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Crosscurrents in Adventist Christology
by Claude Webster
© Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York 1984Reprinted with permission by the ANDREWS UNIVERSITY PRESSBerrien Springs, MI 49104, USAFebruary 1992Library of Congress Catalog Card No.BT 198. W38 1984 232'.09 84-9734ISBN 0-8204-0157-9ISSN 0740-0446
Printed in USAUsed by Permission
Crosscurrents in Adventist Christology treats an import and and controversial issue in Adventist theological dialogue. The first chapter gives an illuminating historical perspective, while in the next four chapters, Webster dissects the Christologies of Ellen G. White and E. J. Waggoner of the 19th, and Edward Heppenstall and Herbert Douglass of he 20th centuries. The final chapter reflects on the flow and counteflow of Adventist Christology as reviewed by the works of he four chosen theologians. If you wish to understand Adventist Chtistology with its relative issues, then Crosscurrents in Adventist Christology is essential reading
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE AND ADVENTIST ORIENTATIONHistorical Perspective to General ChristologySeventh-day Adventist Orientation
Chapter II THE CHRISTOLOGY OF ELLEN GOULD WHITEA Historical Sketch of Ellen G WhiteContextual Factors in Approaching her WritingsEllen White's Christology The Pre-existence of Christ The Incarnation and Nature The Incarnation and Sin Incarnation and Grace Christ and EschatologyAn Interpretive Analysis of Three Problem Areas in Ellen White's ChristologyEvaluation and Critique
Chapter III THE CHRISTOLOGY OF ELLET JOSEPH WAGGONERThe Historical ContextThe Christology of E. J. Waggoner The First Period The Second Period The Third PeriodEvaluation and Critique
Chapter 1V THE CHRISTOLOGY OF EDWARD HEPPENSTALLHistorical BackgroundThree Salient Aspects of Heppenstall's General Theology The Christology of Heppenstall The Person of Christ The Work of Jesus Christ A Brief Analysis of Heppenstall's Christology Evaluation and Critique of Heppenstall's Christology
Chapter V THE CHRISTOLOGY OF HERBERT DOUGLASSA Brief Look at the ManThe Christology of Herbert Douglass An Overview of the Theology of Douglass A Brief Descriptive Summary of Douglass' Christology
Upon the completion of a doctoral dissertation, it is appropriate and necessary to reflect on the factors which have played their part in bringing the task to fruition. As far as the background factors are concerned, I firstly would like to pay tribute to Christian parents, now deceased, for their constant love, concern and inspiration. The course of my life work owes much to their example and moulding influence throughout the years of my youth and ministry. Secondly, I wish to mention the impact of dedicated Christian teachers during my days at Seventh-day Adventist schools, Helderberg College and the church's Theological Seminary. In addition, I owe a debt of gratitude to a number of lecturers at the University of South Africa who guided me through both undergraduate and post-graduate degrees.
Now, in the immediate context of this dissertation, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Theology Faculty of the University of Stellenbosch for their willingness to open their doors and their hearts in Christian fellowship to one not of their immediate theological tradition. I would like to thank Professor David de Villiers for his helpful suggestions in launching me into the doctoral programme back in 1974, while I was head of the Theology Department at Helderberg College, Somerset West. I have greatly appreciated the interest and kindness shown to me by many different members of the Stellenbosch Theology Faculty.
My chief word of gratitude is extended to Professor W D Jonker, head of the Department of Dogmatology, in the Faculty of Theology, who graciously agreed to be my promoter. His interest and concern, his time and his effort, his knowledge and his guidance and above all his friendship, are all deeply appreciated. Professor Jonker was always ready and willing to give his counsel and advice at every stage of the programme. I am deeply indebted to his theological insights and his Christian dedication.
Many others have played an important part in the progress of this dissertation. I would especially like to mention Dr Raoul F. Dederen, chairman of the Department of Systematic Theology and Christian Philosophy the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, for his encouragement and help. With his special expertise in Adventist Christology, he was able to give me valuable counsel on possible routes and procedures to be followed both method and content. Then again, I would like to say a special word of thanks to my son, John, who, while busy with his M.Th. dissertation, shared his time, friendship and theological insights as we had opportunity, rough the past two years, to discuss issues, grapple with problems and clarify concepts. He was, perhaps, one of my severest critics.
Others have also assisted with various technical aspects of the dissertation. I would especially like to thank Mrs. Louise Dederen of the Heritage Room, James White Library, Andrews University; Dr Arthur 0. Coetzee the same institution; Bert Haloviak of the General Conference Archives in Washington, D.C.; Tim Poirier of the Ellen G White
Estate; and Ken Cronje of the Pieter Wessels Library, Helderberg College, South Africa. For their assistance in providing me with source material and biographical details I express sincere appreciation. and then a special debt of gratitude goes to Magda Prinsloo for her painstaking effort and expertise in typing this dissertation from the initial drafts through the various stages right up to the final product.
And, now, I wish to express my heart-felt gratitude and appreciation to my wife, Ruth, who through all the years of study and writing has shown such patience, love, understanding and interest in me and my work. The final product is a tribute to her loyalty and devotion.
Finally, I wish to give thanks to God in whom we live and move and have our being for His enabling grace and sustenance throughout the project. And as this dissertation deals with Christology, it is perhaps fitting that my deepest acknowledgement must be given to Jesus Christ who is not only, in the final analysis, the Subject of this study, but is also the unspeakable gift of God to man.
Christology has always been important to the life and well-being of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. From its early beginnings in the New England states and its organization in Michigan in 1863 and down past its European outreach in 1874, past the historic 1888 Minneapolis Conference, and on to the present, the Person of Jesus Christ has played a vital role in Adventism.
It is fitting that Andrews University should continue to have a molding influence in this aspect of Biblical truth. Two of the Adventist theologians considered in this work are part of the history of Andrews University. Ellen G. White lived and worked in Battle Creek, Michigan, and was the moving force in the establishment of Emmanuel Missionary College, forerunner of Andrews. Edward Heppenstall of England was professor of systematic theology at Potomac and Andrews Universities during the 1950s and 1960s and as such had great influence in shaping the thinking of the Church on Christology.
The Church has often had to grapple with its understanding of Christ. Not that this truth is beyond the grasp of the simplest Christian for salvation, and yet, because of the very nature of Christ, whom we believe to be God, there lies a depth that is beyond the wisdom of man. This tension between simplicity and complexity must always be held in balance by the Christian scholar and believer.
The quest for greater clarity and understanding of this central doctrine of the Church must never cease. We must beware of those who feel that the quest is over and that they have the last word to say concerning Jesus Christ and His nature and His Person. Men and women must always approach this subject with the humility and spirit of a child realizing hat human wisdom and skill are inadequate in solving these deeper mysteries.
The Church has been promised the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit in understanding and appreciating Jesus Christ. The Christian scholar must continually submit his heart and life to the Comforter is he or she seeks to embrace the Saviour and make His life and work more understandable to the world.
We have come to the last decade of the twentieth century and the challenge of the times demands the best from the Adventist scholar. It is still true that "of all people Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in lifting up Christ before the world." The Christ that we lift up should be such that sinners are drawn to the foot of the cross to find salvation by grace, full and free.
May this work play its part in guiding the traveler in his or her theological journey. If it can help in preventing the reader from falling into pitfalls or taking false trails and can lead to safe and sure roads, it will not have been written in vain.
Eric G.WebsterCape Town. South Africa January 1992
Significance. Christology has always been the heart and centre of Christianity. From the dusty roads of Palestine when the question was first posed, "Who do people say the Son of man is?" (Matt. 16:13, N.I.V.), past the landmarks of the great ecumenical councils of the church, along the corridors of the Reformation, through the portals of the Aufklärung and on into the scientific age of modern times, Christology has maintained its vital role. Sometimes the questions have been clearly articulated and the problems have been at the centre of the debate, and at other times Christological issues have been submerged and hidden in discussions on soteriology or eschatology or ecclesiology or in involvements with social reform, liberation movements or black theology. And yet whether explicit or implicit, Christology has remained significant for the church.
The first disciples confronted the historical Jesus and in their association accepted Him as 'vere homo'. This did not prevent them from also acknowledging Him as Messiah (John 1:41). Their approach to Jesus was very much 'from below' and they were slow to perceive the full significance of Jesus Christ in relation to the Father. After the resurrection of Christ and especially beyond. Pentecost, the small band of disciples became transformed into the dynamic early church with a burning passion to proclaim the crucified and risen Christ as the Saviour of the world. Now the question of Christ would also be approached 'from above' in the light of the Old Testament Scriptures and the later Pauline and Johannine corpus of the New Testament revelation.
The early Christological controversies of the First few centuries culminating in the pronouncements of Nicea (325 A.D.) and Chalcedon (451 A.D.) are illustrative of the significance of this aspect of dogma. The subsequent development of Christology down
through the centuries has often been a re-enactment or enlargement of the basic issues of the earlier period. The fluctuations between the classical formulations of ontological Thomists and scholasticists and the more scientific approaches of the functional Christologists of modern times have been intriguing and have been representative of the whole range of dogmatic development. The church's position on Christology has very often been indicative of its orthodoxy or its heretical tendency. Karl Barth has aptly stated that Christology is the touchstone of theology.1
The purpose of this dissertation will be to seek to discover the significance of Christology in the Seventh-day Adventist movement. What role has it played in the internal life and development of the church? Is Christology at the heart of Adventism or is it an appendage to an eschatological sect? Does the Christology of Adventism stand in the mainstream of historic Christianity or does it lurk in the tributaries of heretical movements? Is Adventism's Christology unified or does it find itself diversified within its own ranks? How vital is Christology in the present internal dialogue and discussion within the church? What relationship is there between the Christology of Adventism and its sense of mission and its soteriological message?
The Problem. Soon after New Testament times the early church began to realize the theological problem of Christ. Against the background of the monotheism of Judaism how should the relationship between Jesus Christ and God the Father be seen? Did Ebionism and the teaching of Adoptionism have the best answers? To acknowledge only the humanity of Christ and to recognize the impartation of special powers at His baptism when He was adopted by the Father would maintain the uniqueness of God Or did the answer lie in Docetism? Was the humanity of Christ simply a manifestation and an illusion? Perhaps Christ was the one God of the universe masquerading as a human being but in fact only being God. Then again for a period it appeared as if Arianism with its subordinate Christ might have the answer to the problem of Christology. However, the church at Nicea (325 A.D.) took its stand against Arianism and pronounced Christ as 'vere Deus' and 'vere homo'.
Subsequent to Nicea the church was to wrestle with the problem of the relation between God and man in the figure of Jesus Christ. Theologians grappled with the problem and set forth differing solutions. Finally, Chalcedon gave its verdict on the relationship between the two natures in the one person of Jesus Christ. Can Chalcedon be considered the end of the controversy or is it in some respects only the beginning of a further dialogue?
Limitation. A thorough study of all Christological development within Adventism from 1844 to the present would prove a far greater task than is possible within the scope of this dissertation. The areas of concentration will, therefore, have to be delimited.
Within Adventism there is general acceptance of the pre-existence of Christ as well as His participation in creation. There were variant views on Christ and the Trinity in early Adventism but today there is agreement that Christ is of the same nature and substance as the Father. The question of the eternity of Christ is also a settled issue and Arianism is rejected. We will, therefore, not concentrate on these areas.2
Our special field of concentration will be the incarnation. And even here the virgin birth will not detain us long. In the Incarnation was Jesus Christ truly God? How was His divinity affected by the Incarnation? What of the kenosis? What was the nature of His humanity? What of the doctrine of the two natures in one Person? How did sin affect the humanity of Christ? Is the sinlessness of Christ viewed in sinless or sinful human nature? What of Ebionism and Docetism and is Christ to be viewed 'from above' or 'from below'? The whole question of the nature of Jesus Christ in the Incarnation will demand our attention.
As the person and work of Christ should not be divorced,3 we will seek to discover how Adventism has viewed soteriology in the light of its Christology. And this latter area will be largely confined to Christ's work in His life, death and resurrection.
Methodology. This dissertation is written in the area of dogmatics with special emphasis on apologetics. The Christology of Adventism will be critically analyzed and examined while at the same time viewing it against the background of the Christian church as a whole.
A dissertation of this nature could approach the problem chronologically from 1844 to the present, or thematically, taking important themes in the Christologial field and holding them up to the light of investigation, or the problem could be studied in the light of certain selected Adventist representatives.
In this case we wish to combine these approaches. Firstly, we have selected four writers and theologians or closer scrutiny. They are Ellen G White, Ellet J. Waggoner, Edward Heppenstall and Herbert Douglass. A chapter will be devoted to each one and their Christology will be critically examined. Secondly, the chronological approach will come into play as the first two writers will occupy the latter half of the 19th century and the last two the period from 1950 to 1980. The thematic approach will also be used as we confine the research to limited themes in Christology for each writer.
In this dissertation major emphasis will be given to the presentation of evidence from primary sources. Not only will the major works of the four authors be studied, but hundreds of periodical articles written by these theologians will be used. Pamphlets and other documents, both published and unpublished, will also form a part of the evidence.
The Christology of the four writers will be compared and contrasted and will also be brought into relation with Christological views in the Christian church outside of Adventism. The great church councils of Nicea and Chalcedon will be points of reference but it should be remembered that the ultimate norm to test any Christology must be the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. While some Scriptural references will be used in presenting the Christology of our four representatives, it will not be possible in the scope of this dissertation to critically test these Christologies against this norm. Such a study awaits the attention and research of yet another seeker after truth.
1 Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, London: SCM Press, 1966, p.66:"That is why...Christology is the touchstone of all knowledge of God in the Christian sense, the touchstone of all theology." [back]
2 Evidence will be cited in the first chapter for the above assertions. [back]
3 See G C Berkouwer, The Person of Christ, Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans, 1969, pp.101-110; P T Forsyth, The Person and Place of Jesus Christ, 3rd edition, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, p.6; W D Jonker, Christus, die Middelaar, Pretoria: N G Kerkboekhandel, 1977, b1.173 .[back]
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE AND ADVENTIST ORIENTATION
In this first chapter attention will be given to two objectives. The first will attempt to offer some perspective to the intricate history of Christology, whereby the reader may be reminded of the overall sweep of the subject. The second objective will be to familiarize the reader with a brief orientation into the Adventist theological milieu.
I. Historical Perspective to General Christology
The purpose of this first section will be to offer a suggestion whereby the vast complexity of the history of Christology may be reduced into five broad categories which can serve as a background to our detailed analysis of Adventist Christology. It is not my intention to present a chronological outline of the history of Christology. Others have applied themselves to such a task and, furthermore, this would fall beyond the scope of the present dissertation.
Many attempts have been made to categorize Christological thought into different groupings. 1 For our purposes we would suggest the following categories, namely, Ontological Christology, Speculative Christology, the 'History of Jesus' Christology, Existential Christology and Functional Christology. 2 We would submit that all the main emphases and trends in Christology may be divided into one of these five categories. Such a scheme will help us to get the 'feel' of Christology in general and will be useful in giving perspective to our analysis of the four Adventist representatives.
Let us firstly give a brief description of each of the five categories we have chosen. By ontological Christology we understand that approach which places emphasis on the 'being' and the 'essence' of the person of Christ. There is an attempt to focus on the nature and the substance of Christ. By functional Christology we mean that type of Christology where the emphasis is placed on the meaning and significance of the mission and work of Jesus in functional terms rather than in the intricacies of ontological language regarding the substance of Jesus Christ. In functional Christology Jesus does have the task to bring salvation and to reveal the Father in a special manner, but without having to subscribe to
the Chalcedonian formula. By the 'History of Jesus' Christology we understand that approach to the subject whereby researchers anxiously seek to go behind the gospel narratives, stripping them of all early church accretions to try and find the genuine historical Jesus. Interest is focused on the real Jesus in His actuality, lying behind the faith statements of the gospel writers. By speculative Christology we mean that approach to the subject in which the infinite and the finite are merged in various forms of idealism. In this system the historic Christ at times tends to lose His real significance and becomes merely a symbol of a vast and complex metaphysical idea. When it comes to existential Christology the interest is not so much on the person of Christ or on His historical activity, but rather on His present impact on the life of the believer. The Christ that meets man in his existence, choices and need is the Christ of the kerygma and of proclamation, regardless of dogmatic exactitude or ontological formulations. Existential Christology offers a present Christ who acts as a medium to assist man to understand and accept the authenticity and reality of his own existence.
It is interesting to note that while there is a certain amount of overlap in time between these various Christological categories, there are certain historical periods which are dominated by one or other of these tendencies. We would suggest that ontological Christology had its genesis in the first few centuries of the Christian era when the philosophical climate was dominated by the thought patterns of the Grecian world. This type of Christology persisted throughout the Middle Ages and flowered again during the Reformation period. The background of the speculative movement was furnished by the rationalism of the Aufklärung around the beginning of the eighteenth century. This was the age of enlightenment and reason and speculative Christology was spawned in the seedbeds of anthropocentric and scientific concern. This type of Christology has persisted and has had its representatives right up to modern times. The 'History of Jesus' Christology was, likewise, conceived in the spirit of the Aufklrung but was actually brought forth during the nineteenth century. This was the age of liberalism and was conducive to a deep concern for the hard bones of historical fact. While the particular wave of historical concern of the nineteenth century ebbed, there have been fresh waves of interest in this aspect of Christology. Existential Christology saw its heyday in the early and middle twentieth century, especially in the Bultmanian era. This approach to Christology and to life in general was particularly appropriate in the aftermath of a world conflict which left much of Europe dazed by the seeming futility of life. There have been enough disciples of Bultmann to periodically inject new life into the limbs and body of this type of Christology. Our last category, namely, functional Christology, while very much in vogue in our modern times, can trace its roots back to Schleiermacher. The Weltanschauung of the latter half of the twentieth century is most conducive to this pattern of thought. Life is seen in scientific and pragmatic terms and thus the 'miracle' of the Incarnation is viewed as a stumbling block to modern Christianity. In today's thought it is easier to accept Jesus Christ as a representative of truth than to confuse Him with the substance of an unknown 'God'. Thus we can see that while these categories are not to be confined to watertight compartments, they do reflect consecutively the five dominant approaches in the history of Christianity from the first century to modern times.
A. Ontological Christology
It now becomes quite easy to place certain Christological movements and trends into their appropriate category. For example, most of the Christological controversies and subtleties of the early centuries and the middle ages may be classified as ontological by nature. This is true whether we think of the threat of docetism or ebionism; or of the accommodation of Modalism; or of the adoptionistic tendency of dynamic monarchianism; or of the conflict concerning the concept 'homo-ousios' and 'homoi-ousios' precipitated by Arius of Laodicea. Despite the wide differences between each of these schools of thought they all represent examples of ontological Christology because in each case the attention is focused on the 'being' and 'essence' of Christ. The historic declaration at Nicea (325 A.D.) remains a monument to the ontological struggles in the Christology of the early centuries. 3
Likewise, the mental and logical agility of men like Apollinaris, Euthychus and Nestorius 4 were devoted to the arena of ontological debate within Christology. One moment it would appear as if Christ was trinitarian in nature; then the next moment He was set forth in one unitary nature; only a little later to be split again into two co-existing persons, namely, the Eternal Logos and the Man, Jesus of Nazareth. And then along comes Chalcedon (451 A. D.) 5 with its historic pronouncement on Christ being one person in two natures which exist without confusion, without change, without division and without separation. Here in Greek terminology the church indicated where it stood at that moment relative to the threats of heretical tendencies. The Chalcedonian statement remains a watershed for ontological Christology.
