The Scandal Of A Book PART 5 of 8
Let’s add it up. What actually happened in the 1950’s?
In the 1950’s a tiny group of men, five in number, decided to make a major change in a major doctrine of the Seventh-?day Adventist Church.
Who appointed them to this task? Nobody. They appointed themselves.
What doctrine of our church did they decide to change?
Our doctrine of Christ—our Christology, a most foundational doctrine.
Were they denying the divinity of Christ, like some other churches were doing?
No. They were denying that Christ came to earth in the fallen nature of man.
How did they believe that Christ came to this earth?
They believed that Christ came to earth in the unfallen nature of Adam.
Where did they get this idea?
From some of the daughters of Babylon, Calvinist—Protestant churches.
Had this idea ever been taught in Seventh-day Adventist churches?
Only once, by an apostate group in Indiana, called the “Holy Flesh” movement. They believed that Christ came to earth in the unfallen nature of Adam, and therefore had holy flesh. They believed that we can also gain holy flesh by going through certain spiritual exercises.
How did our church relate to this idea?
It was firmly and forcefully rejected by our church leaders and by Ellen White, who came all the way back from Australia to deal with it.
Had our church ever published our belief about the human nature of Christ?
Yes, in more than four hundred statements by Ellen White, and more that eight hundred statements by other church leaders before the 1950’s.
How did the tiny group who decided to make the change manage to do it?
By two methods. First, they did their work in absolute secrecy. The church members at large knew nothing at all about what was going on until it was too late. Until recently the church leaders had not revealed their names.(1) We had to get them from other sources.
Second, and this is the part that hurts the most, They employed deliberate misrepresentation and falsification. The existing evidence makes this conclusion inescapable. We will here present only a recapitulation in outline form. Bear in mind that these men were doing their work at our world headquarters in Washington D.C., where all of the relevant historical records were readily available.
Very found in the grand old book, Bible Readings for the Home Circle, 1915 edition, a forceful statement, nearly a full page long, that Christ had come to the earth in the fallen human nature of man.(2) They announced that they could not understand how it had “slipped into the book,” and they deleted it in the year 1946.(3)
They invited Elder F. D. Nichol to join the group, but when he protested against what they were doing, they had him removed.
They were opposed in what they were doing by a highly respected Adventist theologian, Elder M. L. Andreasen, so they turned on him with ruthless fury and caused him to lose his ministerial credentials and his sustentation.
In September 1956, when they were fully prepared, they launched a barrage of misinformation in Ministry magazine. The barrage began with some carefully selected fragments of Ellen White quotations that were arranged to make it appear that Ellen White had taught that Christ came to this earth in the unfallen nature of Adam, although not one of them said that, and she had published the opposite four hundred times.
They put these mangled quotations under the following title: “Took Sinless Nature of Adam Before Fall”(4)
They published in the same issue of Ministry a lengthy editorial entitled Human, Not Carnal (See end of this article). The misinformation in the editorial includes this line: “. . . He took upon Him sinless human nature.”(5)
This is a direct and bold contradiction to the four hundred statements to the contrary by Ellen White and the eight hundred statements to the contrary by other church leaders. For example, in Medical Ministry’, 181, Inspiration states, “He took upon His sinless nature our sinful nature.”
Again Ellen White’s four hundred statements seem to be ignored when the editor refers to those who make “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. .
. . “(6)
The Ministry editors published in April 1957 another barrage of misinformation consisting of two articles and an editorial. One article urges upon us the senseless proposition that Christ took our fallen human natures vicariously, in the same way that He took the penalty for our sins.(7) The truth is, we do not have to pay the penalty for our sins because He paid that penalty for us, vicariously. But we still have to deal with the reality of our fallen natures, because He has not taken our fallen human natures from us by any means whatsoever.
Each of the April 1957 articles strongly support the tiny group’s false statement about the human nature of Christ, and the editorial hails the false statement and its acceptance by the Calvinist theologians as a new “milestone” in Adventism.(8)
This was indeed a new milestone in Adventism. Never before in the history of our church had such fakery and fraud occurred. But it is not a milestone toward the Kingdom of God. It is a milestone in the opposite direction. May the Lord have mercy on us.
What might Satan accomplish by inspiring this deception?
If Ellen White wrote four hundred times that Christ came to the earth in the fallen human nature of man, and if it can be proven that the opposite is true, then she is beyond question a false prophet. In that case we should hold her writings in contempt, and let them have no authority or influence in the church.
This is what is happening right now, in many of our churches and educational institutions around the world. And it is largely because of a book called “Questions on Doctrine.”
Somebody, somewhere, had strong reasons to want to put our church out of existence and silence its voice. Bear in mind that our church is virtually the only church on earth that is still preaching and proclaiming the truths set forth in the great prophecies of the Bible about the Antichrist.
