When I arrived in the Philippines I found the evangelistic teaching and preaching to be all that I had hoped for and more. Twice I saw more than five hundred people respond to the invitation to become members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In four years the total was well over two thousand. That was the good news.
But there was also some bad news. When I had left the Campus Hill Church in Loma Linda, I had thought I would be walking away from the tensions and controversies that were so troublesome there. But I found that they had gone before me to the Philippines. The infamous book, Questions On Doctrine, was doing its baleful work in the Far East as well as in the States. Church members were appealing to the ministers at the seminary for help, and they were appealing to me. But there was some light at the end of the tunnel. The officers of the White Estate in Washington, D.C., had decided to set up “repositories”of Ellen White’s writings in different parts of the world. By using micro-film they were able to make these repositories nearly complete,containing most of her magazine articles as well as her books, and all of the magazines and journals that our church had published through the years.
One of those repositories was right there in the seminary library, and my wife had a key to the library.
So it seemed that my work had been cut out for me. In that repository lay all of the information that would be needed to settle once and for all time the two questions that were the cause of all of our controversies: 1) Did Christ come to earth in the human nature of fallen man, or in the human nature of the unfallen Adam? 2) Is it true that Christians can not and need not stop sinning? What had our church believed about these things?
But somebody had to do the careful research that was needed to get that information together. I started letting myself into the seminary library at four o’clock every morning, and had three hours of research done before breakfast. It was hard work, but the results were thrilling. Our pioneers, including Ellen White, had given far more attention to these questions than I had supposed.
In regard to the human nature of Christ, they had written and published, during the years 1852-1952, twelve hundred statements that His human nature was fallen like ours, and not like that of the unfallen Adam. Four hundred of these statements were by Ellen White. Of course they were also careful to write that in that fallen human nature He had never sinned.
I was astonished and thrilled. I had not expected to find such a wealth of information as this. As for the second question, whether it is true, as the Calvinists among us were saying, that Christians can not and need not stop sinning, the evidence against it was like an avalanche. Statements that Christians can, by the power of God, stop sinning, numbered in the thousands during the same period.
How, then, had the present confusion and disagreement come about? The evidence was all there, in the church journals. It had come about through the preparation and publication of the book, Questions On Doctrine, the book that had been produced by incredibly unscrupulous means.
The first unscrupulous act that we can positively identify occurred in the year 1946. (We have taken note of the falsehoods of Desmond Ford, but that was much later.) In the year 1915 our church had published a book called Bible Readings for the Home Circle. It had been very well received and large numbers had been sold. On its pages 173-174, this statement about the human nature of Christ was printed: “How fully did Christ share our common humanity?
‘Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.’ Hebrews 2:17. Note.—In His humanity Christ partook of our sinful, fallen nature. If not, then He was not ‘made like unto His brethren,’ was not ‘in all points tempted like as we are’ (Hebrews 4:15), did not overcome as we have to overcome, and is not, therefore the complete and perfect Saviour man needs and must have to be saved. The idea that Christ was born of an immaculate or sinless mother, inherited no tendencies to sin, and for this reason did not sin, removes Him from the realm of a fallen world, and from the very place where help is needed. On His human side, Christ inherited just what every child of Adam inherits-a sinful nature. On the divine side, from His very conception He was begotten and born of the Spirit.
And all this was done to place mankind on vantage ground, and to demonstrate that in the same way every one who is ‘born of the Spirit’ may gain like victories over sin in his own sinful flesh. Thus each one is to overcome as Christ overcame. Revelation 3:21. Without this birth there can be no victory over temptation, and no salvation from sin. John 3:3-7.” 1 (Emphasis in the original.)
But in the Ministry magazine of September, 1956, these words appeared in an editorial:
“Many years ago a statement appeared in Bible Readings for the Home Circle (1915 edition) which declared that Christ came ‘in sinful flesh.’ Just how this expression slipped into the book is difficult to know. It has been quoted many times by critics, and all around the world, as being typical of Adventist Christology. But when that book was revised in 1946 this expression was eliminated, since it was recognized as being out of harmony with our true position.” 2
Look again at the Bible Readings statement (previously quoted) then decide, Should we laugh or should we cry? Although the words “slipped into the book” may make us feel like laughing, when we consider the enormity of the deception which was inaugurated by this deletion from Bible Readings-the deception which came to its full fruit in Questions On Doctrine-we feel more like crying.
Note that it is not an “expression.” It is a reasoned statement that is nearly a page long. And it is most emphatically not “out of harmony with our true position.” Ellen White died in 1915. All of her four hundred statements that Christ had come in the fallen nature (sinful flesh) of man had been published long before 1946. And most of the eight hundred statements of the same truth that had been written by leaders of our church had been published before 1946. And all of this evidence was right there at our Washington headquarters, where the Ministry magazine was being published.
And there was more. The carefully selected fragments of lines from Ellen White’s writings which had been compiled for Appendix B of Questions on Doctrine, were first published in this issue of Ministry on pages 17 to 25 with some slightly different headings. The editorial recommended this section “as full a coverage of this subject as can be found in the writings of Ellen G. White. . . . As far as we have been able to discover, this compilation fully represents the thinking of the messenger of the Lord on this question. A few other statements have been found, but these are either repetitions or mere verbal variations, and add no new thought.” 3 (All emphasis supplied.)