Other illustrations of the ontological approach to Christology are revealed in the dialogue concerning the 'anhypostasia' and the 'enhypostasia'; 6 in the monophysite and monothelite controversies; 7in the Roman Catholic influence of transubstantiation upon Christology and the transcendental emphasis of thinkers like Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus;8 in the Reformation thinking of such men as Luther and Calvin, 9 and even in the kenotic theories and proposals.10 Modern Christology is not devoid of examples of completely ontological Christology. The Christology of the dialectical theologian, Karl Barth, must be considered in the mould of the classical ontological style, albeit with different nuances. D. M. Baillie,11representing a school of Christology which emphasizes the element of paradox, must also find himself at home in the ontological Christology category. W. Pannenberg, although taking his starting point 'von unten'12 instead of 'von oben', ends up accepting the 'vere Deus' and finds his Christological thought compatible with elements that could be classified under ontological Christology. The modern Roman Catholic theologian, W Kasper,13 presents a Christology which also begins 'from below' but ends clearly with 'vere Deus.' His exposition of the reality of the humanity and the divinity of Christ must be placed in the category of ontological Christology. In the South African context we would classify W D Jonker's Christological approach14 under this same category. It should, however, be remembered that very often a particular theologian may show tendencies of belonging to more than one Christological category. It would be an oversimplification if we were to insist that every Christologist demonstrates only one strand of thought.
B. Speculative Christology
While speculative Christology owes much to the thinking of philosophers like Kant and Hegel, its roots run deep into the beginning of the Christian era. It has been suggested that Origen (185-254 A.D.) could be considered the father of speculative Christology.15
Then cognizance must be taken of Gnosticism with its speculative influence upon Christology.16 The concept of emanations from God in which creature and Creator are Lost and submerged are characteristic of Gnosticism and were influential. 17
Preparatory to the thought of Kant and Hegel in more modern times we note the philosophical influence of Spinoza, 18 the Jewish intellectual who was excommunicated from the Hebrew fraternity. For him all men were manifestations of the Divine essence and while he could agree that Jesus of Nazareth had a larger infusion of this Essence than many others, he could never conceive that Jesus was God. 19 Immanuel Kant's thinking illustrates the approach of speculative Christology. With him we find a sharp distinction between the historical Jesus and Christ as 'idea' where the historical Jesus loses His real significance. Barth indicates that Kant's Christological doctrine "takes a form in which the incarnate Son of God is interpreted as 'the idea set before us for our emulation' of moral perfection."20 In this concept of idealism the idea of Christ is swallowed up in the total web of humanity.21 Speculative thinking22 has certainly presented a threat to the traditional idea of the person of Jesus Christ. Hegel, 23 likewise, has had a very important philosophical influence in setting forth the idea of the ontological unity between the Infinite and the finite, between God and man. The whole history of the world is looked upon as an expression of God, a happening in God Himself.
While Paul Tillich follows in some ways in the footsteps of functional Christology, thus in the tradition of Schleiermacher, and also stands close to ontological terminology, he can best be understood in terms of speculative Christology.24 It is also possible to see the works of Karl Rahner and Jürgen Moltmann as illustrative of aspects of speculative Christology. We notice this in Rahner's 'transcendental Christology'25 where he believes that in Jesus Christ man has attained to God in an ultimate act of self-transcendence and God's self-bestowal has been seen in its most radical form. For Moltmann God 'is' where He 'happens' and this was on Calvary in the manifestation of the love of the Father and the Son. The Father is not a personal God "in the heavens," but love. This love is unconditional and without boundary in its acceptance of every unlovely and deserted person. For Moltmann God is the future-oriented power of love which encompasses the whole of human history and moves towards the triumph of love over hate, life over death and liberty over bondage.26
C. 'History of Jesus' Christology
A 'History of Jesus' Christology is characterized by an interest in the actual historical person of Jesus of Nazareth. Not satisfied simply with a theoretical discussion of dogmatic Christology based either on the creeds and kerygma, or with the philosophical approach of speculative Christology, the 'History of Jesus' Christology makes Jesus of Nazareth once more the focus of theological research. This task is pursued through the use of historical-critical tools. In this way the overriding concern is to unearth either the
essential facts of the life of Jesus or the essential features of His teaching through historical research.
This type of Christology was exemplified in the search for the historical Jesus during the 18th and 19th centuries, then again, particularly in a revival of this interest in the latter half of the twentieth century. While the search in the earlier period, no doubt, had honest intentions for faith, it was strongly motivated by rationalism. 27 This may be seen whether we are looking at Reimarus28 or David Strauss29 or at the fictitious "Lives of Jesus" by such men as Bahrdt and Venturini. 30In many instances the research was also carried out by an antagonism against the supernatural aura which it was felt had been built up around Jesus Christ. 31 Albert Schweitzer was convinced that one of the greatest contributions of German theology was in the critical investigation of the life of Jesus during the 19th century. 32 Despite its limitations, Schweitzer was sure that those German theologians who had wrestled with the historic Jesus of Nazareth, "though they cannot take Him with them, yet, like men who have seen God face to face and received strength in their souls, they go on their way with renewed courage, ready to do battle with the world and its powers." 33
The more modern approaches in the latter half of the twentieth century to the quest of the historical Jesus are more influential today than the19th century concern. This renewal initiated by Karl Rahner's article on Chalcedon as end or beginning,34 and Ernst Käsemann's 1953 lecture in Marburg on 'The Problem of the historical Jesus,'35 have set the stage for a 'new quest' of the historical Jesus that, while differing from the old quest in focus and method, nevertheless, retained its concern for the historical Jesus. Its importance can be noted when Käsemann's challenge was taken up by representatives of both Catholicism and Protestantism. 36 In the present emphasis on the historical quest for Jesus the liberal research into the life of Jesus of the 19th century is a lost cause.
The new quest for the historical Jesus proceeds from the premise of present belief, and measures that faith by its content, Jesus Christ. The characteristics of this new quest are firstly a rejection of myth and docetism. The revelation of God is 'in the flesh' and the salvific meaning of the true humanity of Jesus is emphasized. Secondly, the new quest does not bypass the kerygma but takes note of this aspect. To indicate its present importance we mention Kasper's conviction that the right way of re-establishing Christology today, is to the element of a unilateral kerygma-and-dogma Christology and one exclusively orientated to the historical Jesus with equal seriousness.37
It is important to note, therefore, that whether a certain Christology today shows signs of the rationalism of the 19th century or more signs of the Christology of complementarity, in which the earthly Jesus and the exalted Christ are linked together,38 the import of the quest for the historical Jesus is influential and we can rightfully speak of a 'History of Jesus' Christology.
D. Existential Christology
While the roots of existential Christology run deep into the philosophical thought of men like Kierkegaard Heidegger,39 the modern movement owes much to the impetus of Martin Kähler who emphasized the distinction between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith.40 For Kähler the search for the historical Jesus is irrelevant for it can only lead to an ebionic picture of Jesus. He makes a difference between Historie and Gesrhichte and it is the 'geschichtliche Christus' who in His supra-historical significance meets man wherever the gospel is preached.
Kähler's influence spilled over into the 20th century and can be seen especially in dialectical theology. Both Barth and Bultmann followed Kähler in their rejection of a search for the historical Jesus in favour of the Christ of the Word and of proclamation, respectively. Bultmann based his position on his 'Form-Criticism'41 of the New
Testament together with his existential interpretation. Instead of historical significance for Christ he places meaning on the kerygmatic proclamation of Christ, and rather than interest in the salvation acts of God in Christ through history, Bultmann emphasizes the actual meaning of the proclamation for the self-understanding of man in the now and present. Bultmann is persuaded that all we need for faith and proclamation is the 'that' of the life and death of Christ and that the 'what' of His life, self-consciousness, activity and preaching is irrelevant. Barth, of course, parted company with Bultmann in his existential interpretation and showed much greater appreciation for the historical act of God in the life and history of Jesus Christ.
Under the skillful scalpel of Bultmann, demytholo-gisation42 became a further characteristic of existential Christology. For him the synoptic tradition is a product and projection of the needs of the early church known as Gemeindetheologie. Bultmann proceeded to this early theology and to lay bare the essential element of decision concerning man's self-understanding. The message of the Christ of faith is subjected to an existential interpretation which means that it is understood in anthropological terms. Thus the connection between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith can only be described in its existential application.
Bultmann sees salvation as man coming to his right Selbstverständia and this happens when he responds to the call which comes to him through the kerygmatic proclamation. In the message of Jesus Christ, God has acted eschatologically and the message of the faith community becomes the vehicle for him to come to a decision. Bultmann reduces the work of Christ to His "call to repentance" and Christology finds its kernel in what He is for us (pronobis). In existential Christology there are strong leanings towards a functional Christology. In fact, existential Christology is closely tied to anthropology and lies very much closer to a functional than to an ontological Christology.
In all types of existential Christology the actual being of Christ and His identity of substance with the Father loses its importance. Just sufficient of an "implicit Christology" in Jesus must be accepted to believe in the "explicit Christology" of the early community to act as a vehicle for this bearer of God's presence to make impact in the mind and heart of man. And thus as the gospel is proclaimed, man will be brought to a point of decision
for God and will be able to discover his true identity and his meaning in existence and communion with his fellow man.
E. Functional Christology
We have already defined functional Christology as that type of Christology which finds meaning and significance in Jesus in functional terms rather than in the intricacies of the language of substance and essence. In contrast to the Chalcedon Christology, the unique significance of Jesus is not to be sought in something that is before, above, or behind Jesus' human reality. Jesus has unique significance and is named Son of God because He is a human being in a unique, exemplary way. In His human reality He is as it were sacrament, ephiphany, manifestation, image, corporeal expression, event, presence of God in the highest and unsurpassable way.
Functional Christologists would generally feel uncomfortable with classical Christology. There could be many reasons for this and Klaus Reinhardt has advanced three.43 The first objection is that traditional Christology is essentialist, that is, "it speculates about the essential constitution of the person of Jesus, and in doing so forgets His significance for the history of salvation."44 A second objection is that classical Christology by starting "from above" presupposes belief in the trinitarian God and explains the figure of Jesus in terms of an Incarnation of the divine Logos. It is felt that such a Christology cannot really arrive "below" at the history of Jesus of Nazareth. The third objection offered is the dualistic starting point of traditional Christology with its two-natures doctrine.
Whether one is looking at Friedrich Schleiermacher,45 the father of the modern movement, or at one of his present sons or daughters, the usual characteristic of functional Christology is that it is approached 'from below' and Jesus is regarded as the true, exemplary, new human being. Not that all Christologies which commence 'from below' necessarily end up denying the essential divinity of Christ. Note, for instance, W Pannenberg, who while developing his Christology 'from below'46 holds that the ground of Jesus' uniqueness lies in His divinity and divine Sonship.
In what one might term the new Christology as opposed to Chalcedon Christology, contemporary theology is attempting a number of approaches to throw light on Jesus' uniqueness. Amongst these are the experience of human existence, the experience of the world in its universal development and the experience of history. Functional Christology is characterized by at least the first two approaches.
In the first approach Jesus is regarded as the Prototype of human existence and He is looked upon either as the example of love and devotion,47 or as the "witness of faith"48 in a godless world or as one who identified fully with His mission.49 Here Jesus is seen either as stimulus and example or as the absolute prototype in whom idea and individual are one. One may ask whether the unique significance of Jesus can really be maintained by only accepting His exemplary humanity or His human transcendence? It is evident that these Christological approaches which regard Jesus' divine Sonship only as an "expression" of His humanity,50 or see in Jesus the representative of the absent God51 who
vindicates God's cause because God Himself does not intervene, would find it difficult to do so.
In the second approach Jesus is regarded as the "last" Man. H. Berkhof and Dr E. Flesseman-Van Leer may be considered as examples of a functional Christology which sees Jesus as the new Man, the eschatological Man and the Man as God intended Him to be.52 Neither would hold to the pre-existence of Christ as believed in classical Christology. At best there could be an "ideal pre-existence" which means that He existed in the mind and planning of God before the creation of the world and before His function as representative of God.
Other characteristics of functional Christology are to see Jesus in the setting of "contextual theology" where He is seen as the 'revolutionary,' the 'liberator' or the 'political Messiah';53 or to accept Jesus as the representative of God where Jesus fulfills the role of God without partaking of any supernatural characteristics;54 or even as the revelation of God without, however, partaking of His essential essence or being.55
Any serious consideration of functional Christology today must take into account the important works by Edward Schillebeeckx, the Roman Catholic theologian. For him the starting point of any Christological reflection is the man Jesus. His Jesus an Experiment in Christology (1979) and Christ the Christian Experience in the Modern World (1980) are works that will have a permanent place in the Christological arena.
Functional Christology is very attractive to the modern mind of the twentieth century. It is able to discard many of the hellenistic concepts thought to be existent in the classical formulations of traditional Christology. In the functional category Christ can remain fully human, and supernatural or metaphysical explanations for His mission become unnecessary. God reveals Himself in Jesus Christ as His revelation, His partner, His representative and as His ideal man. This man becomes the leader, example, pattern and model for all other men. The life that He lived, the faith that He manifested can be revealed by others who show the same faith in God. His human achievement is a trailblazer for all humanity and if others would rely on divine power as He did the results would be the same. The life of Jesus Christ could be re-duplicated a thousand times by those imbued with His spirit and by those following in His footsteps. Functional Christology appeals to the reason of modern man and meets the scientific and evolutionary concepts of our time.
Now that we have taken this short journey into the realm of general Christology by way of these five routes, we are now ready to look at the Adventist theological scene, preparatory to taking a further journey into the more particularized world of Seventh-day Adventist Christology._____________________
1 W D Jonker has basically divided Christology into the two broad categories of ontological and functional Christology with various shades in each. See W D Jonker, Christus, die Middelaar, Pretoria: N G Kerkboek-handel, 1977. cf. John McIntyre, The
Shape of Christology, London: S C M Press, 1966. McIntyre has offered a different classification of Christology. [back]
2 This classification is offered after personal reflection as a convenient method of categorizing general Christology. It certainly remains only one suggestion amongst many other possibilities. [back]
3 It would be useful here to quote the relevant portions of the Nicene Creed of 325 A.D.: "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God , Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being óµoovoiov things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; he suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." This creed was slightly amplified at Constantinople in 381 A.D. Nicene Creed quoted in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Sixth edition, revised and enlarged, Volume I, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1977, pp.28,29. [back]
4 Most standard works on Christology or church history will elucidate the involvements of these men and their contribution to the Christological struggle. See H R Mackintosh, The Doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1913, pp.196-215; Reinhold Seeberg, The History of Doctrines, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1977, Vol. I, pp.243-272. [back]
5 In connection with Chalcedon and the creeds see Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1977, Vol. I, pp.29-34; Vol. II, pp.62-65; R V Sellers, The Council of Chalcedon, A Historical and Doctrinal Survey, London: S P C K., 1961, pp. 210,211. [back]
6 By 'anhypostasia' is understood 'impersonal humanity' which indicates that the human element in the Incarnation was simply human 'nature' assumed by the Second Person of the Godhead rather than an individual human being. Set forth by Cyril of Alexandria and passed into Catholic dogma. By 'enhypostasia' we understand that the humanity of Christ, while not impersonal, only is personal in the Logos, and hence has no independent personality. For a discussion see Donald M. Baillie, God Was in Christ, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1948, pp.85-93; H R Macintosh, The Doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ, pp.383-406. [back]
7 For a discussion of the monophysite and monothelite controversies see Seeberg, The History of Doctrines, Vol. I, pp.272-288; Mackintosh, The Person of Jesus Christ, pp.215-222. [back]
8 For a discussion of this see Mackintosh, The Person of Jesus Christ, pp.223-229. [back]
9 Both John Calvin and Martin Luther followed in the tradition of the classical, ontological Christology. For John Calvin see Institutes of the Christian Religion, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, Book I, ch. XIII, 1-29, pp.120-159; Book II, chs. XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, pp.464-534. For a specific example of ontological involvement on the part of both Luther and Calvin we refer to the doctrine of the 'communicatio idiomatum' (the interchange or communication of attributes). For Reformed theology and especially Calvin, the doctrine does not mean that the human nature of Christ receives divine attributes or that His divinity partakes of human properties. Rather, each nature communicates properties to the one Person of Christ while the two natures remain unmixed. In this way Calvin could teach that while Christ was a babe in Bethlehem He at the same time, through His divinity, was ruling the universe with His Father (Ibid., p.481). This view has become known as the 'extra Calvanisticum.' Luther's interpretation of the 'communicatio idiomatum' was that each nature does in reality receive properties from the other nature. In this way Luther teaches the ubiquity of the human nature of Christ and that in the sacrament of the supper Christ's human presence is with us having received the property of omnipresence from His divinity. (See article X, 'The Holy Supper of our Lord,' in the Augsburg Confession quoted in Creeds of the Churches, Ed. J H Leith, revised edition, Richmond: John Knox Press, 1973, p.71). For Calvin this concept is impossible. [back]
10 The modern father of the kenosis doctrine was Gottfried Thomasius who in his "Beiträge zur Kirchlichen Christologie," (1845), proposed a partial laying aside of the divine attributes in Christ. Another form of the doctrine was offered by Th. A Liebner who proposed a complete laying aside of the divine attributes in the kenosis. A third form was propounded by Franck who believed that Jesus in the kenosis laid aside completely His divine existence. Bishop Charles Gore of England was an important representative of the modern kenosis doctrine in the early 20th century. He was particularly interested in studying the human consciousness of Christ during the Incarnation and came to the conclusion that Christ lived entirely on the level of the human. For an overview of the history of the modern kenosis movement see Jacobus Johannes Müller, Die Kenosisleer in die Kristoloqie sedert die Reformasie, (Th.D. Proefskrif), Vrije Universiteit to Amsterdam, 1931. See also Baillie, God Was in Christ, pp.94-98. [back]
11 See especially the chapter, "The Paradox of the Incarnation," in Donald M Baillie, God Was in Christ, pp.106-132. [back]
12 Wolfhart Pannenberg gives reasons why he does not build a "Christology from above" but favours the approach "from below." He writes: "Therefore, our starting point must lie in the question about the man Jesus; only in this way can we ask about his divinity. How the divine Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, would be thought of apart from the incarnation and thus apart from the man Jesus completely escapes our imagination" (Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus - God and Man, London: SCM Press Ltd., 1968, p.35). Jonker suggests that while Pannenberg approaches his Christology 'von unten,' he may be considered as belonging to the category of ontological Christology. (See Jonker, Christus die Middelaar, bl. 112). [back]
13 See his whole approach in his work on Christology. Walter Kasper, Jesus the Christ, London: Burns and Oates, 1976. [back]
14 We refer the reader to W D Jonker, Christus die Middelaar. [back]
15 Note the observation concerning Origen: "Though conscious of a staunch fidelity to the historic faith, he felt it essential that the contents of the creed should at the same time be sublimated by the methods of reverent speculation, provided only that the limits of ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition were recognized" (Mackintosh, The Person of Jesus Christ, pp.164,165). [back]
16 "Early Christian, Gnostic-inspired writings make speculations from it concerning the being of Jesus" (A Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, London: Mowbrays, 1975, p.69). [back]
17 For a discussion of Gnosticism and Christology see Ibid., pp.79-84. [back]
18 For a comment on the life of Spinoza see R Willis, Benedict de Spinoza: His Life, Correspondence, and Ethics, London: Trübner & Co., 1870, pp.1-77. [back]
19 Note the comment of Willis: "To him [ Spinoza] indeed all men, as all things else, were modes or manifestations of the Divine Essence, whereof one might have a larger measure than another, but of which nothing having reality was utterly devoid. Whilst he had no difficulty in admitting that Jesus of Nazareth had a larger infusion of Deity than the average of men, it was, therefore, as impossible for him to conceive that Jesus was God as it was for him to conceive that the triangle should assume or present itself with the properties of the square" (Ibid., pp.101,102). [back]
20 K. Barth, Protestant Theology in the 19th Century, London: SCM Press, 1972, p.288. [back]
21 Note Barth's discussion of Kant's thought: "Thus if, according to Kant, something corresponding to what is called the 'Word' in the prologue to St. John's Gospel exists, there is certainly, according to him, no suggestion that this Word might by any chance have become flesh. To the religion of reason the Son of God is not a man, but 'the abstraction of humanity" (Ibid.). [back]
22 Speculative thinking has been defined by Karl Barth as: "dissolving something real and setting it in opposition to itself in such a way that the differences as determined by one's thinking are set in opposition and the object is conceived as a unity of both" (Ibid., p.402). [back]
23 For a discussion of Hegel's concepts regarding God in the world see Hans Küng, Does God Exist? London: Collins, 1980, pp.127-188.See also Warren McWilliams, "Beyond 'Mere Transcendence': The Riddle of Hegel's Phenomenology," Perspectives in Religious Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1979, pp.46-64; Winfried Corduan, "Hegel in Rahner, A Study in
Philosophical Hermeneutics," Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 71, 1978, pp.285-298; Hans Kung, Menschwerdunq Gottes, Eine Einfuhrüng in Hegels Theoloqisches Denken als Prolegomena zu einer künftigen Christoloqie, Freiburg, 1970. [back]
24 In many respects Tillich is a theologian who stands "on the boundary." (See W M Horton, "Tillich's Role in Contemporary Theology," The Theology of Paul Tillich, New York: The MacMillan Co., 1961, pp.26-47). There are some who feel that the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is not essential to Tillich's system (see Arthur Cochrane, The Existentialists and God, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956, p.90). Kenneth Hamilton is out-spoken in his polemic against Tillich when he writes: "The more the system is unfolded, the wider yawns the gap between the universal and the factual, and the harder becomes any reconciliation with the Christian gospel... It is essential for the system that the universal and the factual shall never meet directly" (Hamilton, The System and the Gospel, London: SCM Press, 1963, pp.162,163). Michael Palmer, in a recent article on Tillich's Christology, does not take this extreme view and endeavours to argue for Tillich's conception of the actual historicity of Jesus Christ as the bearer of the New Being (see Michael Palmer, "Correlation and Ontology: A Study in Tillich's Christology," The Downside Review, Vol. 96, April 1978, pp.120-131). [back]
25 Note Rahner's thought in brief: "The fact that this event, [the Incarnation], in which man attains to God in an ultimate act of self-transcendence, and in God's own self-bestowal upon man in its most radical form, has taken place precisely in Jesus of Nazareth" (Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, Vol. XI, London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1974, p.227). [back]
26 See the chapter, "Questions about Jesus," in Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, London: SCM Press, 1974, pp.82-111. See also J Moltmann, Theology of Hope, London: SCM Press, 1967. [back]
27 Albert Schweitzer says of Renan, Strauss, Schenkel, Weizsäcker and Keim: "They all portray the Jesus of liberal theology; the only difference is that one is a little more conscientious in his colouring than another, and one perhaps has a little more taste than another, or is less concerned about the consequences" (Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, London: Adam & Charles Black, 1954, p.200). [back]
28 Hermann Samuel Reimarus was born in 1694 and died in 1768. His writings asserted the claims of rational religion as against the faith of the church. After his death, Lessing published the most important fragments of Reimarus' magnum opus. Schweitzer says: "His work is perhaps the most splendid achievement in the whole course of the historical investigation of the life of Jesus, for he was the first to grasp the fact that the world of thought in which Jesus moved was essentially eschatological" (A Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, p.23). [back]
29 David Friedrich Strauss produced his first edition of the "Life of Jesus" in two volumes of 1480 pages, (1835,6). Although Schweitzer speaks of this book as "one of the most perfect things in the whole range of learned literature" (Ibid., p.78), he admits that
"Scarcely ever has a book let loose such a storm of controversy;" (Ibid., p.97). Amongst the milder opponents of the book was Neander who, while recognizing that the book would be a danger to the church, appealed for an answer by argument rather than by arbitrary banning. [back]
30 The fictitious "Lives of Jesus" of Bahrdt and Venturini at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, first attempted to apply, with logical consistency, a non-supernatural interpretation to the miracle stories of the Gospel. See Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, pp.38-47. [back]
31 Schweitzer writes: "They were eager to picture Him as truly and purely human, to strip from Him the robes of splendour with which He had been apparelled, and clothe Him once more with the coarse garments in which He had walked in Galilee" (Ibid., p.5) [back].
