tree, a flower-maker in the flower -- a divine architect who understands every law of proportion, an infinite artist who possesses a limitless power of expression in color and form; there is, in all the world about us, an infinite, divine, though invisible, Presence…” Living Temple p29.
Sister White had the book in her library, but did not read it until her son said, “Mother, you ought to read at least some parts of the book that you may see whether they are in harmony with the light that God has given you. He sat down beside me, and we read the paragraphs to which he referred.
When we had finished I turned to him and said, ‘These are the very sentiments against which I was bidden to speak in warning at the very beginning of my public work… ‘Living Temple’ contains the alpha of these theories. The omega would follow in a little while. I tremble for our people.
These beautiful representations are similar to the temptation that the enemy brought to Adam and Eve in Eden… In ‘Living Temple’ the assertion is made that God is in the flower, in the leaf, in the sinner.
But God does not live in the sinner. The Word declares that He abides only in the hearts of those who love Him and do righteousness. God does not abide in the heart of the sinner; it is the enemy who abides there.” Sermons and Talks . Vol. 1. p341.343.
Kellogg believed his book to be in harmony with the prophet’s writings, claiming his words could be sustained by statements from the testimonies. Sister White told him he had taken her statements away from their connection, and interpreted them according to his own mind.
It was a very stressful time for Ellen White. “The battle nearly killed me. I saw what was coming in, and I saw that our brethren were blind. They did not realize the danger.” Ibid p344.
Dr Kellogg explained his thinking in a letter to W.W. Prescott. “When we say God is in the tree, the word ‘God’ is understood in its most comprehensive sense, and people understand the meaning to be that the Godhead is in the tree, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, whereas the proper understanding in order that wholesome conceptions should be preserved in our minds, is that God the Father sits upon his throne in heaven where God the Son is also; while God's life, or Spirit or presence is the all-pervading power which is carrying out the will of God in all the universe.” Letter from Dr. Kellogg to W.W. Prescott. Oct 25. 1903.
Kellogg had stated that people understood the meaning of the Godhead as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but this was only the understanding of those who had accepted the Trinity, not brethren with the pioneer belief.
Kellogg felt the problem had been solved and said, “The whole thing is now clear to my mind. I confess it was not quite clear before....” Ibid.
The prophet was grieved.
At the 1903 Autumn Council, Arthur G. Daniells was concerned that the supporters of ‘Living Temple’ would cause a confrontation, and he dared not call for a vote. The very understanding of the character and personality of God were under threat. Near the end of the council, a letter arrived from Ellen White.
“Be careful how you sustain the sentiments of this book regarding the personality of God…. it has been represented to me that the writer of this book is on a false track. He has lost sight of the distinguishing truths for this time.” Keepers of the Flame. No.6. Dr Alan Lindsay.
Praising God for her letter, Daniells wrote back to Ellen White saying, “This communication, calling our brethren to take their stand, brought great relief to me, and the terrible load that had at times almost crushed me, has, in a measure, rolled off from me.” A.G. Daniells to Ellen White. October 20. 1903.
After the council, Kellogg wrote a number of letters explaining his position. Daniells wrote to Willie C. White regarding the proposed changes the doctor had planned for his book.
“Ever since the council closed I have felt that I should write you confidentially regarding Dr Kellogg’s plans for revising and republishing ‘Living Temple’… He said he had been thinking the matter over, and began to see that he had made a slight mistake in expressing his views… He then stated that his former views regarding the Trinity had stood in his way of making a clear and absolutely correct statement, but that within a short time he had come to believe in the Trinity and could now see pretty clearly where all the difficulty was, and believed that he could clear the matter up satisfactorily.
He told me that he now believed in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, and his view was that it was God the Holy Ghost, and not God the Father, that filled all space, and every living thing…” A.G. Daniells to W.C. White. Oct 29. 1903. p1.2.
Sister White wrote to Dr Kellogg about the proposed changes, making it clear that he had not changed his beliefs, despite the corrections. “You are not definitely clear on the personality of God, which is everything to us as a people. You have virtually destroyed the Lord God Himself.” Letter 300. The Elmshaven Years. Vol 5. 1900-1905. Arthur L. White. 1941.
In 1904 another vision was given in which the doctor was speaking before his associate physicians, and ministers of the gospel.
