Did Ellen White Teach "A Different God"?
By Dr. Verle Streifling
Recounting her vision of December, 1844, Ellen speaks of her and Jesus as "In a moment we were winging our way upward…" Seeing this, in the light of her calling Him "Michael the Archangel" (Desire of Ages pp. 99, 379; Spiritual Gifts Vol. 1, p. 158; Prophets & Kings p. 572) one is led to question if she did not, in fact, really view Him as just that—an angel! And if so, what of His deity and bodily resurrection?
SDA Pioneers as Arians for over 50 years
It is well known that the early Adventist leaders and founders were Arians, who denied the deity of Christ, and the Trinity. Their article "The Doctrine of the Trinity Among Adventists" by Gerhard Pfandl, of their Biblical Research Institute (referred to as "Trinity" henceforth) tells us on page 1:
"Two of the principal founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Joseph Bates and James White, were originally members of the Christian Connection Church which rejected the doctrine of the Trinity…Other prominent Adventists who spoke out against the Trinity were J.N. Loughborough, R.F. Cottrell, J.N. Andrews, and Uriah Smith…"
These SDA leaders denied Jesus’ deity and the Trinity. Joseph Bates, raised in the Congregational Church, repudiated the Trinity doctrine upon joining the Christian Connection Church. Bates learned the Sabbath doctrine from Rachel Oakes, a Seventh-day Baptist; however, Bates did not accept the Seventh-day Baptist doctrine of the Trinity. So, early Adventists had more in common with the Shakers, who not only kept the Sabbath and had prophets, but also believed in Arianism. Only by the turn of the century did Adventism begin to move out of Arianism to espousing Jesus’ deity, and subsequently, the Trinity. This was hard to do in light of Ellen White’s statements, spanning over 50 years, upholding Arianism.
Ellen White’s Arian Views
Ellen often called Jesus "The Son of God" at original creation. We read these words not seeing them as the Arian views they are, for they evoke the question "How was He ‘the Son of God?’" John 1:1-3 and Hebrews 1:10 show He was YHWH, the Word at creation, but became ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of Man’ at His incarnation (Heb 1:5-6) when the Father said "I will become to Him a father, and He will become to me a Son" (cf Lk 1:35). Arians teach he was the ‘Son of God’ by being created or begotten by the Father, and then God created other things through him. So he was only a lesser deity, whose pre-eminence over the angels was conferred to him, by the Father. Ellen G White also held this Christ-debasing view:
"…yet, Jesus, God’s dear Son, had the pre-eminence over all the angelic host. He was one with the Father before the angels were created. Satan was envious of Christ and gradually assumed command which devolved on Christ alone.
The article "Trinity" acknowledges this implies that "he was not equal to the Father before that time", for Jesus’ command was only ‘devolved’ or handed-down from the Father, and his equality was ‘conferred’ or positional equality rather than being equal by nature, as necessary for True Deity. (Gal 4:8).
Moving to Deity of Christ and the Trinity
Walter Rea informs us that in 1896 W.W. Prescott identified Jesus as the "I AM" of John 8:58 & Exodus 3:14, beginning the move toward Christ’s true deity and the Trinity. (SDA Forum, Feb. 14, 1982) "Trinity" says:
"The breakthrough came with the publication of Ellen White’s article 'Christ the Life-giver' in Signs of the Times in 1897, and the book The Desire of Ages in 1898…she says 'In Him was life original, unborrowed, underived.' In Desire of Ages…she quotes Jesus’ answer to the Jews in John 8:58 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was I AM'… 'He was equal with God, infinite and omnipotent…He is the eternal self-existing Son.'" (ms 101, 1897)
"Trinity" dubs these changing views "she received more light" and "increasing light leading to a clearer understanding" (page 3). On page 7 they say "Ellen White in 1905…unambiguously endorsed the Trinity doctrine" citing Evangelism, pages 614-615, where she calls the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit "the fullness of the God-head" individually, saying "There are three living persons of the heavenly trio…" Yet by 1919, SDA leaders had not united on Christ’s full deity or the Trinity (1919 Bible Conference, p. 57). Their 1915 Bible Readings for the Home only held Jesus "essential deity", limiting his equality with God to "proprietorship" of the angels, saints, etc. (p. 68); but failed to give any teaching of the Trinity at all! This had to be because Ellen’s 1897, 1898 and 1905 words were ambiguously modified by her other statements!