32 Note the value that Schweitzer places on this critical investigation: "For this reason the history of the critical study of the life of Jesus is of higher intrinsic value than the history of the study of ancient dogma or of the attempts to create a new one" (Ibid., p.2). [back]
33 Ibid., p.311. [back]
34 See K Rahner, "Chalkedon-Ende oder Anfang?" Das Konzil von Chalkedon, ed. by A Grillmeier and ll Bacht, Vol. III, Wärzburg, 1954, pp.3-49; "Problems of Present-day Christology," K Rahner, Theological Investigations, Vol, I, Baltimore, 1961. [back]
35 See E Käsemann, "Das Problem des historischen Jesus," Zeitschrift für Theoloqie und Kirche, Vol. 51, 1954, pp.125-153. For the relation of the new to the old quest for the Jesus of history, cf. R Slenczka, Geschichlichkeit und Personsein Jesu Christi.Studien zur Christologischen Problematik der Historischen Jesusfraqe, Gottingen, 1967. [back]
36 Käsemann, while following in the footsteps of Bultmann, called for a drastic reversal from kerygma orientation to history of Jesus interest. Amongst Catholics who took up the challenge mention must be made of H U von Balthasar, W Breuning, H Küng, H Mühlen, K Rahner, J Ratzinger, M Schmaus, D Wiederkehr, A Hulsbosch, E Schillebeeckx, P Schooenberg, C Duquoc, and J Galot. Among Protestant theologians we mention K Barth, H Braun, F Buri, G Ebeling, E Fuchs, F Gogarten, E Jüngel, J Moltmann, W Pannenberg, R Schäfer, and P Tillich. For a survey of Christological essays on this interest see H Küng, Menschwerdunq Gottes, Freiburg, 1970, pp.503-670; J Galot, Vers une Nouvelle Christologie, Paris, 1971 [back].
37 See Walter Kasper, Jesus the Christ, London: Burns & Oates, 1976, p.19. [back]
38 Ibid., p.35. [back]
39 For an introduction to Soren Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger and existentialism in general see John Macquarrie, Existentialism, New York: Penguin Books, 1973. [back]
40 In 1892 his Der sogenannte historische Jesus and der geschichtliche, biblische Christus, appeared. See M Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historical Biblical Christ, Philadelphia, 1964. [back]
41 0n form criticism see Rudolf Bultmann, Karl Kundsin, Form Criticism, Two Essays on New Testament Research, New York: Harper and Row, 1962. [back]
42 Bultmann: "This method of interpretation of the New Testament which tries to recover the deeper meaning behind the mythological conceptions I call de-mythologizinq - an unsatisfactory word, to be sure. Its aim is not to eliminate the mythological statements but to interpret them" (Jesus Christ and Mythology, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958, p.18). [back]
43 See Klaus Reinhardt, "In what way is Jesus Unique?" Internationale Katholische Zeitschrift, Vol. III, May-June, 1973, pp.343-364. [back]
44 Ibid., p.346. [back]
45 See Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1928, pp. 374-475. [back]
46 See footnote 12 of this chapter. Klaus Reinhardt has stated that for Pannenberg Jesus' uniqueness and universality lies not in His humanity, but in His divinity and divine Sonship (see "In what way is Jesus Unique?" p.356). [back]
47 Cf. H Schürmann, "Der proexistente Christus-die mitte des Glaubens von Morgen?" Diakonia, 3 (1972), pp. 147-160.[back]
48 Cf. R Schäfer, Jesus und der Gottesqlaube, Tübingen, 1970; W Kasper, Ein fahruno in den Glauben, Mainz, 1972, pp.43-56; H Urs von Balthasar, "Fides Christi," in Sponsa Verbi, Einsiedeln, 1960, pp.45-79; G Ebeling, "Was heisst Glaube," SGV, 216, Tübingen, 1958; "Jesus and Faith," in Word and Faith, pp.201-246; Das Wesen des Christlichen Glaubens, J C B Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen, 1959, tr. Ronald Gregor Smith, The Nature of Faith, Collins, 1961. [back]
49 Cf. K Barth, Kirhliche Dogmatik, 111/2, Zürich, 1948, pp.66-69; J Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 1969. [back]
50 See H Braun, Jesus. der Mann aus Nazareth und Seine Zeit, Stuttgart, 1969, p.161.[back]
51 While Sölle speaks of Jesus as man's representative this does not mean complete substitution. Man still has an important role to play. She says: "God, who despite the
satisfaction already made, is still not content with the representative, continues to count on us, to wait for us...He is a representative, not a replacement (D Sölle, Christ the Representative, London: SCM Press 167, pp.103,104). [back]
52 See H Berkhof, Christelijk Geloof, Nijkerk: Callenbach, 1973, pp.281-355; E Flessemann-van Leer, Geloven Vandaaq, Nijkerk: Callenbach, 1972, pp. 94-103 Note: "Ik meen dat het God-in-Christus voor mensen vandaag beter op een andere wijze tot uitdrukking kan worden gebracht dan met behulp van de incarnatie leer" (p.101). [back]
53 As an example of "contextual Christology" see Jon Sobrino, Christoloqy at the Crossroads, A Latin American Approach, London: SCM Press, 1978. Note the words: "In Latin America Christology is in fact being worked out by comparing the present-day situation with the historical Jesus. Latin American faithful see that as the best way to give expression to their Christian faith" (p.13). [back]
54 See Herman Wiersinga, De Verzoeninq in de Theoloqische Diskussie, Kampen: J H Kok, 1971. [back]
55 Note for example Cullmann's words: "Because the first Christians see God's redemptive revelation in Jesus Christ, for them it is his very nature that he can be known only in his work—fundamentally in the central work accomplished in the flesh. Therefore, in the light of the New Testament witness, all mere speculation about his natures is an absurdity. Functional Christology is the only kind which exists" (Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, London: SCM Press, 1963). [back]
II. Seventh-day Adventist Orientation
Before focusing on the particular Christological problems in Adventism we need to obtain a larger overview of the movement in order to more correctly evaluate the significance of the parts to the whole. We plan, therefore, to firstly obtain a picture of Adventism as it sees itself in the religious spectrum of the times. Secondly, we will trace briefly the highlights of the Christological development within Seventh-day Adventism. Thirdly, we will pause at the specific Christological problems that have arisen and show why they have caused tension. Lastly, we propose to give a reason for the method of research and the choice of the four representatives that we have chosen.
A. Adventism as it sees itself
Seventh-day Adventism sees itself as a part of the Christian church standing in the tradition of the Protestant Reformation and having its roots running clear back to the New Testament.56 There is evidence that the movement considers itself as a restorer of old truths and a 'repairer of the breach' in the law rather than as some fringe cult bent on startling the world with the queer and the bizarre.57
Seventh-day Adventists believe that the heart of their message is Jesus Christ and His atoning death on the cross. One well qualified to speak wrote the following words:
"The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption - the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers."58
The movement believes that it is to proclaim, along with other Christians, the Eternal Verities to a world lost in sin. According to Leroy Edwin Froom, these Eternal Verities "embrace the basic principles and provisions for the salvation of men, as springing from and centering in the three persons of the Godhead, or Trinity."59 They are eternal because God is eternal. They encompass everything needed to carry out the sacred covenant - the Incarnation, Christ's sinless life and vicarious, atoning death, resurrection and priestly mediation and His glorious return. Central to these verities is Christ's spotless righteousness with which He clothes and transforms sinners. Component factors embrace regeneration, justification, sanctification through the Holy Spirit and glorification. All of these are rooted in God's love, grace, compassion and power. These are the conquering provisions to overcome sin and to banish it from the universe. Thus, for Froom, the Eternal Verities are simply the Everlasting Gospel in essence and operation. Seventh-day Adventism has been called to proclaim these essentials to the world.60
Froom has also demonstrated in his Prophetic Faith of our Fathers that many of the positions taken by Adventists, even in the field of prophetic interpretation and eschatology, are common to scholars of past generations.61His two volumes on conditionalism, likewise, reveal that the Adventist position on life, death and the resurrection is not unique but has support in Christian thought.62 In fact, many modern scholars recognize the holism of man and that the hellenistic concept of the immortality of the soul is in conflict with the Biblical doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.63
Adventist apologist Francis D Nicol has also shown that Adventists are on common ground with the fundamental Protestant position on the moral law of ten commandments as a standard of righteousness as revealed n the historic creeds of the church.64 In fact, :Edward Heppenstall's exposition of the law in Galatians and the function of the law in the New Testament is in the best Reformed tradition.65 Hans K La Rondelle in his course called "Protestant Theological Heritage," indicates to what extent Adventism stands in the light of Luther and Calvin in many areas of theology.66
At the 1952 Adventist Bible Conference, Heppenstall67 presented a paper on the Law and the Covenants. Here he took the position that God has presented to man essentially one unified covenant at various times in the history of God's people.68 This is an anti-dispensationalist view and echoes the Reformed position. The Adventist teaching of one Sabbath covering both the Old and the New Testament eras and dominating the one essential covenant is held as more logical than two different Sabbaths in the one covenant of the traditional Reformed teaching.
The appearance of Questions on Doctrine in 195769 was well-received by the non-Adventist world and indicated what a wealth of theological common ground actually exists between Adventists and the rest of the Christian world. This has often been lost sight of as points of variance have been emphasized.
The voice of Harold M S Richards Sr, pioneer broadcaster of the Voice of Prophecy radio programme, has been sounding over the air for over 50 years,70giving a very positive Christ-centered evangelical note which has greatly helped to dispel the fog of suspicion and to establish the bona fides of Adventism as a legitimate part of the great Christian church. In his book, Why I am a Seventh-day Adventist, Richards gives a clear and concise statement of those doctrines held in common with most other Protestant churches, a shorter list of teachings which are shared with some other Christians and then finally a brief listing of those beliefs considered unique to Adventism.71
Froom has sought to show in his Movement of Destiny that Adventism72 seen in its best light takes a strong stand on the 'eternal verities' such as the full and complete atonement on the cross and the sinlessness of our Lord. For Froom, Adventism has been raised up of God to call the Christian church back to loyalty to God and the Scriptures and the 'eternal verities' of truth.
Seventh-day Adventism has been convicted of its Christian responsibility, embodied in its name, of drawing the attention of the world to the importance of the seventh-day Sabbath and the imminence of the second advent of Christ. Prominent in the early works on the Sabbath was the standard treatise by John Nevins Andrews.73 Through the years a great deal of literature has been produced on this doctrine. With this emphasis on the Sabbath, Adventists have often appeared as legalists and given the impression of advocating the Galatian heresy.74 However, evidence is strong that in spite of a burden for the Sabbath, Adventism has strongly advocated salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ apart from the works of the law.75 More recently the scholarly work on the Sabbath and the origin of Sunday worship by Samuele Bacchiocchi76 has appeared, eliciting much favourable interest and comment in the scholarly world. Undoubtedly, this will encourage a new look at the Sabbath question as an important aspect of soteriology.
Adventism sees itself as a last-day reformatory movement entrusted with the 'Elijah message,'77 to bring all men to the point of decision concerning allegiance to Christ and obedience to God. The challenge of presenting the 'everlasting gospel' in the setting of the three angels' message of Rev. 14:6-12 is considered in a serious light. Whether the core of this message is justification by faith or an imitation of the faith and life of Christ is the cause of some tension within the ranks of Adventism.
B. Christological Development within Adventism
In the aftermath of the second advent awakening78 and the Millerite movement,79
Seventh-day Adventism was born. Men drawn from various religious backgrounds united in heralding the soon-coming Christ.80 The Christological stance of most of these
proponents of the message was trinitarian,81 but in some cases the position advocated on Christ and the Holy Spirit was unorthodox.82
In the formative years of the movement the thrust of the message was eschatological and with the emphasis on the imminence of the second advent, time was not taken for definitive statements on Christology.
James White, one of the early leaders of the Adventist movement, had come from the Christian Connection which held Arian views regarding Christ. In some early statements White showed his Arian bias,83 but by 1877 came out clearly on the equality of Christ with the Father.84
Ellen White came into Adventism from a Methodist background85 and this, no doubt, influenced her Christology. Seventh-day Adventists believe that the lifework of Ellen White was blessed with the gift of the 'spirit of prophecy'86 and in the next chapter evidence will be given for her role in the Christological development within Adventism.
Joseph H Waggoner and Uriah Smith were both prominent Adventist leaders who lent weight to the position of a derived and subordinate Christ.87
Ellet J Waggoner, son of J H Waggoner, was destined to play an important role in the Christological development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This role will be studied in detail in the third chapter of this work. Suffice it to say that Waggoner's part in the Minneapolis Conference of 1888 was prominent and this conference and its aftermath resulted in greater expansion of the Christology of Seventh-day Adventism.
The influence of William W Prescott88 during the late 19th century and the early twentieth century up to the important Bible Conference of 1919 and beyond was significant. Thoroughly imbued with the concept that Jesus Christ should be the centre and heart of all doctrine, Prescott produced a College Bible textbook, The Doctrine of Christ89 in 1920, which was the first serious attempt to produce a systematic theology around the person of Christ. Froom states: "In the belief of many, the Prescott emphasis constitutes a bridge, a major connection, between what had been and what must be."90
Another important man in the history of Seventh-day Adventist Christological development was Arthur G Daniells.91 Not only as President of the General Conference, but also in the Ministerial Institutes which he conducted in the 1920's his influence was vital. Froom testified that it was during the Nashville Institute of 1925 that Daniells' passion for Christ deeply affected his own life and influenced him to transfer his love from a message to a Person.92 In 1926 Daniells produced his Christ our Righteousness which was destined to have a strong Christocentric influence upon the rank and file of Seventh-day Adventists.93
Largely through the influence of Daniells the latter part of the 1920's witnessed the founding of the Ministry Magazine,94 which through the years was to play an important role in Christological development. The story of the preparation of the statement of
fundamental beliefs in the 1930's and the uniform "Baptismal Covenant and Vow" of 1941 is important in the Christological drama of Adventism.95 During the 1940's the Christological crescendo heightened in the continued emphases of men like Leroy Edwin Froom, Walter E Read and Roy Allan Anderson.96 Froom's position was one of prominence and his monumental works in prophetic interpretation increased his ecumenical stature.97 The Bible Conference of 1952 gave due emphasis to a Christocentric approach in the church's re-evaluation of dogma.98
It is difficult to understand theological discussion within Adventism during the period 1952-1981 without reference to Robert D Brinsmead.99 Although on the fringes of the official church his impact has been significant. His soteriological message during the 1950's and 1960's was built on the traditional Adventist framework of the sanctuary motif and embellished with ultimate perfectionism in the end time.100 Along with this went a view of the sinful human nature of Christ without the practice of sin. Traditional Adventist support could be found for his thesis.101
Brinsmead's views were seen as divisive and the official church opposed aspects of his soteriology along with his Christology.102 Adventist theologians like Heppenstall and Desmond Ford103 advocated the sinless human nature of Christ and the contrasting sinful human nature of man which would remain until glorification at the final eschaton.