One of the headings in this compilation stated:
“Took Sinless Nature of Adam Before Fall” 4
Some of these fragments were taken from the very articles in which she had written that Christ had come in the fallen nature of man, and that because of this we can and must partake of His divine nature and cease from sin.
In the editorial of this same issue of Ministry we read:
“A hasty reading of the two or three statements from The Desire of Ages without the repeated counterbalancing statements found in so many other places has led some to conclude our official position to be that Christ, during His incarnation, partook of our corrupt, carnal nature, and therefore was no different from any other human being.” 5 (Emphasis mine.)
We have two problems with this. First, the number of Ellen White’s statements in The Desire Of Ages is not “two or three.” It is six. See pages 25, 6 49, 7 112, 8 117, 9 174-175, 10 and 311-312. 11 There are no “counterbalancing” statements.
Later on the writer suggests, “In only three or four places in all these inspired counsels have we found such expressions as ‘fallen nature’ and ‘sinful nature.’ But these are strongly counterbalanced and clearly explained by many other statements that reveal the thought of the writer. Christ did indeed partake of our nature, our human nature with all its physical limitations, but not of our carnal nature with all its lustful corruptions.” 12 (Emphasis his.)
Second, we are looking here at a bold and brazen use of the “Straw Man” device of deception. No Seventh-day Adventist has ever applied the words “corrupt, carnal” or “lustful” to the nature of Jesus. This falsity is a straw man of the writers own creating, which he then argues against as if it were our view. This is the standard, traditional use of the “Straw man” technique of deception.
The editorial writer goes on to caution his readers: “We dare not take an isolated expression and build a doctrine upon it. Instead, we gather together all the statements made by the writer and others, and we are careful to read all the expressions within the context, before arriving at a conclusion. One thing is certain, and that is that the Spirit of God never contradicts Himself. Any apparent contradiction must necessarily be due to our lack of understanding of the texts and contexts concerned. 13 Who is building a doctrine on isolated expressions here?
The same writer in a later issue of Ministry, proposed that Christ took our fallen natures vicariously, in the same way that He took the punishment for our sins.
A few moment’s reflection should reveal to anyone that there are some things that one can do for another, vicariously, and there are some things that one cannot do for another, vicariously. I can pay a traffic fine for you, vicariously, but I cannot drink a glass of water for you, vicariously. After I have drunk the glass of water for you, vicariously, you will be just as thirsty as you were before. And the all important point to remember is that when something has been properly done for you, vicariously, you do not have to do it. If I pay a traffic fine for you, you do not have to pay it.
It is true that Christ has taken the punishment for our sins, vicariously. This means that we do not have to take that punishment. But what of the statement that He has taken our fallen human natures, vicariously? Then we do not have to take that fallen human nature. We can rejoice in our freedom from it.
But do you find this to be true? Or do you find, like the rest of us have found, that that your fallen human nature is still with you? To ask the question is to answer it, for the answer is self-evident.
To be continued
1 Bible Readings for the Home Circle, Revised Edition, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington, D.C., Copyrighted 1914, Published 1916.
2 Roy Allan Anderson, “Editorial: Human, Not Carnal,” Ministry, Review and Herald, September, 1956, 14.
3 Ibid., 12.
4 “Counsel from the Spirit of Prophecy: Christ’s Nature During the Incarnation,” Ibid., 19.
5 Anderson, Ibid., 12.
6 “It was Satan’s purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen. In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. . . . He [God] gave Him to the fallen race. To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature. . . . God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son, and has carried the same into the highest heaven.”
7 “Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin. Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity.”
8 “. . . notwithstanding the humiliation of taking upon Himself our fallen nature . . .”
9 “When Adam was assailed by the tempter, none of the effects of sin were upon him. . . . It was not thus with Jesus when He entered the wilderness to cope with Satan. For four thousand years the race had been decreasing in physical strength, in mental power, and in moral worth; and Christ took upon Him the infirmities of degenerate humanity. . . . Our Saviour took humanity, with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to temptation. We have nothing to bear which He has not endured.”
10 “As the image made in the likeness of the destroying serpents was lifted up for their healing, so One made ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’ was to be their Redeemer. Romans 8:3.”
11 “Christ is the ladder that Jacob saw. . . . If that ladder had failed by a single step of reaching the earth, we should have been lost. But Christ reaches us where we are. He took our nature and overcame, that we through taking His nature might overcome. Made ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’ (Romans 8:3), He lived a sinless life. Now by His divinity He lays hold upon the throne of heaven, while by His humanity He reaches us. He bids us by faith in Him attain to the glory of the character of God. Therefore are we to be perfect, even as our ‘Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ Matthew 5:48.”
12 Anderson, Ibid., 13
13 Ibid., 15.
14 Roy Allan Anderson, “God With Us,” Ministry, April, 1957, 35.