As these concerned enemies studied carefully the history and development of our church, they could not fail to recognize that the influence of Ellen White had been paramount in the entire picture. If that influence were destroyed, then the Seventh-?day Adventist Church could be expected to go the way so many other Protestant churches have gone.
So, with great cunning, and with great skill, a long-?range plan was devised for the purpose of destroying the influence of Ellen White.
That is what it is all about, the inspiration of Ellen White.
The changing of our doctrine of Christ and the publishing of the book, Questions on Doctrine, were only a means to that end. And it worked, folks. Just look around you and see for yourself. It worked.
It cannot be said that this is the first time that evil had raised its ugly head in the Seventh-?day Adventist church. But what is very different in this case is the strangely indifferent attitude of our church administrators about it.
In the fall of the year 1936 I registered as a freshman in the school of theology at Walla Walla College in the state of Washington. As the first quarter of the school year progressed, it became apparent that three newly appointed professors in the theology department were undermining the students’ confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy—the writings of Ellen White.
The college board conducted a thorough investigation, then advised the three professors, one of whom was the dean, that at the end of the first quarter their services would be terminated. The college president, who had recommended these three professors for employment was told that his services would be terminated at the end of the school year.
Contrast that with the strange attitude of indifference being manifested by our church administrators right now. How should we understand this?
May our Lord deliver us.
See George Knight, ed., Questions on Doctrine, Annotated Edition, xiv.
Revised edition. Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington, DC., Copyrighted 1914, Published 1916.
Roy Allan Anderson, “Editorial: Human, Not Carnal,” Ministry, Review and Herald, September 1956, 14.
Counsel from the Spirit of Prophecy: Christ’s Nature During the Incarnation,” Ibid., 19.
Roy Allan Anderson, Ibid., 13 6. Ibid., 12.
Roy Allan Anderson, “God With Us,” Ministry; April 1957, 325.
Louise C. Kleuser, “Adventism’s New Milestone,” 31-?32.
(The “Ministry, September 1956” article by the late R.A. Anderson)
As mentioned in the foregoing article by Elder R. Larson.
SOTERIOLOGY is a theological term that covers the many aspects of the great doctrine of salvation. But it is often easier to express a word than explain its meaning. That is certainly true when we come to the study of redeeming grace. To reduce the great doctrine of God and the incarnation to human language is impossible, for when we have done our best it all sounds so meagre in comparison with the immensity of God’s revelation in Christ.
“In contemplating the incarnation of Christ in humanity, we stand baffled before an unfathomable mystery, that the human mind cannot comprehend. The more we reflect upon it, the more amazing does it appear.”—ELLEN G. WHITE in The Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896.
The all-absorbing theme of the apostle Paul was “the mystery of godliness.” He sought to explain it in many ways; but he once summed it up in a series of expressions: “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:16). Some claim this was a stanza from one of the apostolic hymns. It might well have been, but whatever the origin of this poem it certainly expresses the salient features of the gospel of salvation. When God became flesh; that was the greatest mystery of the ages. How Deity could clothe Himself with humanity, and at the same time retain His deity—that will challenge the thinking of men and angels throughout eternity. The deepest theologians during nineteen centuries have tried to explain this truth, but it is beyond human comprehension and expression.
This issue of THE MINISTRY carries in the Counsel section as full a coverage of this subject as can be found in the writings of Ellen G. White (turn to pages 17-24). The gathering together and classifying of these quotations represent the combined efforts of your editors, certain General Conference officers, and the Ellen G. White Publications staff. As far as we have been able to discover, this compilation fully rep- resents 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. This editorial is written to urge all our readers to take time to carefully and prayerfully study these illuminating paragraphs. Throughout our denominational history we have not always had as clear an under- standing of this subject as would have been helpful. In fact, this particular point in Adventist theology has drawn severe censure from many outstanding Biblical scholars both inside and outside our ranks. Through the years statements have been made in sermons, and occasionally some have appeared in print, that, taken at their face value, have disparaged the person and work of Christ Jesus our Lord. We have been charged with making Him altogether human.
Such opinions have been moulded in the main by two or three expressions in The Desire of Ages. And coming from such a source, these have naturally been regarded as final authority. However, these are but a fraction of the published statements by the same writer, all of which, taken together, throw much light on this theme. Unfortunately this larger group of statements has been overlooked. One reason is that most of these key statements have been published in articles in our leading periodicals, appearing frequently from 1888 onward, and files of these periodicals have not been readily accessible to our workers in general.