In 1957 Adventists published the book Questions on Doctrine as a result of ecumenical consultations with a group of non-Adventist scholars.104This book was largely the work of Leroy Froom, Walter Read and Roy Anderson. Although not approved by any official committee of the church it did have general exposure to many Adventist minds.105 It was an important watershed for Adventist Christology. Adopting a classical ontological Christological stance the book has been widely distributed amongst non-Adventists. It has helped to dispel the fears of evangelicals regarding Adventist Christology but as the years have passed it has also served to polarize Adventist thinking between so-called traditionalists and reformationists.
Milian L. Andreasen, one-time professor at the Adventist Seminary, was particularly outspoken in his opposition to the Christiology of Questions on Doctrine.106 This opposition sought to draw support from the past and also acted as a vanguard for resistance in the subsequent years.107
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Heppenstall led in a renewed emphasis on the centrality of Christ in soteriology and the inability of sinful man to save himself or attain to ultimate perfection. Serving at the Adventist Theological Seminary, he acted as a catalyst to train a generation of Adventist ministers in a closer Reformation stance on the nature of Christ, the nature of man, original sin and righteousness by faith.108 As a result of Heppenstall's influence at the Seminary during the 1950's and 1960's and then his subsequent writings in the 1970's,109 one can almost speak of much of the period as the Heppenstallian era of Adventism.
Following on the heels of Heppenstall at the Seminary came Raoul F Dederen and a little later Hans K LaRondelle, both trained in the Adventist Reformation mould.110 Both excellent scholars and teachers, they have continued many of the Christocentric and Christological emphases of Heppenstall and built upon them.111
Far away in Australia, Desmond Ford, chairman of the Religion Department at Avondale Adventist College, likewise taught in the style of Heppenstall. Throughout the 1960's and 1970's he espoused the cause of Reformationist Adventism, believing its roots to he found in the 1888 Minneapolis revival and accepting this as the true intent of the writings of E G White.
It was, no doubt, the influence of this triumvirate of Heppenstall, LaRondelle and Ford which unseated Brinsmead theologically and drew him into the camp of the Reformationists early in the 1970's.112 With the radical reversal in the theological thinking of Brinsmead there came a reaction in certain Adventist circles. It was actually discovered that a fairly large residuum of Adventist thought was sympathetic with many aspects of Brinsmead's earlier soteriology and Christology. His apparent divisive effects had kept many from openly espousing his cause. Now that Brinsmead had changed his thought some Adventist writers and scholars openly propounded aspects of his earlier views which they felt reflected traditional Adventist belief.113 Editors Wood and Douglass of the Review and Herald during the 1970's now supported soteriological and Christological views reminiscent of Brinsmead's earlier views.114
Wieland and Short115 who in the 1950's and 1960's were somewhat in disfavour with the official view of the church, now appeared in a better light. Wieland had always believed that the Christology and soteriology of E J Waggoner of Minneapolis fame had been lost sight of through the work of men like Froom, Anderson and Heppenstall and that a revival of the truth regarding the nature of Christ and 'righteousness by faith' would bring the latter rain.116 Wieland's latest book on the message of 1888 has been prominently advertised in the Review and Herald.117
The book, Movement of Destiny, by L E Froom in 1971 could well represent the capstone in what might be termed neo-Adventist thought.118 Attempting to give a history of the development of certain aspects of dogma in Adventism, Froom came out strongly in favour of the full atonement at the cross and the sinlessness of Jesus Christ.119 His disapproval of the position of Wieland and Short is apparent.120 This work is in the mould of Questions on Doctrine and represents Froom's earnest efforts to steer Adventism into an acceptable Christian stream and to the fulfilment of its destiny.
Closely allied with the Christological controversy has been the so-called 'righteousness by faith' dialogue. The roots of this discussion lie deeply embedded in the Minneapolis saga.121 Leading out on the one side of the issue has been Desmond Ford who maintains that 'righteousness by faith' is a New Testament Pauline expression representing the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the sinner in justification alone.122 On the other side of the spectrum has been Herbert Douglass who maintains that 'righteousness by faith' is wider than justification and includes sanctification and in fact represents the
possibility of saints living righteously as Christ did by faith in God.123 Many have participated in these discussions and conferences have been held seeking greater clarity. The Palmdale Conference of 1976 was an important event in this dialogue.124 It is clear that Christology is also deeply involved in this whole discussion. At one stage it was felt that the agitation on these issues was so divisive that a moratorium on further discussion was called.125Further conferences were held by church committees and in 1979 the statement "Dynamics of Salvation" appeared.126 To many this acted as a mediating position in the field of soteriology. The deeper involvements of the Christological conflict did not feature in this statement.127
The discussions within Adventism have been observed by those outside the ranks as evidenced by Geoffrey Paxton's book, The Shaking of Adventism.128 While this work concentrates on the soteriological claim of Adventism the question of Christology is closely linked.129
In order to complete the picture of the historical development of Adventist Christology we wish to quote the relevant Christological statements in the Fundamental Beliefs voted at the 53rd General Conference Session of Seventh-day Adventists held at Dallas, U.S.A., April 17-26, 1980. These statements are amongst the twenty-seven articles of belief which are a revision of chapter two of the Church Manual.130
The 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; 29:29; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6; 131 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 14:6,7).
The Son. God the eternal Son became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Through Him all things were created, the character of God is revealed, the salvation of humanity is accomplished, and the world is judged. Forever truly God, He became also truly man, Jesus the Christ. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived and experienced temptation as a human being, but perfectly exemplified the righteousness and love of God. By His miracles He manifested God's power and was attested as God's promised Messiah. He suffered and died voluntarily on the cross for our sins and in our place, was raised from the dead, and ascended to minister in the heavenly sanctuary in our behalf. He will come again in glory for the final deliverance of His people and the restoration of all things. (John 1:1-3, 14; 5:22; Col. 1: 15-19; John 10:30; 14:9; Rom. 5:18; 6:23; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Luke 1:35; Phil. 2:5-11; 1 Cor. 15:3,4; Heb. 2:9-18; 4:15; 7:25; 8:1,2; 9:28; John 14:1-3; 1 Peter 2:21; Rev. 22:20) .132
The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. In Christ's life of perfect obedience to God's will, His suffering, death, and resurrection, God provided the only means of atonement for human sin, so that those who by faith accept this atonement may have eternal life, and the whole creation may better understand the infinite and holy love of the Creator. This perfect atonement vindicates the righteousness of God's law and the graciousness of His character; for it both condemns our sin and provides for our
forgiveness. The death of Christ is substitutionary and expiatory, reconciling and transforming. The resurrection of Christ proclaims God's triumph over the forces of evil, and for those who accept the atonement assures their final victory over sin and death. It declares the Lordship of Jesus Christ, before whom every knee in heaven and on earth will bow. (John 3:16; Isa. 53:2; 2 Cor. 5:14,15; 19-21; Rom. 1:4; 3:25; 4:25; 8:3,4; Phil 2:6-11; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Col. 2:15).133
C. Specific Christological Problems Within Adventism
Having viewed the fundamental beliefs in the Dallas statement relative to Christology one might be led to believe that the Christological issue within Adventism has been finally settled. However, this is not so. While there is general agreement in most areas, there remains divergence of belief regarding the nature of Christ in the Incarnation with reference to the sin problem. Almost all would agree that Christ did not perform acts of sin in word, thought or deed. But did Christ begin where all men begin? Are men born in a state of sin before committing acts of sin? Do men possess a sinful human nature prior to deeds of sin? Is the possession of a sinful human nature equivalent to the theory of original sin? If Christ came into the world in the same nature as man, did He also possess a sinful human nature or was He different to sinful man in this respect? Could it be that while Christ partook of man's sinful human nature that He was not inherently affected by sin like all other men? Or when we speak of Christ and man taking sinful human nature, do we only mean weakened human nature affected by sin and susceptible to temptation? However, Adam and Eve before possessing sinful human natures were susceptible to temptation. Do we then see Christ and man coming into the world on the same level weakened by the effects of sin but in actuality being innocent? Are all men born into the world in a state of neutrality, or innocence, or holiness or sinfulness? Does Christ start on the same level as all men either in the state of neutrality, or innocence, or holiness or sinfulness? The essential question is this did Christ begin life in the Incarnation exactly in the same state as all men relevant to the sin problem or was there any difference?
There are two basic trends within Adventism in connection with the above problem. One trend seeks to narrow the gap between sinful man and Christ as much as possible. The other trend results in widening the gap between man and Christ relative to the sin problem. Many evidences of these two trends could be cited. We wish to refer briefly to two books both published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association within recent years. The one appeared in 1977 entitled The Man Who is God by Edward Heppenstall and the other in 1979, Was Jesus Really Like Us? by Thomas A Davis.134 The titles immediately indicate that the one author would emphasize the uniqueness of Christ and the other the similarity of Christ to all other men
.The general thrust of Davis, book is that the human nature of Christ was that of a born-again Christian, albeit, the truly fully dedicated born-again person. At times he will speak of Christ's weak, fallen nature and of His nature being in a sense a sinful nature.135 On the other hand, for Heppenstall, Christ is completely different from man when it comes to the state of sin. Heppenstall is unequivocal with regard to the absence of a sinful nature in the humanity of Christ.136 It likewise becomes clear that because of their divergent
Christology, Davis and Heppenstall end up with different concepts of human perfection.137
These two different trends in Adventist Christology have far-reaching consequences for the soteriology of the movement. Almost every area of belief is influenced by one's departure point regarding the nature of Christ. One's view of Christ radically affects one's concept of such soteriological issues as the great controversy motif, the atonement, the nature of man and of sin, justification and sanctification, the nature of obedience and the issue of perfection. To what extent can plurality of belief on Christology be allowed without impairing the impact of the movement? Are the two basic differences in Adventist Christology at the foundation of the polarization in the church's soteriology? We maintain that it is important to study Christology within Adventism with the view to seek avenues of rapprochement without compromise of Scriptural truth in order to clarify divergences and to seek for a strong united voice of witness.
Not only is Christology important for the internal unity and stability of the church. Up to the publication of Questions on Doctrine Adventists were often under attack by other Christians on the questions of the atonement and the nature of Christ. Froom endeavoured to show in his Movement of Destiny that minority views had indeed given rise to some of these accusations and that the church had taken steps to rectify matters.138 There have been those within the church and on the fringes thereof who have expressed objection to Froom's positions and feel that he along with others has been leading the church away from the traditional position into Babylonian side paths.139 For the sake of the Christian world outside of Adventism it is imperative for the church to clarify the issues and let all know where it stands.
We, of course, must be patient when we remember that Christological controversies have been part of the Christian church since the very beginning of New Testament times. Adventism claims to have the 'spirit of prophecy' but it is still made up of fallible men who must seek to interpret the message of the Scriptures. It is, therefore, not immune to misinterpretation and limited understanding. Along with other Christian churches it must humbly wait on God for greater clarity and understanding. Woe to any church which feels that it is increased with goods (theological truth) and has need of nothing. The Lord stands ready to bless the church as it humbly waits for the Spirit's greater illumination of divine truth.
D. Proposed Approach to the Problem
In the introduction we indicated the methodology to be followed in this dissertation. Four representative Seventh-day Adventist writers and theologians would be selected for this Christological study. They are Ellen White, Ellet Waggoner, Edward Heppenstall and Herbert Douglass. I now wish to motivate my choice of these four individuals.
Ellen G White occupied a prominent place in Seventh-day Adventism from the beginning of the movement in 1844 to the time of her death in 1915. Her influence reaches to the present largely through the prodigious amount of writing which she has left to the church.
Seventh-day Adventists hold her writings in special esteem, believing that the 'gift of prophecy' was manifested in her life and work.140 She herself preferred not to call herself a prophet but rather "the messenger of the Lord."141 She had the highest regard for the Bible and believed that her writings should be tested by this norm.142 She firmly believed that the canon of Scripture was closed with the New Testament143 and that while her writings are doctrinally instructive they do not form part of the canon of Scripture and are "a lesser light to lead to the greater light."144
In view of the authoritative nature of her writings for Seventh-day Adventists and the very considerable amount of material dealing with Christology it was felt that it would be very difficult to give a true picture of Christology within Adventism without giving attention to her contribution in this field. It should further be noted that her husband, James White, was a leading Seventh-day Adventist minister, writer and editor as well as serving his church as president of the General Conference.145
The second choice is Ellet J. Waggoner who occupied an important place in Adventism as a writer, editor and preacher.146 He rose to prominence as editor of the Signs of the Times, contributing many theological articles to its pages.147 He is especially remembered for his part along with Alonzo T. Jones in the historic Minneapolis Conference of 1888.148 There is some uncertainty as to the exact nature of his discourses at this Conference but it is believed that the law in Galatians and its relation to justification by faith featured prominently.149 The subject of Christology became prominent especially in his published books subsequent to Minneapolis.150 Waggoner was a leading speaker at church conventions during this period151 dealing with theological themes. He continued his editorial work in England and his articles also appeared regularly in the Australian counterpart to the Signs of the Times.152 There are many in the church today who believe that the contribution of E. J. Waggoner in the field of Christology is vital for the church's fresh understanding of its role and for the forward thrust of the church as it seeks to fulfill its mission. In the light of these facts it was thought important to look at the Christology of E. J. Waggoner.
My third choice is Edward Heppenstall who has played an important role as a leading theologian in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was especially prominent in the Theological Seminary during the 1950's and 1960's where he had a moulding influence on a generation of Adventist ministers,153 A thought-provoking and provocative teacher, he challenged his students to think and was often on the frontier of new horizons in Adventist thought. After moving from the Seminary to Loma Linda University he continued making theological impact and his books have added to his influence.154
Heppenstall's Christology is in the classical and Reformation style and has elicited strong support as well as antagonism within the ranks of Adventism. His Christology has affected all areas of his theology and because his views have made impact within the church and represent a strong wing of the movement it was felt imperative to give attention to Heppenstall.
My last representative is Herbert E Douglass, writer, editor and theologian.155 As a college president, associate editor of the Adventist Review and book editor of the Pacific
Press he has had wide influence. His Christology is different from that of Heppenstall and represents another strong wing within Adventism. Opposed to the Christology of Questions on Doctrine, he finds himself closer in thought to M L Andreasen and R. J. Wieland in his Christological stance. Convinced of the special role of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the closing drama,156 he has developed and refined a "harvest theology"157 which closely links Christology to soteriology. His view on Christology has given special impetus to his understanding of 'righteousness by faith' and his emphasis on a special demonstration by the last generation of saints plays a vital role in his concept of the vindication of God. Because of. the considerable influence of Douglass in the field of Christology and because he represents what many believe to be the traditional view of Christology I thought it important to include his contribution.
56 LeRoy Edwin Froom writes: "Our roots did not simply begin in 1844 - nor even with the antecedent worldwide Second Advent Awakening and Movement of the early decades of the nineteenth century, particularly the 1830's and 1840's. We stem back, in spiritual ancestry, not only to Protestant Reformation times, but clear through to the Apostolic founding period of the Christian church" (Froom, Movement of Destiny, Washington: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1971, pp.27,28). [back]
57Note Froom again: "We need to sense clearly that we are not simply another denomination, arising belatedly in the nineteenth century - too late to come under the category of the Reformation churches. Neither are a cult, holding certain strange, heretical positions. We are emphatically not a people apart, isolated, and unrelated to God's true church of the past. Instead, we are tied inseparably into the noble line of His designated people stretching across the centuries" (Ibid., p.27). [back]
58 Ellen Gould White, Gospel Workers, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1915, p.315. Note also: "Christ, His character and work, is the center and circumference of all truth. He is the chain upon which the jewels of doctrine are linked. In Him is found the complete system of truth" (E G White, "Contemplate Christ's Perfection, Not Man's Imperfection," Review and Herald, August 15, 1893). [back]
59 Froom, Movement of Destiny, p.34. [back]
60 See Froom, Movement of Destiny, p.34. [back]
61 Leroy Edwin Froom, The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Vols. 1-4, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946-1954. These volumes present the historical development of prophetic interpretation from the early church period to modern times. Comprising nearly 4,000 pages, these volumes are the result of 20 years of research on the part of the author, requiring 3 extensive trips to Europe, protracted study in South America and Inter-America and examination of available sources in all the great libraries of North America. [back]
62 L E Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, Vols. 1-2, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald 1965-6. Covering 2,476 pages, Froom presents evidence regarding the conflict of the ages over the nature and destiny of man. [back]
63 See Oscar Cullmann, Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1958; J J F Durand, "Life and Death as a Theological Problem," Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, September, 1981, No. 36, pp.18-26. [back]
64 Francis D Nichol, Reasons for our Faith, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1947, pp.229-249. [back]
65 E Heppenstall, "The Law in Adventist Theology and Christian Experience," Doctrinal Discussions, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, [1962?], pp.11-26. [back]
66 Hans K La Rondelle has studied at Utrecht State University and holds the Th.D. degree from the Free University of Amsterdam, where his promoter was Dr G C Berkouwer. La Rondelle joined the faculty of Andrews University, Michigan, in 1967, and currently is professor of theology and Christian philosophy at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University. One of the classes he teaches is called "Protestant Theological Heritage." [back]
67 Edward Heppenstall has spent most of his working life in the classroom. He has taught at La Sierra College in California, where he was head of the religion department, and at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at both Washington, D.C., and Berrien Springs, Michigan, as chairman of the department of theology. Since his retirement, Dr Heppenstall has taught in the Division of Religion at Loma Linda University and also authored Our High Priest, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1972; Salvation Unlimited, Washington, D.C.; Review and Herald, 1974; The Man Who is God, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1977. [back]
68 E Heppenstall, "The Covenants and the Law," Our Firm Foundation, Vol. 1, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1953, pp.437-492.[back]
69 Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1957. "Prepared by a Representative Group of Seventh-day Adventist Leaders, Bible Teachers and Editors." This book was produced as a result of a series of eighteen conferences between a group of Seventh-day Adventist scholars and Evangelical representatives during 1955 and 1956. Principal participants from the Evangelical side were Dr Donald Grey Barnhouse and Walter Martin. For details on this episode in Adventist history, see Froom, Movement of Destiny, pp.476-492. [back]
70 Harold M S Richards began a radio ministry in 1930 which soon became known as "The Voice of Prophecy." In 1980 the Voice of Prophecy celebrated its Golden Jubilee.