Dense Fog covering the "Light"
Walter Rea has shown many of the books and articles credited to Ellen were first written or assembled by her secretaries, Fanny Bolton and Marion Davis, who worked on Desire of Ages, using the work of other Christian writers as their sources. Thus those statements may not accurately portray Ellen’s own view of Christ. This becomes more apparent from some of her other statements written in that time period:
These statements, along with her 1844 vision of Jesus with wings, and her repeated calling Him the Archangel in Desire of Ages and other books, certainly befog her 1897 and 1898 statements regarding Jesus’ Deity. In Daniel and Revelation, page 341, Uriah Smith identified the angel of Rev 1:1, etc., as Gabriel. But Ellen made it to be Jesus Himself! Her error is manifest in the context of Rev 1:1; furthermore, the Greek word ‘allos’, used in Rev. 8:3, shows this angel the same kind as the seven angels of verse 2. In addition, in Rev. 19 the angel rebukes John’s attempt to worship him. "Trinity" quotes W.W. Prescott: "For a long time we believed…that Christ was created, in spite of what the Scripture says" (1919 Bible Conference p.62)
D.M. Canright showed how Ellen synthesized the risen Jesus with her view of him as the angel Michael. In Life of Mrs. E.G. White, chapter 17, page 31, he tells of Dr. Kellogg’s theory that the dead body would not be raised, but all that was left of a person at death was a record of his life kept in heaven, and a new body of new matter was raised and made to think that it was the same person as the old one. When asked if she had light on this, Ellen declared the Lord shew her not a particle of the old body would ever be raised, but a new body of new material would be formed. Canright asked "How about Christ’s body which was raised?" She responded "He dropped it all when he ascended". She failed to recognize him as ‘the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim 2:5 & Heb 7:24-25); and that ‘in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form’ (Col 2:9).
Was the Father also Human?
This questions her 1905 "unambiguous" view of the Trinity, which "Trinity" tells of. It is also self-indicting, for she starts by saying "The Father is the fullness of the Godhead Bodily…" (Evangelism, p. 614; The Faith I Live By, p. 39; Testimonies…warning p.62; Bible Training School, Mar 1, 1906). Jesus said "God is Spirit" (John 4:24) and "a spirit does not have flesh and bone as you see I have" (Luke 24:39). So the Father cannot be the fullness of the Godhead bodily, which only Christ is, and Christ cannot be an angel, for He’s not a spirit, but ‘the man Christ Jesus’ risen ‘bodily’.
Maybe Ellen was affected by both the Jehovah’s Witness (who began as Adventists) and the Mormons who wrote and prophesied in her day. The Witness predicted Jesus’ return in the early 1870s with the SDAs, then denied Jesus’ bodily resurrection to allow his spiritual presence. Joseph Smith widely published his visitation, by God and Christ, where God was not a spirit being, but a person of flesh and bones. This teaching was the basis of their "progression of God" doctrine, where Adam became God, and Jesus who was a man became God. In 1898, even SDAs such as Uriah Smith held this view, to a degree. In his book Looking Unto Jesus, Smith wrote "With the Son, the evolution of deity, as deity, ceased" (p. 13; op cit "Trinity " p. 2). From all the above, Ellen’s view of God was unbiblical. It was ‘a different Godhead’ with a ‘different Jesus’ and a ‘different Father’ from the real Jesus Christ and real Father found in the Scriptures.
Worse yet, her calling Christ an angel, namely Michael the Archangel, and affirming his body dropped off at his ascension, denies He is returning ‘in the flesh’. The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 860 and vol. 7, p. 706, holds her view that Christ is the Archangel who comes from heaven for his saints. Here we must note 2nd John 7:
"For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who deny Christ is coming in the flesh, this is the deceiver and the antichrist".
Scripture attests Jesus’ bodily resurrection and ascension, that He will return ‘in like manner’, He is the fullness of the Godhead bodily;, He is ‘the man Christ Jesus’ in heaven today; we are ‘bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh’; and when ‘he returns we will be like him’; receiving glorified resurrection bodies. Ellen’s making Him an angel, makes him to be a spirit, and denies He is coming in the flesh, which makes her both a false prophet, and anti-Christ against Christ Himself.
Obviously the light did not get brighter for Ellen. SDAs largely took the Trinity doctrine because it was Biblical, despite Ellen’s anti-Trinitarian statements over the years. Yet, for almost 2000 years the Orthodox church has held to the Trinity, while combating heresies in every century—-especially in this end of the Church age, when apostasy is so rampant. The Biblical view is so plain, that since 1931 it became the official position of the SDA Church, though the Arian views were not expunged from their books, and Ellen’s writings. Her vision that Satan was in full possession of the churches, all their prayers and professions are an abomination to God has been upheld, though her words are categorical indictment of the Trinity!