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, par- took of our corrupt, carnal nature, and therefore was no different from any other human being. In fact, a few have declared that such would have to be the case in order for Him to be “in all points tempted like as we are”; that He would have to share our corrupt, sinful nature in order to understand our needs and sympathize with lost mankind. On the surface such reasoning sounds somewhat plausible; but when we begin to think it through more carefully, when we sink the shaft of truth deeper into the mine of God’s revelation, a new and glorious vista opens to our view.
The Scriptures state clearly that through Adam’s transgression death passed upon all men, for “by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation,” and “there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” The only sinless One who ever lived on earth was our Lord Jesus Christ—”holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” He was born holy and He lived on a plane separate from sinners. He was sinless not only in His outward conduct but also in His very nature.
Had this not been the case, He could never have redeemed us. If He had been born with a carnal nature, with all its propensities to evil, as is the case with every natural son and daughter of Adam, then He Himself would have needed a Saviour, and under no circumstances could He have been our Redeemer. His nature must of necessity be holy in order to atone for ours, which is unholy. His mother, Mary, highly favoured of the Lord, recognized her need of salvation, for in the Magnificat she sang of “God my Saviour.” While she recognized her need of a Saviour, she also realized that Jesus, her Son in the flesh, was the Lamb of God, who had come to take away the sin of the world. Yet she could not comprehend this mystery any more than can we. In fact, it was doubtless more difficult for her to grasp this truth than for those who have lived since the events of the crucifixion and resurrection. As the Son of God, Jesus stood in contrast with all other members of the human family, for He was God manifest in the flesh.
Among the many important paragraphs already referred to, it is emphasized that our Lord partook of our limited human nature, but not our corrupt, carnal nature with all its propensities to sin and lust. In Him was no sin, either inherited or cultivated, as is common to all the natural descendants of Adam. We grant that this is a mystery. But the Lord through His messenger has warned us to exercise extreme care how we present this subject lest we give the impression that Christ was altogether human and simply one like ourselves. Note carefully these timely cautions: Be careful, exceedingly careful as to how you dwell upon the human nature of Christ. Do not set Him before the people as a man with the propensities of sin. He is the second Adam. The first Adam was created a pure, sinless being, with- out a taint of sin upon him; he was in the image of God.—Ellen G. White letter 8, 1895, quoted in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pp. 1128, 1129. In treating upon the humanity of Christ, you need to guard strenuously every assertion, lest your words be taken to mean more than they imply, and thus you lose or dim the clear perceptions of His humanity as combined with divinity. . . These words do not refer to any human being, except to the Son of the infinite God. Never, in any way, leave the slightest impression upon human minds that a taint of, or inclination to, corruption rested upon Christ, or that He in any way yielded to corruption. . . . But let every human being be warned from the ground of making Christ altogether human, such an one as ourselves; for it cannot be. pp. 1128, 1129.
Other quotations from this letter appear in the Counsel section, pages 17-24, as well as in volume 5 of the Commentary.
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 counter-balanced 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. When He entered the human family it was after the race had been greatly weakened by degeneracy. For thousands of years mankind had been physically deteriorating. Compared with Adam and his immediate posterity, humanity, when God appeared in human flesh, was stunted in stature, longevity, and vitality. These conditions were in marked contrast with those of Adam in his Edenic environment. He knew nothing of infirmities or degeneracy in his physical or mental being, for he came fresh from the hand of his Creator. But when the Creator Himself became man in order to take Adam’s place He faced hazards the like of which Adam in Eden could never have imagined. Our Saviour met the arch-foe time and again when physical limitations had weakened Him. He was hungry and emaciated when He met the tempter in the wilderness. But while He suffered physical hunger, His was not a corrupt, carnal nature. When He took upon Him sinless human nature, He did not cease to be God, for He was God manifest in the flesh. True, we cannot understand it, but we can accept it by faith.
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.
The very purity of His holy nature made His suffering the more intense. The prophet’s expression of grief and suffering was surely that of our Lord when he said: “Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow” (Lam. 1:12).
“The suffering of Christ was in correspondence with His spotless purity; His depth of agony, proportionate to the dignity and grandeur of His character. Never can we comprehend the intense anguish of the spotless Lamb of God, until we realize how deep is the pit from which we have been rescued, how grievous is the sin of which mankind is guilty, and by faith grasp the full and entire pardon.”— ELLEN G. WHITE in The Review and Herald, Sept. 21, 1886. “Proportionate to the perfection of His holiness was the strength of the temptation.”—Ellen
G. White, Notebook leaflets, vol. 1, No. 39, p. 1.
When God became man He partook of the same moral nature that Adam possessed before the Fall. Adam was created holy, and so was Christ, for He became the second Adam.
“Christ is called the second Adam. In purity and holiness, connected with God and beloved by God, He began where the first Adam began.—The Youth’s Instructor, June 2, 1898. (Italics supplied.)