Joined by his son, H M S Richards, Jr., father and son have done much to dispel the suspicion of legalism in favour of a Christocentric image. [back]]
71 H M S Richards, Why I am a Seventh-day Adventist, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1965. [back]
72 L E Froom, Movement of Destiny, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1971. [back]
73 See J N Andrews, History of the Sabbath and First Day of the Week, Third Edition, Revised, Battle Creek, Michigan: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1887. [back]
74 By the Galatian heresy we understand the system whereby man either on his own or with the help of God endeavours to contribute to his salvation by a process of moral or ceremonial acts. The concept is based on Paul's epistle to the Galatians. [back]
75 See "Relation of Works to Salvation, the Witness of Seventh-day Adventist Leaders on Historical Record," The Ministry, Vol. 19, No. 6, May 1946, pp.3-6. In this article 15 prominent Seventh-day Adventists express themselves as to their conviction on salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone apart from works of obedience which are a fruitage of salvation. [back]
76 Samuele Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday, A Historical Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity, Rome: The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, 1977. Bacchiocchi was the first Protestant to complete doctoral work in the Roman Catholic Pontifical Gregorian University in over four hundred years of her history. [back]
77 The term is taken from Malachi 4:5,6 and while fulfilled in the life and work of John the Baptist (Matt.11:14), a final eschatological fulfilment is expected. See P G Damsteegt, Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission, Grand Rapids, Michigan: W B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977, pp.250-253. [back]
78 The term applied to a renewed emphasis on the imminence of the second advent of Christ which took place particularly in England and in North America in the early 19th century and gathered momentum prior to 1844. See Seventh-day Adventist Bible Students' Source Book, Edited by Don F. Neufeld and Julia Neuffer, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1962, pp.933,934; A. W. Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, Vol. 1, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1961, pp.11-23. [back]
79 F. D. Nichol, Reasons for Our Faith, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1947, pp.43-64; The Midnight Cry, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1944. [back]
80 L E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Vol. IV, Washington D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1954, pp.503-554. [back]
81 Froom, Movement of Destiny, pp.146-147. [back]
82 Ibid., pp.148-182. [back]
83 Ibid., pp.175-176. [back]
84 James White, "Christ Equal with God," Review and Herald, November 29, 1877, p.172. [back]
85 Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Editor D F Neufeld, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1966, pp.1406-1418. [back]
86 Ibid., pp.1253-1254. By 'spirit of prophecy' the Adventist understands that God spoke to and through Ellen White by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in a manner similar to prophets in Biblical times without implying that her writings form part of the Scriptural canon. [back]
87 Froom, Movement of Destiny, pp.157-174. Froom traces the semi-Arian views of Uriah Smith from 18651898. He particularly compares Smith's Thoughts on the Revelation as the author discusses Rev. 1:4. He notes Smith's modification of view in comparing the first, second and third editions of 1865, 1875 and 1881. Smith died in 1903 and Froom states that in the 1944 revision of Smith's book this passage, together with all others containing Arian concepts, were permanently deleted. Froom also maintains that J H Waggoner held to stricted view of Christ and denied the personality of the Holy Spirit. Ibid. [back]
88 William W Prescott (1855-1944) educator and editor. Was president of Battle Creek College (1885-1894), then of Union College and Walla Walla College. Recognized as a Biblical scholar. Started ministerial training work at Avondale School, Australia, then had charge of Adventist work in England, where he associated with E J Waggoner. In 1901 was elected vice-president of the General Conference. Was chairman of Review and Herald board, and editor of Review (1903-1909), then of Protestant Magazine (1909-1916). Was principal of Australia Missionary College in 1922, head of the Bible Department of Union College (1924-1928), then of Emmanuel Missionary College (1930-1934) - thenceforth writing, editing, and researching until his retirement in 1937. See Froom, Movement of Destiny, p.377. [back]
89 The Doctrine of Christ consists of 18 sections all revolving around the central pivot of Christ. "Each section is comprised of a series of lessons. Each lesson is composed of a series of propositions, followed by a list of supporting texts. And each chapter closes with a series of notes or citations that illustrate and enforce the thought of the lesson." See Froom, Movement of Destiny, p.381. For a discussion of the book see Ibid. pp.380-391. [back]
90 Ibid., p.391.[ back]
91 President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists from 1901-1922. For brief biographical sketch see Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, pp.326,327.[back]
92 Froom, Movement of Destiny, p.397. [back]
93 See Arthur G Daniells, Christ our Righteousness, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1926 (1941). In this work Daniells sets forth the principles of righteousness by faith in the light of the Word of God and the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. [back]
94 In January 1928 the first issue of The Ministry, edited by the Ministerial Association and published by the Review and Herald made its appearance. See Froom, Movement of Destiny, p.402. The Ministry has appeared regularly on a monthly basis since 1928. It serves particularly the ministers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. [back]
95 For the story of the preparation of the "Fundamental Beliefs" in the Yearbook of 1931 and the unified Baptismal Certificate and Vow of 1941 see Froom, Movement of Destiny, pp.409-422. [back]
96 Leroy E Froom was a leading Seventh-day Adventist editor and scholar. Particularly as editor of The Ministry (1928-50) his influence on the ministry of the church was strong. Walter E Read was a leading Adventist scholar and chairman of the Institute of Biblical Research from 1952 to 1959. Read has given great impetus to sound Biblical exegesis in his contribution to Adventist Christology. Roy A. Anderson, an Australian by birth, became a leading evangelist in Australia, England and the U.S.A. His influence became pronounced as editor of The Ministry (1950-66) and as Secretary of the Ministerial Department of the church, first as associate (1941-5D), then as secretary (1950-66). [back]
97 Mention has already been made of the four volumes of The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers by Froom which appeared from 1946-1954. See footnote 61 in this chapter. [back]
98 The 1952 Bible Conference was held in the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Washington, D.C., September 1-13. For a full coverage of the presentations given at the 1952 Bible Conference see Our Firm Foundation, Vols. 1,2, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1953. [back]
90 Robert D Brinsmead is an Australian of Adventist background who attended Avondale College for a period but never entered the organized church work. A self-made scholar and a writer of no mean ability, he championed the "Sanctuary Awakening" movement in the 1950's and 1960's and then made a theological somersault in the 1970's to champion the Reformed doctrine of Justification by Faith alone. More recently Brinsmead has moved further away from Adventism by adopting a strong anti-Sabbatarian stance. His
present position on Law and Grace is more in harmony with a form of Lutheran dispensationalism than with the Reformed tradition. See Robert D Brinsmead, "The Sabbath and Genesis 2:2,3; The Heart of New Testament Ethics; A Reply to Desmond Ford's Sabbatarian Arguments," Fallbrook, California: Verdict Publications, 1982. Best known today as editor of the magazine entitled Verdict. [back]
100 Brinsmead took the Mosaic sanctuary as a lesson book on soteriology and found the courtyard representing justification, the first apartment of the sanctuary symbolizing sanctification and the most holy apartment anticipating perfection. Linking the Adventist concept of the judgment taking place in the heavenly sanctuary after 1844 with the ministry of Christ in the second apartment of the sanctuary, Brinsmead taught a bestowal of ultimate perfection on the righteous dead and the righteous living in the pre-Advent judgment. See R D Brinsmead, God's Eternal Purpose, Missouri: Ministry of Healing Health Centers, 1959. [back]
101 See M L Andreasen, The Sanctuary Service, Second Edition, Revised, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1947, pp.299-321. See "A Condensed Summary of the Historic SDA Positions on the humanity of Jesus," (Prepared by Herbert Douglass and consisting of selected statements on the topic through the years by numerous Seventh-day Adventists). A non-Adventist critic is of the opinion that prior to the 1950's almost all Adventist authors taught the sinful nature of Christ and His uncompleted work of atonement at the cross (see Paxton, The Shaking of Adventism, p.88). Leroy Froom and Roy Anderson denied that this was the fundamental teaching of Adventism. [back]
102 See General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Some Current Errors in Brinsmead Teachings, Washington, D.C.: Defense Literature Committee, 1963; Perfection, Washington, D.C.: Defense Literature Committee, 1965; The History and Teaching of Robert Brinsmead, Washington, D.C.: Defense Literature Committee, 1968. [back]
103 Desmond Ford, an Australian by birth and a leading Seventh-day Adventist scholar. A professor of theology at Avondale College, Australia, from 1961-77. Obtained a Ph.D. in New Testament from Manchester University in 1972, his thesis being The Abomination of Desolation in Biblical Eschatology. Through the years he has been a prolific writer contributing many articles to The Ministry magazine chiefly in the field of apocalyptic and eschatology. His main books have been Daniel, Nashville, Tennessee: Southern Publishing Association, 1978, and Daniel 8:14, The Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment, Casselberry, Florida: Evangelion Press, 1980. The latter book, in manuscript form, was the basis of a church convention at Glacier View, Colorado, (August 10-15, 1980), to examine his views. Subsequent to that meeting Ford has lost his credentials as a teacher and minister in the church but has retained his membership. The aftermath of this development has been somewhat divisive. [back]
104 For the recital of this episode in Adventist history see Froom, Movement of Destiny, pp.476-492. See also footnote 69 of this chapter. [back]
105 See Questions on Doctrine, pp.7-10. [back]
106 Milian L Andreasen, Letters to the Churches, Queensland, Australia: Judgment Hour Publishing Company, [n.d.]. These were a series of unofficial 'letters' which Andreasen circulated expressing his personal opposition to what he felt were departures from traditional Adventist views on the nature of Christ and the atonement. Subsequently these 'letters' were privately published. [back]
107 Adventist editors and scholars like Kenneth Wood, editor of the Adventist Review, H Douglass, former associate editor of the Adventist Review and now book editor of the Pacific Press, and C Mervyn Maxwell, Professor of Church History at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, have basically followed Andreasen in opposition to the Christology of Questions on Doctrine. Note, for example, the following from a letter written by H E Douglass to E C Webster on January 18, 1973: "As you no doubt know, there are many, many denominational leaders on many campuses and in many leading offices around the world who do not feel that the book Questions on Doctrine adequately handled this central problem in Christian theology. There will be much more discussion of this as time goes by, I am sure." [back]
108 Heppenstall has been a leading Adventist theologian who takes a strong Christocentric stance maintaining the sinlessness of the human nature of Christ versus the inherent sinfulness of man and his inability to attain to ultimate perfection in this life apart from the merits of Christ. See E Heppenstall, "Let Us Go On Unto Perfection," Perfection, the Impossible Possibility, Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1975, pp. 61-88. [back]
109 For details on Heppenstall's main works see footnote 67 of this chapter. [back]
110 By 'Adventist Reformation mould' I mean that type of theology which lays emphasis on the inherent sinfulness of man, the contrasting sinlessness of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of the cross and the primacy of Justification by Faith. [back]
111 Raoul F Dederen, of Roman Catholic background, became a Seventh-day Adventist as a young man. With a thorough European educational background he trained for the Adventist ministry and worked as a minister and later as a trainer of ministers at the Seventh-day Adventist College at Collognes, France. After completing a doctoral degree in Historical Theology at the University of Geneva, he was called to lecture at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in 1964. Upon the departure of Heppenstall in 1966, Dederen was appointed as chairman of the Department of Theology and Christian Philosophy, a post he still holds in 1982 at the time of writing. Dederen has consistently taught a course in Christology at the Seminary during these years and has had an important and moulding influence on the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. [back]
112 See R D Brinsmead, A Review of the Awakening Message, 2 parts, [n.p.] , 1972-3; Geoffrey J Paxton, The Shaking of Adventism, Delaware: Zenith Publishers, Inc., 1977, pp.121-128. [back]
113 See Paxton, The Shaking of Adventism, pp.125-145. [back]
114 H E Douglass, "Why God is Urgent and Yet Waits, Review and Herald, special issue, "Righteousness by Faith" (May 16, 1974); Jesus, the Model Man, Adult Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly, April-June 1977; "Men of Faith-The Showcase of God's Grace," Perfection, the Impossible Possibility, pp.13-56. Kenneth H Wood, "Jesus Made the Way Plain in Parables," Review and Herald, special issue, "Righteousness by Faith" (May 16, 1974); "For Your Information," Pt. 1, Review and Herald, October 21, 1976; "For Your Information," Parts 2-4, Review and Herald, October 28, 1976, November 4, 1976, November 18, 1976; "Fit for a Wedding," Review and Herald, December 2, 1976. [back]
115 Donald K Short and Robert J Wieland, 1888 Reexamined, Baker, Oregon: The Adventist Forum Association, [1966?]. Early in the 1950's the above two missionaries from East Africa returned to the U.S.A. on furlough and while studying at the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary in Washington, prepared a document entitled 1888 Re-examined. They maintained that the church had rejected the message of the Lord in 1888 and corporate confession of the guilt was necessary. Notice their statement on Christ: "He had, therefore, no natural born righteousness any more than we have; otherwise He could not have partaken of our nature, but would have had an infinite and wholly extra-human advantage which would have rendered faith unnecessary" (p.187). Notice the statement on perfection: "The primary end and purpose of the Advent Movement in world history was the attainment by a remnant church to a perfect character which would completely vindicate the sacrifice of Calvary. No other community of 'saints' in all history had attained to such a maturity of experience. This last community of saints should become fully worthy to constitute the population of a New Jerusalem,' having overcome all the mistakes of all previous generations of the professed people of God" (pp.9,10). [back]
116 The "Latter rain" is a term applied to a special bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon the church in the end-time, enabling Christians to witness mightily for Christ. This results in the earth being 'lightened' with the message of the gospel, enabling all men to decide between truth and error. [back]
117 See Adventist Review, May 29, 1980, p.17. The advert speaks of Wieland and Short as "two long-time advocates of Christ's righteousness." This periodical went through several changes in nomenclature. At its inception in 1850 the name was Second Advent Review, and Sabbath Herald; in 1851 the name changed to The Advent Review, and Sabbath Herald; in 1861 to Review and Herald; in 1971 it went back to the old name Advent Review and Sabbath Herald; and finally in 1978 it assumed its current name, Adventist Review. Perhaps the name most widely used to identify the magazine in the United States is Review and Herald. [back]
118 There is controversy as to whether Froom represents enlightened, progressive Adventism built on the best in the past or whether he represents a subtle departure from the faith. [back]
119 Froom, Movement of Destiny, pp.493-517. [back]
120 Ibid., pp.357-374. [back]
121 A Bible Institute was held at Minneapolis from October 10-17, 1888, followed by a General Conference Session from October 17-November 4. At these meetings E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones featured prominently and the emphasis on justification by faith in Jesus Christ was strong. [back]
122 D Ford, "The Scope and Limits of the Pauline Expression 'Righteousness by Faith'," Documents From the Palmdale Conference on Righteousness by Faith,' pp.1-13. [back]
123 That is exactly what the process, righteousness by faith, is all about - to produce...someone just like Jesus," (H Douglass, Perfection, the Impossible Possibility, p.29). [back]
124 See "Christ our Righteousness," Review and Herald, May 27, 1976, pp.4-7. At the Palmdale Conference a group of Adventist theologians, editors and administrators from Australia and the U.S.A. met to discuss the issues of the 'righteousness by faith' controversy. A statement was issued after the Conference. [back]
125 N C Wilson, "An Open Letter to the Church," Adventist Review, May 24, 1979. In this letter, Neal C Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, appealed for a halt to the debate on the subject. He announced that the church intended to study the issues in Conference and appealed for patience and prayerful study. [back]
126 The Dynamics of Salvation," Adventist Review, July 31, 1980, pp.3-8. [back]
127 Ibid. In "Background on the statement 'The Dynamics of Salvation'," we quote: "Certain aspects of this inexhaustible theme, such as the nature of Christ, perfection, and original sin, are not dealt with in detail in this paper" (p.3). [back]
128 G J Paxton, The Shaking of Adventism, Wilmington, Delaware: Zenith Pub. Inc., 1977. [back]
129 Ibid., especially pp.82-96. [back]
130 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, Revised 1976, pp.32-39.[back]
131 Adventist Review, May 1, 1980, p.23. [back]
132 Adventist Review, May 1, 1980, p.23. [back]
133 Ibid., p.25. [back]
134 Thomas A Davis, Was Jesus Really Like Us?, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1979; Edward Heppenstall, The Man Who is God, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977. [back]
135 Note the thought of Davis: "We must keep before us the concept around which our whole investigation points, that Jesus had a nature like that of a born-again person" (Davis, Was Jesus Really Like Us? p.53). Speaking of Jesus' success in defeating Satan, Davis says of Christ: "He never gave His weak, fallen nature a chance" (Ibid., p.70). Then Davis also speaks of Christ's nature as one "affected by sin just as fully as our natures are touched by sin, and in that sense was a sinful nature. Yet He had no sin" (Ibid., p.80). One does wonder if there is not an element of contradiction in the book when one reads elsewhere: "I suggest that Jesus was born with a spiritual nature and a will as unfallen as that of Adam before the Fall" (Ibid., p.96). [back]
136 In view of the fact that we will be devoting an entire chapter to the Christology of Heppenstall we will not enlarge now on his position, except to give one quote to illustrate his contrasting view to that of Davis. Heppenstall writes: "The connection of all other men with Adam has produced in them a fallen, human nature with tendencies to sin. Christ is the one exception in that He had no such inclination or bent to sin" (Heppenstall, The Man Who is God, p.132). [back]
137 In reading Davis one does come away with the impression that for him sin is to be completely eradicated from the Christian's life. Concerning man Davis speaks of "a life in which all sin is subdued" (Davis, Was Jesus Really Like Us? p.120); of "no sin, no weakness, no besetment - of thought, action, word, impulse or feeling -that we cannot overcome" (Ibid., p.129); and that there is no excuse "for continuing in sin in any way or in any degree" (Ibid., p.156). We will discover when dealing with Heppenstall that his doctrine of Christian perfection has a different nuance. More on that in the Heppenstall chapter. [back]
138 Froom, Movement of Destiny, pp.148-181, 409-492. [back]
139 Fred T Wright, The Destiny of a Movement, Palmwoods, Queensland: The Judgment Hour Publishing Company, 1976. [back]
140 We refer the reader to footnote 86 of this chapter. [back]
141 E G White, "A Messenger," Review and Herald, July 26, 1906. [back]
142 E G White, "A Missionary Appeal," Review and Herald, December 15, 1885. "The Bible and the Bible alone, is to be our creed, the sole bond of union;" [back]
143 E G White, The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1911, pp. v-xii. "In like manner, after the close of the canon of Scripture, the Holy Spirit was still to continue its work, to enlighten, warn, and comfort the children of God" (p.viii). [back]
144 E G White, Colporteur Ministry, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1953, p.125 [back]
145 Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Commentary Reference Series, Vol. 10, pp.1419-1425. [back]
146 Ibid., p.1385. [back]
147 Became assistant editor of the Signs of the Times in 1884 and editor in 1886,which post he held until May 1891. From 1892-1903 he was editor of the British Present Truth. [back]
148 The Minneapolis Bible Institute was conducted from October 10-17, with the General Conference following from October 17-November 4, 1888. [back]
149 For some discussion regarding the content at the Conference see footnote 56 in chapter three where we deal with the Christology of Waggoner. [back]
150 E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, Mountain View: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1890; The Gospel in Creation, Battle Creek, Michigan: International Tract Society, 1895; The Glad Tidings, Oakland, California: Pacific Press Publishing Company, 1900; The Everlasting Covenant, London: International Tract Society, 1900. [back]
151 E. J. Waggoner presented 16 sermons on the Romans at the 1891 General Conference Session and studies on Hebrews at the 1897 session. He also at the 1899, 1901 and 1903 sessions. [back]
152 Became editor of the Present Truth in England in 1892 and continued until 1903. Articles by E. J. Waggoner were used frequently in the Australian Bible Echo and Signs of the Times. [back]
153 Edward Heppenstall was professor of theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary from 1955-1967. See footnotes 67 and 108 of this chapter. [back]
154 Mention has already been made of his books, Our High Priest, Salvation Unlimited and The Man Who is God. Heppenstall has also been a regular contributor to periodicals like The Ministry and These Times. [back]
155 We will give a historical sketch of Douglass in the chapter devoted to him. He was associate editor of the Review and Herald from 1970-1976. [back]
156 H. E. Douglass, "The Unique Contribution of Adventist Eschatology," North American Bible Conference, 1974, Washington, D.C.: General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1974. [back]
157 'Harvest Theology' is based on the parable of the growing seed in Mark 4:26-29. When the grain is ripe the sickle is put to it because the harvest is come. This concept maintains that eventually a final generation of saints will reach such a point of spiritual maturity that the harvest of the earth will be ripe and Christ will return. [back]
At Issue Index Webster Index Previous Next
THE CHRISTOLOGY OF ELLEN GOULD WHITE
In this chapter we wish to focus attention on the Christology of Ellen G White. Without a doubt she has played a dominant role in Adventism due to the extent of her writings, to her claim to possess the prophetic gift of the Spirit and to her span of personal influence from 1844 to 1915.We will firstly place Ellen White in her historical context; secondly, we will note the contextual factors in relation to her writings; thirdly, we will give an analysis of her Christology; and, lastly, we will seek to give an evaluation and critique of this aspect of her theological contribution.