Seventh-day Adventist Anti-Trinitarians
"Trinity?" (page 5) tells that in recent years a number of anti-Trinitarian publications have appeared in the SDA church, contending that "the church as a whole rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, and it was not until many years after the death of Ellen G. White that the Adventist church changed their position in regards to the Trinity". By the evidence above it was more than 15 years after she died before a Trinity statement of faith is seen. Yet the SDA denomination upholds Arian members, and has been heavily promoting their reversion to Arianism, by two means in these last two decades.
They have been strongly advocating Ellen White as their ‘canonical’ and ‘divinely inspired’ interpreter of the Bible. Thus, her views have become more authoritative than Scripture itself. This was more subtly effected in their 1958 Bible Commentary, which upheld her positions and supplied her quotes as the authority that established them. So, they defended Jesus being Michael the Archangel, and upheld him as the angel of Revelation 1:1, 8:3, & 10:6, etc.
Also their Clear Word Bible1, has been heavily promoted since 1994. In America today, nearly half of the Adventist homes are already using this Adventist Bible, for regular reading and Bible study—many even for Sabbath School lesson study! The SDA Church has promoted this Bible because their unorthodox positions have been translated right into the text, including positions which came from Ellen White’s endorsements. But the sweet scroll that becomes bitter in the stomach, is that this ‘Bible’ upholds and promotes her Arianism as well:
Gen 1:28 "Then God and His Son blessed them and said "We have given you…"
Gen 1:31 "Then God looked at everything He had created (adds) through His Son
Rev 10:1 "Next I saw a mighty angel come down from heaven…(adds) Then I knew it was the Lord Jesus"
Rev 10:5 "Then this mighty angel (adds) the Lord Jesus…"
Rev 10:8+9 "…Go and take the little open book out of the hand of the mighty angel…so I went up to the Son of God …"
1 Ths 4:16 "When Christ descends from heaven, (adds) He as Michael the Archangel will give a shout…"
Rev 12:7 "…(adds) God’s Son Michael and the loyal angels fought against the dragon…"
Jude 9 "…(adds) the Lord Jesus Christ, also called Michael the Archangel…"
John 8:58 "…before Abraham was I AM" changed to "I existed before Abraham was born"
Col 1:16 "…By Him all things were created" changed to "…through him the Father created"
Col 1:15 "He is the firstborn over all creation" changed "He has the right to be placed over all creation"
Col 1:18 ".that in all things He might have pre-eminence" changed "…therefore He is worthy to be given first place."
Col 1:18 "He is the Beginning" changed to "He existed from the beginning"
Col 1:19 "The Father acknowledged Him as fully God, (adds) in spite of his human nature"
Heb 1:10 "You, O Yhwh, in the beginning laid the foundations of the earth…" is changed to "You existed before the beginning of time. You carried out our plan and created…"
Jn 20:28 "My Lord and My God" changed "Lord, you’re alive! They were right! I believe! You are the Son of God".
Acts 2:25 "I foresaw Yhwh always before my face" changed "I have seen the presence of God in all my life"
Tit 1:3,4; 3:4-6; 2:13; 2 Pet 1:1 Takes identity of ‘God’ from Jesus Christ, sometimes gives it to the Father!
John 10:30 "I and My Father are One" changed "I and my Father are so close we’re One"
Rev 3:14 "…the beginning (source) of the creation of God" changed to "who is in charge of God’s creation"
Rom 10:9,10 omits "that Jesus is LORD (Yhwh)"; "you shall be saved" changed: "you have the relation you need"
With SDAs heavily promoting Ellen’s infallible and canonical interpretive gift, and with such a gross perversion of the Bible, that so freely and heavily rewrites it to include Ellen’s unorthodox views, including her denial of Jesus’ absolute deity and the Trinity, and with SDAs yet upholding as members those who deny these essential articles from their statement of faith, actively destroying them, to support Ellen’s false views, it is only a matter of time before the whole denomination will revert to the Christ debasing positions they once held for 60 years!
1. It should be noted that while half of the SDA homes in the United States have The Clear Word Bible, the vast majority of SDAs worldwide do not own or use the book. It is a paraphrased Bible and not a translation. For an in-depth analysis of The Clear Word Bible, see the article Deliberate Distortions in the SDA's "Clear Word Bible" by Dr. Verle Streifling.
The following is found in the first two paragraphs of the Clear Word's preface:
"This is not a new translation but a paraphrase of the Scriptures. It is not intended for in-depth study or for public reading in churches. Those who are better qualified have given readers of the Holy Scriptures excellent translations for such purposes and undoubtedly will continue to do so as additional manuscripts come to light.
Category: Bible vs. Mrs. White
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