He vanquished Satan in the same nature over which in Eden Satan obtained the victory.—The Youth’s Instructor, April 25, 1901.
“He [Christ] was a mighty petitioner, not possessing the passions of our human, fallen natures, but compassed with like infirmities, tempted in all points even as we are.”— Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 509.
While the Scripture says that our Lord was “tempted in all points like as we are,” it obviously cannot mean that He was tempted in the identical manner or in the actual duplication of our environment today. For example, Jesus was never tempted to steal an automobile or to plant a bomb in an airplane. In fact, it has been suggested that He could not really understand or fully sympathise with certain ones because, four instance, He had never been a woman, nor had he known the feelings of old age. But in point of principle Jesus met every temptation common to mankind. The Scripture classifies the temptations of the world under three headings: “the lust of the flesh, and the last of the eyes, and the pride of life.”
“In the wilderness of temptation Christ met the great leading temptations that would assail men. There he encountered, single-handed, the wily, subtle foe, and overcame him. The first great temptation was upon appetite; the second, presumption; the third, love of the world.”— Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 151
In setting forth the wonders of the incarnation we dare not overlook this fact, that Christ Jesus became man that He might in human flesh conquer the devil and reveal to the whole universe the power of a God-filled life. This was the secret of His victory over sin, and it can be ours by His grace. He dispenses to us the fullness of His Spirit that we like Him might be victorious. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” exclaims the apostle (Phil. 4: 13)
The experience that was our Lord’s can, through the power of his indwelling presence, be ours by faith, for his promise is, “I will come to you.” and “shall be in you.”
“Verily, verily, I say unto you.” said Jesus, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my father” (John 14: 12)
“The Saviour was deeply anxious for his disciples to understand for what purpose his divinity was united to humanity. He came to the world to display the glory of God, that man might be uplifted by its restoring power. God was manifested in him that He might be manifested in them. Jesus revealed no qualities, and exercised no powers that men may not have through faith in him. His perfect humanity is that which all his followers may possess if they will be in subjection to God as he was.—The Desire of Ages (1940), p. 664.
How wonderful that infinite love can so lay hold of weak human beings that through them can flow the power of the Almighty. But we must never for a moment think that because these “greater works” can be accomplished through us it follows that Christ Himself must perforce have been only man just as we are. No! A thousand times No! For even while in the flesh, He was still the Eternal One, omnipotent and omniscient—“very God, being of the same nature and essence as the Eternal Father,” as is so well stated in our Fundamental Beliefs.
Our workers around the world will, we are confident, carefully and prayerfully study the Counsel section in this issue. But let us do it with the same open mind that we recognize is so important in the study of the fundamental themes of the Bible. Such great writers as Paul and Isaiah can be and are continually being misunderstood on certain subjects, such as the nature of man. We dare not take an isolated expression and build a doctrine upon it. Instead we gather together all the statements made by that writer and others, and we are careful to read all 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. When the apostle speaks about
departing and being with Christ, we have to understand what he says in the light of all the other statements made by him and the other Bible writers concerning the nature of man. Such is the only safe procedure.
So when we come to a theme as tremendous and far reaching as our Lord’s and deity, and the mystery of the incarnation, let us not be too hasty in coming to conclusions.
We are all well aware of these statements from The Desire of Ages:
“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 van 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.”–
“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.-?-?” Ibid.
It was human nature, not fallen, corrupt, carnal nature that He carried into heaven, and the only reminders of His tragic humiliation and suffering are the scars that sin produced at the time of His great atonement, the receipts of the price he paid for us. Whatever nature our Lord had, he carried with him to “the highest heaven.”
The dividing line between his innate sinlessness and his ability to be tempted is so fine that it is impossible for anyone to be too dogmatic on this point. One thing we do know—our Lord was sinless.
“This is a great mystery, a mystery that will not be fully, completely understood in all its greatness until the translation of the redeemed shall take place. Then the power and greatness and efficacy of the gift of God to man Will be understood. But the enemy is determined that this gift shall be so mystified that it will become as nothingness.”— Ellen G White letter 280, 1904, quoted in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1113
The mystery of the incarnation was beyond human comprehension at the time when God, as a man, walked among men. But greater still becomes that mystery when by faith we see him seated as God-?man upon His Fathers throne and yet ministering on behalf of fallen man the virtues of his sacrifice.
“He who is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” (Hebrews 7:26; 2:11) is not ashamed to call us brethren. In Christ the family of earth and the family of heaven are bound together. Christ glorified is our brother. Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enfolded in the bosom of infinite love.”—The Desire of Ages (1940). pp. 25, 26.
Entering upon this vast field of study so overwhelming in its proportions and matchless in its majesty, let us walk softly and humbly before our God as we repeat the words of one of old: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
R.A.A. (Roy Allan Anderson)