1. A Historical Sketch of Ellen G White1
Ellen Gould Harmon was born on November 26, 1827, near Gorham, Maine, in the United States of America. At the age of nine she suffered a severe accident when a classmate threw a stone, hitting her in the face. The results were such that her formal education was curtailed.
Ellen Harmon's parents and family belonged to the Methodist Church and when William Miller2 held lectures in Portland,3 they accepted his second advent Because of this, Ellen, her parents, and others were disfellowshipped from the Portland Methodist Church. At the time of the Millerites' disappointment in the autumn of 1844 and again on October 22, 1844, she was deeply affected, and with others sought God earnestly for light and guidance in the succeeding days of perplexity.
In December 1844 Ellen Harmon experienced her first vision during a morning ladies' prayer meeting.4 In the ensuing years she claimed that God spoke to her in a unique way through dreams and visions. On August 30, 1846, Ellen Harmon was united in marriage to James White, an Adventist preacher, and thereafter became known as Ellen G White. About this time James and Ellen White became convinced of the seventh-day Sabbath and began its observance.
In July 1851 James White published Mrs. White's first pamphlet of 64 pages, entitled A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White. This was followed in
1854 by a 48-page supplement. These now form a part of the currently available Early Writings (pages 11-127).5
From 1852-55 they lived in Rochester, New York, busy printing church periodicals such as the Review and Herald and the Youth's Instructor. In November 1855 the Whites moved to new headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan.6 This became the centre for Seventh-day Adventism. In 1858 Ellen White was shown aspects of the conflict between good and evil which formed the basis of her Conflict of the Ages series. Shortly after the organization of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, in May 1863, Ellen White claimed to have received a vision regarding health reform which set the movement on a health and temperance course. The winter of 1872-1873 found the Whites in northern California on the first of several extended western visits made during the next few years. In 1874 James White began the publication of a weekly journal, The Signs of the Times, to which Mrs. White contributed articles. Some 2,000 articles from her pen appeared in the Signs by the time of her death.
On January 4, 1875, Ellen White took a prominent part in the dedication of Battle Creek College, the first of many Seventh-day Adventist educational institutions. During the next few years she was writing continually, attending General Conference sessions, appearing before temperance groups and speaking at camp meetings and in local churches. On August 6, 1881, James White died at the age of 60, leaving his wife a widow, aged 53 years. In 1884 she was invited to spend time in Europe, which was done from August 1885 to August 1887. On her return to the U S A she settled at Healdsburg, California, and attended the famous Minneapolis General Conference in 1888. For the next few years she was engaged with others in expounding the subject of righteousness by faith in the churches. In 1891 Ellen White was invited to labor in Australia and was accompanied by her son, W C White. The years of labor in Australia from 1891 to 1900 proved of great blessing in laying a solid foundation for Adventism in that part of the world. These were also very productive years in the writing field for Ellen White.
Returning to the United States in 1900, Ellen White purchased Elmshaven, a country home some 70 miles north of San Francisco. This became her base and from it radiated an influence affecting Seventh-day Adventism. She attended a number of General Conference sessions, encouraged the opening of the Loma Linda Medical School, lent support to evangelism amongst the colored race in the southern states and continued to write extensively. On July 16, 1915, Ellen G White died at the age of 87 years.
Ellen White's total literary production was unusually large. She covered a wide range of subjects and amongst her best-known books are The Desire of Ages, Steps to Christ, The Great Controversy, The Ministry of Healing, Education and the Testimonies for the Church. At the time of her death her literary productions consisted of well over 100,000 pages; 24 books in current circulation; 2 book manuscripts ready for publication; 4,600 periodical articles in the journals of the Seventh-day Adventist Church; 200 or more out-of-print tracts and pamphlets; 6,000 typewritten manuscript documents consisting of letters and general manuscripts and 2,000 handwritten letters, documents, diaries and journals.7
Ellen White, while recognizing that her work embodied that of a prophet, never assumed the title of prophet or prophetess, maintaining rather that she was the Lord's messenger, bearing His message to the people. She was not ordained by the laying on of hands, neither did she hold office in a local church or conference, including the General Conference. The Seventh-day Adventist Church repeatedly, in official actions in General Conference session and unofficially at all times, has recognized Mrs. White as having been called in a special manner as the messenger of the Lord.8
1 For further information on the life, work and teachings of Ellen G. White, consult the following works: D. M. Canwright, Life of Mrs. E G White, Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1919; Lewis Harrison Christian, The Fruitage of Spiritual Gifts, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1947; A Critique of the Book Prophetess of Health, prepared by the staff of the Ellen G. White Estate, Washington, D.C., 1976; Arthur Grosvenor Daniells, The Abiding Gift of Prophecy, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1936; D. A. Delafield, Ellen G. White in Europe, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1975; T Houses Jamison, A Prophet Among You, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1955; J N Loughborough, The Great Second Advent Movement, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1905, 1909; Francis D Nichol, Ellen G White and Her Critics, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1951; Ronald L Numbers, Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G White, New York: Harper and Row, 1976; Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Commentary Reference Series, Vol. 10, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1966, pp.1406-1418; Horace J Shaw, "A Rhetorical Analysis of the Speaking of Mrs. Ellen G. White," Ph.D. dissertation, Michigan State University, 1959; Arthur W. Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1961, 4 volumes; Arthur L White, Ellen G White: The Early Elmshaven Years, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1981, (Volume 5 of a 6-volume series); Arthur L. White, Ellen G White: Messenger to the Remnant, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1969; Arthur L. White, The Ellen G. White Writings, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1973; James White, Life Sketches, Ancestry, Early Life, Christian Experience and Extensive Labors, of Elder James White, and His Wife, Mrs. Ellen G White, Battle Creek, Michigan: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1880; Francis McLellan Wilcox, The Testimony of Jesus, Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1934; Guy H. Winslow, "Ellen Gould White and Seventh-day Adventism," Ph.D. dissertation, Clark University, 1933. [back]
2 William Miller, a Baptist lay-preacher, became convinced through personal study of the prophecies of Daniel that the second advent of Jesus Christ would occur around 1843. In 1831 he felt compelled to begin public lectures. Others joined him and between 1840 to 1844 an interdenominational movement known as the Millerite movement flourished particularly in the United States. This development gave rise to a group of denominations
classed as Adventist bodies, the largest of which, after 1844, developed into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. For information on William Miller and the Millerite Movement, see Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, pp.787-796; cf. Seventh-day Adventist Bible Students' Source Book Commentary Reference Series, Volume 9, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1962, pp.657- 662; Francis D Nichol, The Midnight Cry, Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1944. [back]
3 In March, 1840, William Miller visited Portland, Maine, and gave a course of lectures on the second coming of Christ. As a young girl of 12, Ellen Harmon with some friends attended these meetings. This led Ellen into an experience of spiritual awakening. In June, 1842, William Miller gave a second course of lectures in Portland. Ellen and other members of her family again attended. On June 26, 1842, Ellen was baptized by immersion in Casco Bay on her own request by a Methodist minister and received into the membership of the Methodist Church in Portland. However, in September 1843, because of their views on the second advent, she and her parents and other members of the family were disfellowshipped from the Pine Street Methodist Church. See Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Volume I, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1948, pp. 9-44 (first appearing in pamphlet form as Testimony for the Church, No. 1, published in 1855, at Battle Creek, Michigan); Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, p.1406. [back]
4 An account of this first vision is given in Ellen White, Early Writings, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1882, 1945, pp.13-19. Cf. Ellen White, Life Sketches, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press, 1915, pp.64-68; Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1, pp.58-61. [back]
5 In Appendix A the reader will find a chart showing the development of the Ellen G. White books from 1844-1915. [back]
6 James and Ellen White had the following children: Their first child, Henry Nichols, was born on August 26, 1847. In July 1849, a second son, James Edson, was born at Rocky Hill, Connecticut. On August 29, 1854, a third son, William Clarence, was born while the parents were living at Rochester, New York. The fourth son, John Herbert, was born September 20, 1860, at Battle Creek, Michigan. John died after a few months from illness. Henry, their first son, died from pneumonia in 1863 at the age of 16. James Edson went into private business and in 1893 was inspired to begin a Mississippi River boat mission. This he did in a private capacity for many years and Spalding speaks of him as the "challenger to Christian adventure and the despair of conventional workers" (A. W. Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, Vol. 2, p.347). William Clarence became a strong worker in the church, being ordained as a minister, occupying many different posts and even serving as acting president of the General Conference for a few months in 1888. He is mainly remembered for his invaluable help to his mother and for taking charge of the Ellen G. White Estate, chiefly a literary legacy. After Ellen White's death in 1915, William White continued as administrator of the White Estate literary works for another 22 years until his death (see Ibid., pp.34,35). [back]
7 Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, p.1413 .[back]
8 The reader is referred to Ellen G White Estate, The Spirit of Prophecy Treasure Chest, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1960, pp.124- 126. Here a sampling of General Conference actions regarding the work and writings of Ellen White are recorded. Resolutions as recorded in the Review and Herald are given and those selected cover the years 1857, 1869, 1870, 1873, 1882, 1954, 1958. Note a statement from the 1958 resolution: "As delegates to the world session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, we reaffirm our belief and full confidence in this prophetic gift, as manifested through Ellen G White" (Treasure Chest, p.126). [back]
II. Contextual Factors in Approaching her Writings
Over 100,000 pages of written material by the time of her death in 1915 is a very unusual accomplishment for a woman author.9 Beginning with two letters published in the Day-Star of 1846, the volume of writing increased steadily, reaching a crescendo in the years 1890-1915. Since the death of Ellen White many compilations10 on different subjects have appeared, making use of her published and unpublished sources, the latter being mainly periodical articles, manuscripts, pamphlets and letters.
What motivated a woman with her limited educational background and with a husband and four children, to devote so much of her time and efforts to writing? There is no doubt that a sense of her prophetic mission to the Advent Movement was the dominating factor. She was convinced that God had revealed Himself to her through dreams and visions and that she was to make known to others what had been revealed to her. This led her to write many 'testimonies' to individuals and church groups, some of the most representative covering the period 1855-1909, appearing in nine volumes entitled Testimonies for the Church. These testimonies were of a practical, exhortatory and instructional nature, often containing devotional and inspirational nuggets.
Ellen White's range of theological interest covered aspects of the plan of salvation from the inception of sin in heaven to the final restoration of all things. This theme of what she called 'the great controversy between Christ and Satan' became the burden of much of her writing. These thoughts first found expression in four volumes entitled Spiritual Gifts appearing from 1858-1864. The messages in these volumes were refined and amplified in another four volumes appearing under the title, The Spirit of Prophecy during the years 1870-1884. Further development took place and these books were replaced with the five volumes of the Conflict of the Ages series, namely, Patriarchs and Prophets (1890); Prophets and Kings (1917); Desire of Ages (1898); Acts of the Apostles (1911) and The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan (1888). The nature of these writings is not exegetical but could be described as an expository, homiletical and descriptive survey of the Scriptures set in a devotional and spiritual framework.
If one compares the style of the writing of Ellen White in her earlier works such as Early Writings and Spiritual Gifts with such books as The Desire of Ages (1898), The Ministry of Healing (1905) or Acts of the Apostles (1911), one discovers a development and
growth in her style of language and expression.
Building her own library, 11 she devoted time to the reading of books of a devotional and theological nature on Biblical and historical themes. All of this contributed to the development of her own writing style.
With the tremendous amount of writing, Ellen White felt it necessary to employ literary assistants to aid in the checking, correcting, copying and compiling of the material. The actual role of these literary assistants has been the subject of controversy. 12 The secretaries would often have to gather existing written material by Ellen White from periodical articles or manuscripts to form the basis of some new book. 13 It is now also clear that in the preparation of her articles and books material by other authors found in various sources was carefully selected for incorporation in her writings. This question of Ellen White's use of other sources has also elicited much discussion and is at present receiving scholarly investigation by the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 14
In the volume of material covering periodical articles, manuscripts, pamphlets, letters and books it is understandable that there is a certain amount of repetition of material. This must be borne in mind in making any investigation of the subject. It is important to find the context of a particular statement to see how the author intended it to be understood. This is, of course, particularly vital when material in compilations put together after the death of Ellen White is studied. The compiler might take a paragraph and use it to emphasize a certain point when the original context of the paragraph might throw a different light on the material.
Ellen White is also not a systematic theologian and her views on Christology must be gleaned from her whole corpus of writings. Her magnum opus on Christology, The Desire of Ages, is, likewise, not a systematic theology, but a descriptive and devotional study on the life of Christ.
9 Reference has already been made to the fact that as a result of the accident which Ellen White had at the age of nine her formal education was hampered. After intermittent efforts, she made a brief last attempt at school at about the age of 12, and again suffered failing health. Her later education came from reading and from contacts with others. She must have been strongly motivated to have spent so much of her life in writing. [back]
10 In harmony with the provisions of Ellen White's will calling for the publication of books compiled from her manuscripts, and her instruction that various of her articles which had appeared in the journals of the church should be reprinted, the Board of Trustees of the White Estate - which her will created to care for her writings have issued many posthumous works. A few selected titles are given: Counsels on Health (1923); Messages to Young People (1930); Evangelism (1946); The Adventist Home (1952); Selected Messages, Books 1 & 2 (1958). For a complete list up to 1961 see
Comprehensive Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, Vol. 3, pp.3206-3210. Books have continued to appear regularly right up to the present. For example: In Heavenly Places (1967); Mind, Character and Personality, Book 1 & 2 (1977); This Day With God (1979); Selected Messages, Book 3 (1980). For the complete up-to-date listing write to the White Estate, Washington, D.C. [back]
11 At the time of Ellen White's death in 1915, a detailed inventory of her estate was made. Two separate sections of the inventory dealt with books. One section involved her private library in her "sitting room bookcase", the other, her office library where her literary assistants worked. For further study into the books owned by Ellen White an important document listing all her books has just recently been prepared. It is: A Bibliography of Ellen G. White's Private and Office Libraries, compiled by Warren H. Johns, Tim Poirier, and Ron Graybill, Ellen G White Estate, May 1982. It consists of 47 pages of book listings. About five hundred and fifty of the titles listed were books sold to Ellen White by Clarence C. Crisler on September 19, 1913. Crisler had been working in Ellen White's office since July 1901. Important research is now in progress to see which of Ellen White's books she used as source material in her own writings. [back]
12 For a discussion of the role of Ellen White's literary assistants see F. D. Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, pp.468-86; Arthur L. White, The Ellen G. White Writings, pp.99-101. [back]
13 Note the articles in The Review and Herald from July 3, 1913 to February 26, 1914 which formed the substance of Prophets and Kings pp.87-300 which was published in 1916. [back]
14 This question of Ellen White's use of sources will come up for more detailed discussion in the evaluation. [back]
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III. Ellen White's Christology
The material forming the substance of Ellen White's Christology lies scattered throughout her writings. It is our task to discover the dominant themes and tendencies in her thought. Is there any progression in her Christological views from the earliest times to her mature years? Is there general harmony in her ideas or is there contradiction in the mass of material? Does she approach Christology 'from above' or 'from below'? Would she find herself comfortable in the ontological, the functional or some other classification of Christology?
Because the main focus of this dissertation is on the Incarnation it was felt best to concentrate on this area of Christology in our description of Ellen White's position. This in itself is a broad field and offers much scope for the student of Ellen White. After
careful research and analysis it was decided to present three sections on the Incarnation, namely, Incarnation and Nature, Incarnation and Sin and Incarnation and Grace. The first will deal with the Person of Christ, the second with the relationship between Christ and sin and the third with the work of Christ. To give perspective we will present Ellen White's views of the pre-existence of Christ before we tackle the Incarnation and then will close with a picture of Christ in the future. Let us commence with her views regarding Christ's preexistence.
A. The Pre-existence of Christ
Ellen White always professed the pre-existence of Christ and in her later writings came out clearly in support of the eternity of Christ and His equality with the Father in nature and essence. Note her declaration in 189215 on the essential equality of Christ with the Father in His pre-existent state: "The only way in which the fallen race could be restored was through the gift of His Son, equal with Himself, possessing the attributes of God."16
To actually possess the attributes of God would place Christ on an essential equality with the Father. In 1897 Ellen White said of Christ: "He is the eternal self-existent Son."17
Here she is clear that Christ had no beginning but is eternal. In her book, The Desire of Ages, written in 1898, she states on His eternity: "From the days of eternity the Lord Jesus Christ was one with the Father; He was 'the image of God', the image of His greatness and majesty, 'the outshining of His glory.?"18 In a very important article in the Review and Herald in 1906 these concepts regarding the pre-existence, the eternity and the equality of Christ with the Father were penned:
"But while God's Word speaks of the humanity of Christ when upon this earth, it also speaks decidedly regarding His pre-existence. The Word existed as a divine being, even as the eternal Son of God, in union and oneness with His Father. From everlasting He was the Mediator of the covenant,...Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore."19
We now wish to look back and note chronologically whether there was any development in the clarity of thought and expression in Ellen White regarding the equality of Christ with the Father and the question of His eternity in His pre-existent state. In order to examine the evidence, we will compare comparative sections in the three books, Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1 (1858), Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1 (1870) and Patriarchs and Prophets (1890).
The first chapter in Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1 entitled "The Fall of Satan" is foundational. The first chapter in Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1 has the same title and amplifies the chapter in Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1. The first chapter in Patriarchs and Prophets entitled "Why Was Sin Permitted?" is a further amplification of the first chapter in the two earlier works.
We first quote from Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1 (1858):
"The Lord has shown me that Satan was once an honored angel in heaven, next to Jesus Christ ..And I saw that when God said to his Son, Let us make man in our image, Satan was jealous of Jesus. He wished to be consulted concerning the formation of man...He wished to be the highest in heaven, next to God, and receive the highest honors... Satan was insinuating against the government of God, ambitious to exalt himself, and unwilling to submit to the authority of Jesus. Some of the angels sympathized with Satan in his rebellion, and others strongly contended for the honor and wisdom of God in giving authority to his Son...Satan and his affected ones...wished to look into his unsearchable wisdom to ascertain his purpose in exalting Jesus, and endowing him with such unlimited power and command. They rebelled against the authority of the Son of God,..."20
In the first sentence above it would almost appear as if there is a graded position between God the Father, Jesus Christ and the angels. That Ellen White did not mean by this that Jesus Christ was an angel is made clear in chapter III, "The Plan of Salvation" of the same book: "The angels prostrated themselves before him. They offered their lives. Jesus said to them that he should by his death save many; that the life of an angel could not pay the debt. His life alone could be accepted of his Father as a ransom for man."21
In the remainder of the passage in Spiritual Gifts the suggestion is made that the Father gave authority to His Son, exalted Him and endowed Him with unlimited power and command. This is, of course, in connection with the coming creation of man but it does sound as if the position of Christ was in doubt and as if God the Father bestowed the authority on Christ which was not His inherently. It sounds in this passage as if the Son is subordinate to the Father.