“The subject upon which he was speaking was life, and the relation of God to all living things. In his presentations he cloaked the matter somewhat, but in reality he was presenting, as of the highest value, scientific theories which are akin to pantheism… I was astonished to see with what enthusiasm the sophistries and deceptive theories were received. The influence of this talk gave the speaker encouragement to call for a council of our brethren at Battle Creek, for a further examination of these seducing sentiments.” Series B. No.6. p210.
Some of the brethren spoke to Sister White about investigating the doctor’s beliefs, but the prophet said, “We have no such investigation to make…” 1 Selected Messages p200.
Why would she not look into the subject?
Simply because it contradicted the truth God had given at the beginning. “We are to hold to the sure pillars of our faith. The principles of truth that God revealed to us are our only true foundation. They have made us what we are. The lapse of time has not lessened their value.” Ibid p201.
During these years (between 1900 and 1910), Sister White is attributed to having said such things as ‘the three great powers of heaven’, ‘the three great personal dignitaries, ‘the three highest powers in the universe’, ‘the holiest beings in heaven’, ‘the three worthies of heaven’, ‘the three living personalities’, ‘the heavenly trio’, ‘the three representatives of heavenly authority’.
These phrases have confused some brethren.
Taken alone, they appear to be Trinitarian. However, during these same years, the prophet wrote other statements that are certainly not Trinitarian.
Was she contradicting herself? No.
There are two important principles when reading the Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible -- * the weight of evidence, * time and place.
Sister White said, “Regarding the testimonies, nothing is ignored; nothing is cast aside; but time and place must be considered.” 1 Selected Messages p57.
At the turn of the century, the issues were pantheistic, but blended with the personality of God in ways that brought Him down to the level of nature. Kellogg wrote in his book, “God is the explanation of nature,— not a God outside of nature, but in nature, manifesting himself through and in all the objects, movements, and varied phenomena of the universe.” Living Temple p28.
It was necessary for the prophet to make clear statements of God’s power and authority, to elevate the Father, His Son, and the Spirit above nature itself. Counteracting the work of the enemy required strong messages, and she needed to lift the people’s minds from a low level.
“God’s handiwork in nature is not God Himself in nature. The things of nature are an expression of God’s character and power; but we are not to regard nature as God… the thing made is not the maker… it is the God of nature that is to be exalted.” Ministry of Healing p333.
The pantheistic sentiments were a great concern, but as we have said, it was far more than pantheism, more subtle. Kellogg had combined truth with error, and as a result, men and women were actually worshipping a false god.
“Thousands have a false conception of God and His attributes. They are as verily serving a false god as were the servants of Baal.
Are we worshiping the true God as He is revealed in His Word, in Christ, in nature, or are we adoring some philosophical idol enshrined in His place?” The Faith I Live By p60.
Today most Adventists believe our pioneers had the wrong understanding of God. What about Kellogg? When he became a Trinitarian, was he then worshipping the true God, but mingled with error?
What about our pioneers? Do you think they would have seriously considered the subject of God, of Christ, and the Holy Spirit in their studies of 1844-1848?
Think about it in the light of the first commandment. “Thou shalt have no other gods beside me.” Exodus 20:3.
If you were meeting with these brethren, and at least three of them were not Trinitarians, do you think you would be able to study other subjects and feel perfectly at ease?
What about today?
Someone is sure to say – So long as we don’t discuss the subject of God, His Son, or the Holy Spirit, it will be fine, but if anyone wants to debate the subject of the Trinity, we cannot continue.
Would that person be you?
If our pioneers had refused to discuss the controversial subject of God, Christ and the Spirit, do you think they would have been blessed with truth?
Dr Kellogg’s beliefs were not to be investigated because he was trying “to bring in theories that remove the pillars of our faith concerning the sanctuary or concerning the personality of God or of Christ...” Manuscript Release 760. p9.10.
When the second angel sounded and God’s remnant came out of Babylon, it was a completely new beginning. We had been called out of confusion, and were to be a “peculiar people”, separate from all other churches. 1 Peter 2:9.
Like Israel of old, we were to worship hvhy, a God who is distinctive and separate from the gods of the nations. The God we worship today must not only be different from the nations and their religions, but also different from the denominations that have moved away from Bible truth.
If you and I make a choice to return to the beliefs of the pioneers, we will be criticised, scorned, derided and labelled a sect, perhaps even a cult.
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