We move on to the comparative section as it appeared in The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1, of 1870:
"Satan in Heaven, before his rebellion, was a high and exalted angel, next in honor to God's dear Son...He [Christ] 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 great Creator assembled the heavenly host, that he might in the presence of all the angels confer special honor upon His Son...The Father then made known that it was ordained by himself that Christ, his Son, should be equal with himself; so that wherever was the presence of his Son, it was as his own presence. The word of the Son was to be obeyed as readily as the word of the Father. His Son he had invested with authority to command the heavenly host...Satan was envious and jealous of Jesus Christ...But Christ was acknowledged sovereign of Heaven, his power and authority to be the same as that of God himself...They [Satan and his sympathizers were discontented and unhappy because they could not look into his [God's] unsearchable wisdom and ascertain his purposes in exalting his Son Jesus, and endowing him with such unlimited power and command. They rebelled against the authority of the Son...They [loyal angels] justified the act of God in conferring honor upon Jesus Christ....They clearly set forth that Jesus was the Son of God, existing with him before the angels were created; and that he had ever stood at the right hand of God,...22
The above is similar in sentiment but more expansive than the 1858 presentation. Once again there is the jealousy on the part of Satan over the exaltation and endowment of Jesus Christ and the conferring of honor upon Him. There is the additional thought in the 1870 material on the oneness of Christ with the Father and their equality. Note, "He [Christ] was one with the Father before the angels were created...it was ordained by himself that Christ, his Son, should be equal with himself."23 The unity of the Father and the Son is stated, a unity which reaches back before the creation of the angels. Christ is declared to be the Son of God existing before the angelic creation and that he had ever stood at the right hand of God. However, it is not clear whether this unity is an eternal one or whether the equality of Christ with the Father is a delegated equality or an inherent one of nature. It must also be said that the passage of 1870 sounds clearer than the one of 1858, indicating that the unity of the Son and the Father had been of long standing and the special exaltation and endowment of Christ was a special act in view of the participation of Christ in the creation of man.
We now finally look at Patriarchs and Prophets, written in 1890, and compare the section covering the same ground as in the previous two works:
"Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father - one in nature, in character, in purpose - the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God. 'His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of peace'...The Father wrought by his Son in the creation of all heavenly beings...Sin originated with him, who, next to Christ, had been most honored of God, and was highest in power and glory among the inhabitants of heaven...And coveting the glory with which the infinite Father had invested his Son, this prince of angels aspired to power that was the prerogative of Christ alone ...Lucifer allowed his jealousy of Christ to prevail, and became the more determined...The King of the universe summoned the heavenly hosts before him, that in their presence he might set forth the true position of his Son, and show the relation he sustained to all created beings. The Son of God shared the Father's throne, and the glory of the eternal, self-existent One encircled both...The exaltation of the Son of God as equal with the Father was represented as an injustice to Lucifer...There had been no change in the position or authority of Christ. Lucifer's envy and misrepresentation, and his claims to equality with Christ, had made necessary a statement of the true position of the Son of God; but this had been the same from the beginning". 24
Here there is still further progression of thought in stating that Christ's equality with the Father is one of nature as well as character and purpose. The glory of the eternal, self-existent One encircles both the Father and the Son. Here it is clearly indicated that Christ's equality with the Father had ever been such, but that Satan's jealousy over Christ concerning his participation in the creation of man had made a declaration of the position necessary.
This writer submits that in comparing these three works over the period 1858 to 1890 there is a progressive clarity in enunciating the Christology of Ellen White with relation to the nature and person of the pre-existent Christ. We would suggest that what we are
dealing with here is not contradiction. The earlier work did contain the germinal thought which was expanded and refined through the years. While never clearly adopting an Arian position, Ellen White was surrounded with some Adventist leaders who thought in this line and she, no doubt, worked in the theological milieu of her time. It is quite remarkable that while a form of semi-Arianism was evident in Adventism up to the end of the 19th century that Ellen White was able to avoid the pitfall.25 No doubt her own thinking and understanding of the subject also grew and hence her language and expression became clearer.26
It is important to note that well before the appearance of Patriarchs and Prophets in 1890,Ellen White was already using terms such as 'eternal' and 'everlasting' in relation to Christ. In 1878 she contrasts the unworthiness, weakness and inefficiency of man with 'the eternal Son of God'.27 In 1881 when she described the price Christ paid on Calvary, she says: "His throne is from everlasting, and his kingdom shall have no end."28 It is helpful to remember Ellen White's ascription of Christ as eternal and everlasting in 1878 and 1881 in giving consideration to the previously from Patriarchs and Prophets it simply states the position of Christ same from the beginning.29
It is also of interest to note that Ellen White said in 1874 that the sentence of death would be borne by a substitute of greater value than the law of God: 'But a plan was devised that the sentence of death should rest upon a substitute of superior value to the law of God.'30
To many Christians this statement might appear banal but it should be remembered that for Seventh-day Adventist who place such emphasis on the moral law of God as the standard of righteousness and as a transcript of the character of God, the statement is significant for the person of Christ.
After 1890 Ellen White's thoughts on the eternity and the equality of the Son with the Father in Christ's pre-existent state are clearly and forcefully enunciated. Could it be that the Minneapolis Conference of 1888 sharpened her focus on the greater need to enunciate her Christology with greater clarity for the benefit of the church? Her writings after 1890 become a gold-mine of Christological truth.31
15 While we commence here with a declaration in 1892 please note that in the ensuing discussion (pp.67-74) we devote attention to Ellen White's position on Christ relative to the Father in her earlier period. [back]
16 E. G. White, "Imperative Necessity of Searching for Truth," Review and Herald, November 8, 1892. See also Review and Herald, April 5, 1906; and The Great Controversy, p.493: "Christ...was one with the eternal Father, - one in nature, in character, and in purpose." The reader will notice that certain words of Ellen White are underlined for emphasis. This is my own emphasis and will be occurring throughout this chapter. If at any point the emphasis is Ellen White's own this will be stated. [back]
17 E. G. White, Manuscript 101, 1897 (Cited in Evangelism, Washington, D.C.: Review
and Herald Publishing Association, 1946, p.615). For further references on Ellen White's view of Christ's eternity see Questions on Doctrine, pp.644,645. Here twelve references are given. [back]
18 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1898, p.19. [back]
19 E. G. White, "The Word Made Flesh," Review and Herald, April 5, 1906 (Cited in Questions on Doctrine, pp.645,642). [back]
20 E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts, The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels, and Satan and His Angels, Vol. 1, Battle Creek, Michigan: Published by James White, 1858, pp.17,18. [back]
21 Ibid., p.24. Here Ellen White clearly differentiates between the Son of God and the angels. Evidently, her intention is to convey the thought that angels are part of creation and hence their lives would be insufficient for the atonement. She is implying that Christ's life stood apart from creation. [back]
22 E. G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels, Vol. 1, Battle Creek, Michigan: Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1870, pp.17,18,19.[back]
23 Ibid., p.17. [back]
24 E. G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, the Conflict of the Ages Illustrated in the Lives of Holy Men of Old, Mountain View California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1980, pp. 34-38. [back]
25 Leroy E. Froom has given evidence of some Arian and semi-Arian views in early Adventism (see Movement of Destiny, revised edition, 1978, pp.148-187) Erwin Roy Gane believes that these views were strong and more pervasive than Froom would suggest (see his thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Arts at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Michigan, U S A, entitled, The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian Views Presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G White Answer, 1963). While Gane comes out in strong support of Ellen White's anti-Arian views against this background it should be noted that his evidence is taken mainly from the period 1890 and beyond (see Ibid., pp.67-101). Gane has also compared Ellen White's presentation of Christ in The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1 (1870) with that in Patriarchs and Prophets (1890) as we have done in this dissertation. But it should be noted that Gane overlooked the germinal statement of 1858 in Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1. [back]
26 We wish to take up this question of theological growth in Ellen White's thinking in the evaluation. [back]
27 E G White, Review and Herald, August 8, 1878. It should be noted that in future many references will be made to Ellen White statements in periodicals such as the Review and Herald, Signs of the Times or Youth's Instructor. The name of the article will not always be given. Standard Adventist procedure is to quote the periodical and the issue by year, month and day. As Ellen White usually only had one article in each issue it is easy to locate the statement or thought. In the bibliography the full title of articles and the page numbers in the relevant periodical will be given. [back]
28 E. G. White, Review and Herald, August 2, 1881. See also Ibid., October 27, 1885: "Jesus laid aside his robes of royalty, stepped down from his eternal throne..." See similar thought in Ibid., December 1, 1885. [back]
29 A significant title which Ellen White applies to Christ in His pre-existence as well as during His Incarnation is 'Majesty of heaven.' It appears to be used first in the Review and Herald, December 17, 1872. In the periodicals of the Review and Herald alone it is used over 80 times up to 1915. Some selected references to this usage are: Review and Herald, February 24, 1874; December 6,1881; May 26,1885; February 18, 1890; January 21, 1909; April 13, 1911. There is a consistent use of this title over a span of many years. This is an indication of the importance of the person of Christ for Ellen White. [back]
30 E. G. White, Review and Herald, March 3, 1874. See also Ibid., January 9, 1883: "Christ alone was free from the claims of the law to undertake the redemption of the sinful race. He had power to lay down His life and to take it up again." [back]
31 This can be established by a critical examination of the following books written by Ellen White after this date: 1890 Patriarchs and Prophets; 1892 Gospel Workers; 1892 Steps to Christ; 1896 Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing; 1898 The Desire of Ages; 1900 Christ's Object Lessons; 1900-1909 Testimonies, Vols. 6,7,8,9; 1903 Education; 1905 The Ministry of Healing; 1911 The Acts of the Apostles; 1913 Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students; 1915 Gospel Workers (new edition); 1917 Prophets and Kings. [back]
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B. The Incarnation and Nature
Let us now address ourselves to Ellen White's teaching regarding the Incarnation and the nature of Christ. We will firstly present her views on the Biblical concept of the kenosis; secondly, her teaching in connection with the two natures of Christ; thirdly, we will give attention to her understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation; fourthly, we will show her concepts on the divinity of Christ; and lastly, we will note her emphasis on the humanity of Christ.
1. The Kenosis
While Ellen White did not advocate the modern theories of the kenosis,32 she did
advocate some form of kenosis in harmony with the teaching of Philippians 2:6-8. When the pre-existent Christ adopted humanity and became man what did He surrender and give up? Does Ellen White believe that He laid aside some of the attributes of deity or all of them or none of them? Does she teach that Christ was still God while on earth or does she teach that He ceased to be God in the Incarnation?
Ellen White in many places states what Christ sacrificed and laid aside in becoming a man. She states that He sacrificed His majesty, His splendor, His glory and His honor in adopting humanity.33 The glory which He left is explained as the "glory of the heavenly kingdom,"34 the "glory of the Father"35 and "the glory which He had with His Father before the world was."36 Furthermore, she says: "He left the glory of creation and the glory of instituting and administering the law with the Father."37 Elsewhere she states that Christ "left His throne of glory", or exchanged "the throne of light and glory which He had with the Father for humanity,"38 and "stepped down from the glorious throne in heaven."39 He "laid aside His royal robes and His kingly crown"40 and left "His royal throne"41 and "the royal courts."42 Christ also "left His riches and His high command"43
and "His heavenly home"44 and "laid off His glorious diadem."45
There are, therefore, many things which Ellen White says Christ laid aside in becoming man. However, she does not state that Christ laid aside His essential deity or divinity or the attributes of God in adopting human nature. Instead of saying that Christ laid aside His divinity, she states repeatedly that Christ "clothed His divinity with humanity" or He "veiled His divinity with humanity." These phrases or similar ones are used approximately 125 times in her Review and Herald articles alone in the period from 1872-1914.46 These phrases are so important and representative of Ellen White's thought that we wish to quote one clear example of each:
"For our sake He stepped down from His royal throne, and clothed His divinity with humanity. He laid aside His royal robe, His kingly crown, that He might he one with us."47
We give an example of the other phrase used: "The Majesty of heaven veiled His divinity in humanity, and passed from place to place through towns and cities..."48
Only in one instance did I find that Ellen White used the phrase "laying aside His divinity."49 When one compares the 125 usages of "clothing or veiling His divinity with humanity" to the one usage of "laying aside His divinity," one is forced to give greater weight to the intent of the former phrases and to accept them as indicating her clear teaching.50
It is obvious that when Ellen White says that Christ "clothed His divinity with humanity" she wished to teach that Christ retained His deity in the Incarnation. She writes very clearly: "Christ had not exchanged His divinity for humanity; but He had clothed His divinity in humanity."51 Ellen White does not propound a modern kenotic theory which emaciates the divinity of Christ. Notice her words: "He veiled His divinity with the garb of humanity, but He did not part with His divinity. "52 According to her, Christ did not
lose His divinity when He became man. He was not simply a good man who had been God before. She says: "Though He took humanity upon Himself, He was divine. All that is attributed to the Father Himself is attributed to Christ."53 Ellen White has a very high view of the deity of the Man Christ Jesus: "Christ Himself was the Word, the Wisdom, of God; and in Him God Himself came down from heaven, and clothed Himself in the habitiments of humanity. "54 In describing the visit of Jesus Christ to the temple in Jerusalem she says: "The second temple was honored, not with the cloud of Jehovah's glory, but with the living presence of One in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, - God Himself manifest in the flesh."55
2. The Two Natures
Ellen White maintains that the divine and human natures were combined to form one person. She writes: "Was the human nature of the Son of Mary changed into the divine nature of the Son of God? No; the two natures were mysteriously blended in one person - the Man Christ Jesus."56 This thought of the combination of the divine and the human in Christ is repeatedly stressed. Notice this suggestive statement: "In Christ, divinity and humanity were combined. Divinity was not degraded to humanity; divinity held its place, but humanity by being united to divinity, withstood the fiercest test of temptation in the wilderness."57 In the person of Christ there is a combination of the finite and the Infinite: "The work of God's dear Son in undertaking to link the created with the Uncreated, the finite with the Infinite, in His own divine person, is a subject that may well employ our thoughts for a lifetime."58
In picturesque language Ellen White described Christ as linking humanity and the Infinite in His own grasp. She writes: "With His human arm, Jesus encircled the race, and with His divine arm He grasped the throne of the Infinite, connecting man with God, and earth with heaven."59
The teaching of the two natures in one person is echoed constantly by Ellen White as she described the combination of divinity and humanity in Christ. "In Christ were united the human and the divine."60 In describing how Christ took upon Himself humanity, she writes: "He took upon Him our nature, combining humanity with divinity."61 It was because of this duality of nature that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was of value. "In Him divinity and humanity were combined, and this was what gave efficiency to the sacrifice made on Calvary's cross."62
Ellen White, in speaking of the attitude of Christ's earthly brothers in their opposition to Him wrote: "Their coarse, unappreciative words showed that they had no true perception of His character, and did not discern that the divine blended with the human."63 Even the disciples of Christ had failed to appreciate the fellowship of deity in their earthly association with Christ. She says: "Looking upon Him in His humiliation, as He walked a man among men, understood the mystery of His Incarnation, the dual character of His nature. Their eyes were that they did not fully recognize divinity in humanity.64
Because of Christ's dual nature He was the only one who could be a mediator between
man and God. "He alone could be a mediator between God and man; for He possessed divinity and humanity."65 In describing the qualities of divinity and humanity Ellen White says: "Christ united His divinity with humanity. He possessed the qualities of Infinite and finite. In His person all excellence dwells. "66 Speaking about the Bible, which represented a union of divine and human, she writes: "Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man."67 In referring to Christ, Ellen White at times refers to Him as the divine-human Saviour A divine-human Saviour was needed to bring salvation to the world.68 The dual nature of Christ is clearly taught. He has a two-fold nature at one human and divine. His both God and man.69
3. Mystery of Incarnation
While Ellen White believes in the dual nature of Christ and that in the Incarnation divinity was clothed in humanity, she acknowledges that these truths present great mysteries. She indicates that what makes the Incarnation so difficult to understand and comprehend is the thought of the union of the Infinite and the finite. It is a mystery to man that the God of the universe could be united to a babe in a manger. For man this thought presents mystery and paradox.70
Ellen White speaks of the Incarnation of Christ as the "mystery of all mysteries."71 and that these mysteries "could employ the pens and the highest mental powers of the wisest men from now until Christ shall be revealed in the clouds of heaven in power and great glory."72 These mysteries will ever call forth the best thought that the mind can give: "The study of the Incarnation of Christ, His atoning sacrifice and mediatorial work, will employ the mind of the diligent student as long as time shall last."73
4.The Divinity of Christ
We have already established that Ellen White taught that Christ did not lay aside His divinity in the Incarnation. We have also examined her concept of the combination of divinity and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. We now wish to look more closely at her concepts of the divinity of Christ during the Incarnation.
Ellen White teaches that although Christ was born into the world as a babe taking full humanity He was, nevertheless, God. The Deity was His from His entrance into the world and was not bestowed upon Him in an adoptionistic sense at some point in His ministry. Speaking of the wise men who came to worship the babe she writes: "Beneath the lowly guise of Jesus, they recognized the presence of Divinity. They gave their hearts to Him as their Saviour, and then poured out their gifts - gold, and frankincense, and myrrh."74
Speaking of the priest who performed the dedication of Jesus in the temple, Ellen White affirms that he did not sense that the One lying in his arms was the King of glory.75
Even in the days of His childhood "He was the divine Son of God, and yet a helpless child."76
In the earthly life of Christ the manifestation of His glory was subdued and His majesty veiled that the weak vision of finite men might behold it. "In the eyes of the world He possessed no beauty that they should desire Him; yet He was the incarnate God, the light of heaven and earth."77 Christ did not surrender His essential deity in becoming a man. In accomplishing the redemption of man, Ellen White comments: "This was not done by going out of Himself to another, but by taking humanity into Himself.78 In 1887 she wrote regarding Christ's Person as being divine: "He was God while upon earth, but He divested Himself of the form of God, and in its stead took the form and fashion of a man...He laid aside His glory and His majesty. He was God, but the glories of the form of God He for a while relinquished."79
In conversation with the Pharisees and rulers Jesus Christ made a startling declaration regarding Himself in relation to Abraham when He said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58). Ellen White comments on this and writes:
"Silence fell upon the vast assembly. The name of God, given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence, had been claimed as His own by this Galilean rabbi. He had announced Himself to be the self-existent One,..."80
In this language Ellen White places Jesus Christ on equal ground with the Yahweh of the Old Testament and makes the highest claims for the deity of Christ. This is in keeping with her words concerning Christ spoken in connection with His claim to be the resurrection and the life when she wrote: "In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived."81
While Ellen White maintains the full deity of Christ during the Incarnation, she also indicates that in some definite way Christ's divinity was hidden and did not override His humanity. In some mysterious way there was a holding back of the powers of divinity. Speaking of the trial of Jesus at the end of His ministry, Ellen White writes:
"And He knew that in a moment, by the flashing forth of His divine power, He could lay His cruel tormentors in the dust. This made the trial harder to bear... When Christ was treated with contempt, there came to Him a strong temptation to manifest His divine character. By a word, by a look, He could compel His persecutors to confess that He was Lord above kings and rulers, priests and temple. But it was His difficult task to keep to the position He had chosen as one with humanity. "82
Ellen White indicates that the constant temptation to Christ was for Him to rise above His humanity and use His divine power to His own advantage. "It was as difficult for Him to keep the level of humanity as it is for men to rise above the low level of their depraved natures, and be partakers of the divine nature."83 Christ was not to exercise divine power or perform miracles to benefit Himself.84
And yet, Ellen White in her book, The Desire of Ages, indicates Christ's ability to read the hearts of men and the future. "With prophetic eye He looks into futurity, and sees not
only years, but centuries and ages."85 Upon meeting Simon Peter, Christ reads his character and his life history.86 At the cleansing of the temple Christ discerns the thoughts of the money- changers.87 In the case of Nicodemus, Christ in "His infinite wisdom...saw before Him a seeker after truth."88 At Jacob's well Christ could read the secrets of the life of the Samaritan woman.89 Before the Jewish nobleman had left his Capernaum home to seek help from Christ the Saviour "had beheld his affliction."90 The officer, when meeting Christ, became aware of His ability to read his thoughts.91 As Christ faced the doubters in his home town of Nazareth, He gave evidence of His divinity.92 Concerning Judas she indicates that the Saviour could read his heart and his future.93 In discussing the first evangelists whom Christ sent out, Ellen White states that Christ at a glance could take in the future.94 Ellen White continues with this same line of thought when discussing the rabbis95 and the accusers of the woman caught in adultery.96
She pictures Simon at the feast being read by Christ as an open book.97
Ellen White also gives a picturesque description of the phenomenon when at times it appeared as if the veiled divinity of Christ could not be held back or concealed and when she speaks of it 'flashing through humanity.'98
In the calling forth of Lazarus from the grave we find again that "divinity flashes through humanity."99 This miracle would be evidence of the divinity of Christ. "With intense and painful interest all wait for the test of Christ's divinity, the evidence that is to substantiate His claim to be the Son of God, or to extinguish the hope forever."100 According to Ellen Write this miracle was not to show that Christ only functioned as a man fully dependent on His Father, but this miracle was to be the crowning evidence that Jesus Christ was the divine Son of God.
Thus far we have established that Ellen White taught that Christ retained His divinity in becoming a man and that He was not simply partly divine. He was fully God while on earth. We have also seen that this divinity was veiled in humanity and the full powers of His divinity were not always exercised. At times His divinity would flash through humanity in some supreme moment. We have also seen that Ellen White maintains that Christ's divinity did not interfere with Christ's humanity. His divinity was not used to unfair advantage of His humanity. And yet there are the many indications of the divinity of His Person in His ability to read thoughts and hearts and the future. He forgave sin in the capacity of His being the eternal Son of God. His miracles were an evidence of His Messiahship.101 Ellen White's intent is that Christ did not wish men to believe that He was simply a very good man who relied fully on His heavenly Father but that He was the divine Son of God in a dependent relationship with the Father.
5. Christ's Humanity
In our presentation of Ellen White's strong views on the full divinity of Christ the question could well be asked if she advocated a form of docetism. We will now turn to her views regarding the humanity of Christ and will discover that her presentation of this aspect of Christ is just as strong as her concept of His divinity.
Ellen White sees the humanity of Christ as vital to the plan of salvation. "The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden linked chain which binds our souls to Christ and through Christ to God. This is to be our study. Christ was a real man, and He gave proof of His humility in becoming a man."102 Christ took humanity in order to reach man where he is. Ellen White sees the ladder in Jacob's dream as symbolic of Jesus Christ and says of His humanity: "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', He lived a sinless life."103
It was important for Christ to be a real man that He might pass over the ground which Adam had passed and redeem his failure. "He took humanity on Himself, to stand the test and trial which the first Adam failed to endure."104 Christ's life would be a substitutionary life but it would be lived out in the same humanity that it sought to redeem. In addition to being substitutionary, Christ would also give an example of the role of humanity. "If He did not have man's nature, He could not be our example. If He was not a partaker of our nature, He could not have been tempted as man has been. If it were not possible for Him to yield to temptation, He could not be our helper. It was a solemn reality that Christ came to fight the battles as man, in man's behalf. "105
Ellen White also believed that in order to die for a human race of rebels God adopted humanity, for God cannot die. This also explains why the humanity of Christ was so important. She believed that Christ laid aside His outer glory and "clothed His divinity with humanity" in order to become a substitute and surety for all men, by dying in their place. While Christ could not die as God, He could as a man.106
Ellen White believed that Christ's humanity was genuine and real. "Christ did not make-believe take human nature; He did verily take it. He did in reality possess human nature."107 Ellen White maintained that "He was made like unto His brethren, with the same susceptibilities, mental and physical,"108 thus reaching man's level. Because of the reality of His humanity, Christ knew what it was to experience pain, grief and suffering.109 Furthermore, she says that Christ came into the world in like manner as other members of the human family. She says: "Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity."110 Thus Ellen White believed in the completeness of the humanity of Christ.111
Although Christ took upon Himself man's nature with its weakness and liabilities He was, nevertheless, a worthy representative of humanity. Ellen White says that Christ "was free from physical deformity" and that "His physical structure was not marred by any defect;
His body was strong and healthy...Physically as well as spiritually, He was an example of what God designed all humanity to be through obedience to His laws."112 "Christ is a perfect representation of God on the one hand, and a perfect specimen of sinless humanity on the other hand."113
In this section on Incarnation and nature we have sought to describe Ellen White's views on various aspects of this subject. We have presented her ideas on the kenosis, the two natures of Christ, the mystery of the Incarnation, the divinity of Christ and His humanity. In a later section on analysis we will take a closer, critical look at the problem of the relationship between the divinity and humanity of Christ in Ellen White's presentation. For the present we turn our attention to her position on Incarnation and sin.
32 The reader is referred to footnote 10 in chapter one. [back]
33 E. G. White, Review and Herald, March 29, 1870. [back]
34 Ibid., April 19, 1870. [back]
35 Ibid., May 31, 1870. [back]
36 Ibid., July 25, 1854. [back]
37 Ibid., January 4, 1881. [back]
38 See E. G. White, Review and Herald, December 9, 1884; September 11, 1888. [back]
39 E. G. White, Review and Herald, December 11, 1888. [back]
40 Ibid., May 28, 1889. [back]
41 Ibid., July 16, 1889. [back]
42 Ibid., March 10, 1891. [back]
43 Ibid., May 31, 1870. [back]
44 Ibid., December 24, 1872. [back]
45 Ibid., November 26, 1895. [back]
46 The first time Ellen White used the expression "His divinity was veiled with humanity" in the Review and Herald articles was on December 31, 1872, in an article "The Life of Christ." The expression "clothing His divinity with humanity" was first used
in 1875 in "The Temptation of Christ," Review and Herald, April 1, 1875. The last usage of the term in the Review and Herald was in 1914 where she says Christ "laid aside His royal robe and kingly crown, and clothed His divinity with humanity" in the Review and Herald, July 30, 1914. [back]
47 E. G. White, Review and Herald, October 24, 1899. [back]
48 E. G. White, Review and Herald, December 20, 1892. [back]
49 The sentence reads, "The salvation of souls was the great object for which Christ sacrificed His royal robe and kingly crown, the glory of heaven, and the homage of angels, and laying aside His divinity, came to earth to labor and suffer with humanity upon Him." In "A Call to Consecration," Review and Herald, November 21, 1907. [back]
50 In a letter from Robert W. Olson, secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate, dated July 16, 1981, he states that he does not think that a mistake was made on the part of the publishers. He feels that they faithfully produced what she gave them. He goes on to say that in the light of his understanding of her writings he believes that in this statement she means that "He laid aside the use of His divinity" (see letter). This, of course, is an interpretative statement on the part of Olson. If the words of Ellen White are taken at face value we would have a contradiction because her teaching that Christ did not part with His divinity is clear. I would prefer to interpret her statement to mean that Christ laid aside the outward form and glory of divinity. We might also wish to agree with Olson when he says that the statement "is not quite as carefully worded as most of her other statements on the subject" (see Letter R. W. Olson to Eric C. Webster, July 16, 1981). [back]
51 E. G. White, Review and Herald, October 29, 1895. [back]
52 E. G. White, Review and Herald, June 15, 1905. [back]
53 E. G. White, Review and Herald, May 19, 1896. [back]
54 E. G. White, "The Plan of Redemption," Review and Herald, February 1, 1898. [back]
55 E. G. White, "Not by Might, nor by Power," Review and Herald, January 16, 1908. [back]
56 E. G. White, Letter 280, 1904 (cited in The SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1113). [back]
57 E. G. White, "How to Meet a Controverted Point of Doctrine," Review and Herald, February 18, 1890. [back]
58 E. G. White, "Bible Study," Review and Herald, January 11, 1881. [back]
50 E. G. White, "How to Meet a Controverted Point of Doctrine," Review and Herald, February 18, 1890. For other references to this same idea see Ibid., October 27, 1885; December 1, 1885; June 11, 1889; February 18, 1890; June 10, 1890; February 5, 1895; July 9, 1895; September 22, 1896; July 18, 1899; October 17, 1899; November 21, 1899; September 3, 1903; February 15, 1912. [back]
60 E. G. White, "The Life of Christ," Review and Herald, December 31, 1872. [back]
61 E. G. White, "The Relation of Christ to the Law is not Understood," Review and Herald, February 4, 1890. [back]
62 E. G. White, "Christ our Hope," Review and Herald, December 20, 1892. [back]
63 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.326. [back]
64 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.507. See also Review and Herald, April 23, 1895. [back]
65 E. G. White, "The Treasure of Truth Rejected," Review and Herald. April 3, 1894. [back]
66 E. G. White, "Our Words - No. 2," Review and Herald, January 25, 1898. [back]
67 E. G. White, "Correct Views Concerning the Testimonies," Review and Herald, August 30, 1906. [back]
68 E. G. White, "Cornelius, a Seeker for Truth," Review and Herald, April 6, 1911. See also Review and Herald, January 13, 1903; July 16, 1914. [back]
69 E. G. White, Ms. 76, 1903, quoted in SDA Commentary, 7a, p.298. [back]
70 Note Ellen White's descriptive picture of the mystery: "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. How wide is the contrast between the divinity of Christ and the helpless infant in Bethlehem's manger! How can we span the distance between the mighty God and a helpless child? And yet the Creator of worlds, He in whom was the fullness of the Godhead bodily, was manifest in the helpless babe in the manger. Far higher than any of the angels, equal with the Father in dignity and glory, and yet wearing the garb of humanity! Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race. Looking upon Christ in humanity, we look upon God, and see in Him the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person" (The Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896, cited in Questions on Doctrine, pp.647,648). [back]
71 E. G. White, Letter 276, 1904, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6,
72 E. G. White, Letter 280, 1904, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, p.1115. [back]
73 E. G. White, Gospel Workers, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1946, p.251. [back]
74 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.63. This is a penetrative statement and clearly establishes Ellen White's conviction on the divinity of Jesus Christ from His birth. Just before the sentence quoted Ellen White says that the wise men "fell down and worshipped Him" (p.63). In an article in the church paper she had written concerning this worship: "They bowed in reverence to the infant King, committing no idolatry" ("Christmas is Coming", Review and Herald, December 9, 1884). [back]
75 We note Ellen White's significant comment: "Little did he think, as the babe lay in his arms, that it was the Majesty of heaven, the King of glory...He did not think that this babe was He whose glory Moses had asked to see" (The Desire of Ages, p.52). [back]
76 Ibid., p.88. [back]
77 Ibid., p.23. [back]
78 E. G. White, "The Word Made Flesh," Review and Herald, April 5, 1906. In commenting on the statement of Christ, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9), Ellen White writes: "Christ had not ceased to be God when He became man. Though He had humbled Himself to humanity, the Godhead was still His own" (The Desire of Ages, pp.663,664). It is interesting to note the high view which Ellen White had on the essential Deity of Christ. [back]
79 E. G White, "Christ Man's Example," Review and Herald, July 5, 1887.Elsewhere Ellen White uses similar language when speaking of Christ who hungered, thirsted and slept, yet, "He was God in the flesh" ("Truth to be Rescued from Error," Review and Herald, October 23, 1894). She indicates that the disciples often failed to appreciate Christ's teachings but from time to time their minds were illuminated and "they realized that the mighty God, clad in the garb of humanity, was among them" (The Desire of Ages, p.494). [back]
80 Ibid., pp.469,470. [back]
81 Ibid., p.530. This is one of the strongest statements made by Ellen White on the eternity and the essential Deity of Jesus Christ. The language is not ambiguous or uncertain. This is certainly the opposite of Arianism. [back]
82 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.700. See E. G. White, "Caiaphas," Review and Herald, June 12, 1900: "He could have flashed the light of His glory upon His enemies,
but He bore patiently their humiliating abuse." [back]
83 E. G. White, "The Temptation of Christ," Review and Herald, April 1, 1875. See also E. G. White, Letter 19, 1901, cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1081.[back]
84 Ellen White clearly states that Jesus Christ did not use His divine powers for His own advantage. She writes: "It was not any part of the mission of Christ to exercise His divine power for His own benefit, to relieve Himself from suffering" ("The Temptation of Christ," Review and Herald, August 18, 1874). See also The Desire of Ages: "During all the years of His stay in Nazareth, He made no exhibition of His miraculous power" (p.74). Also: "Therefore He would not work a miracle to save Himself the pain and humiliation that man must endure when placed in a similar position" (p.729). See also p.734. [back]
85 E G White, The Desire of Ages, p.157. [back]
86 Ibid., p.139. [back]
87 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.162. [back]
88 Ibid., p.168. It is interesting to note that Ellen White ascribes infinite wisdom to Christ. [back]
89 Ibid., pp.187,189. [back]
90 Ibid., p.197. [back]
91 Observe her words: "He knew that he was in the presence of One who could read the thoughts, and to whom all things were possible" (The Desire of Ages, p.198). [back]
92 Ibid., p.238. "But Jesus gave them an evidence of His divinity by revealing their secret thoughts." [back]
93 Observe: "The Saviour read the heart of Judas; He knew the depths of iniquity to which, unless delivered by the grace of God, Judas would sink" (The Desire of Ages, p.294). See also Ibid., p.653. At the last supper, "by reading the secret purpose of the traitor's heart, Christ gave to Judas the final, convincing evidence of His divinity" (Ibid., p.655). It is interesting to note that Ellen White considers this ability as evidence of Christ's divinity rather than the guidance of the Holy Spirit as some prophet might experience. [back]
94 She writes: "His prophetic glance takes in the experience of His servants through all the ages till He shall come the second time" (The Desire of Ages, p.352). [back]
95 Jesus gave the rabbis an evidence of His divinity by showing that He read their hearts"
(The Desire of Ages, p.456). See also Ibid., p.602. [back]
96 In connection with the accusers of the woman caught in adultery, Ellen White writes of Jesus: "He read the heart, and knew the character and life-history of every one in His presence" (Ibid., p.460). This is certainly a view of Christ which places Him in a different category from other men. [back]
97 Note her words: "While he [Simon] thought himself reading his Guest, his Guest had been reading him" (Ibid., p.567). [back]
98 Ellen White links this phenomenon with certain important experiences in Christ's life. The first is on Christ's visit to Jerusalem at the age of 12. She writes concerning Jesus and His parents: "On His face was a light at which they wondered. Divinity was flashing through humanity" (The Desire of Ages, p.81). Again in the wilderness temptation "divinity flashed through suffering humanity" (Ibid., p.130). Then at the cleansing of the temple: "Looking upon Christ, they behold divinity flash through the garb of humanity. The Majesty of heaven stands as the Judge will stand at the last day, - not now encircled with the glory that will then attend Him, but with the same power to read the soul" (Ibid., p.158). Here, Ellen White gives Christ the same power to read the heart as He will have in the final day. This is certainly beyond any normal human intuition. At the transfiguration she describes how that "divinity from within flashes through humanity, and meets the glory coming from above" (Ibid., p.421). This same experience is linked with the second cleansing of the temple (Ibid., p.590), again before Caiaphas (Ibid., p.707), and in the presence of Herod (Ibid., p.731). [back]
99 Ibid., p.536. [back]
100 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.536. [back]
101 E G White, "The Spirit of Law-Breakers," Review and Herald, March 23, 1886. Note: "The wonderful evidences of His Messiahship, by the miracles He performed in healing the sick and raising the dead, and doing the works which no other man had done or could do, . . ." [back]
102 E. G. White, Ms 67, 1898, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p.904.[back]
103 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp.311,312. The question of Christ and sin will be handled in the next section of this chapter. [back]
104 E. G. White, ST May 10, 1899 in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, pp.1082,3. See Letter 156, 1897, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p.1163. See Review and Herald, June 10, 1890. [back]
105 E. G. White, "How to Meet a Controverted Point of Doctrine," Review and Herald, February 18, 1890. [back]
106 For this thought see Ellen White, Letter 97, 1898 (also cited in Questions on Doctrine, p.666). [back]
107 E. G. White, Review and Herald, April 5, 1906. See also Letter 106, 1896, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1124. She further believed that Christ "possessed all the human organism" (Letter 32, 1899, cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1130); had a body like ours (Review and Herald, February 5, 1895); employed the human faculties (Review and Herald, June 25, 1895); knew the weakness and infirmities of the flesh (Ms. 76, 1903 cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, p.1074); accepted the liabilities of human nature (The Desire of Ages, p.117; see also The Signs of the Times, August 2, 1905). [back]
108 E. G. White, "Notes on Travel," Review and Herald, February 10, 1885. Amplifying this thought Ellen White says that because of His genuine humanity Christ was brought to the "level of man's feeble faculties" (Review and Herald, December 11, 1888); "sought strength from His Father " (Review and Herald, May 31, 1906); found prayer "a necessity and a privilege" (Review and Herald, December 8, 1904). [back]
109 Ellen White says in this connection that "Christ knew the griefs of human nature" (Review and Herald, March 4, 1884); that "He fought the battle in painfulness" (Review and Herald, April 19, 1887); that He accepted humanity with its attendant ills (Review and Herald October 3, 1912); and that He suffered as a man (Review and Herald, November 18, 1890). [back]
110 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.48. See also Letter 97, 1898, in Questions on Doctrine, p.666. [back]
111 E. G. White, Letter 35, 1894, in Questions on Doctrine, p.691. [back]
112 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.50. [back]
113 E. G. White, Ms. 44, 1898, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p.907. [back]
At Issue Index Webster Index Previous Next
C. The Incarnation and Sin
In this section we wish to concentrate on Ellen White's view of the Incarnation in relation to the question of sin. This will be done by focusing on two aspects of the problem. What did Ellen White teach in regard to Jesus Christ's relationship to the acts and the state of sin? We will describe her views on these two aspects of Christology consecutively.
1. Acts of Sin
For Ellen White sin is essentially rebellion against God which later manifests itself in transgression of His law. She sees the law as broad and deep, encompassing more than outward deeds:
"The law of God, as presented in the Scriptures, is broad in its requirements. Every principle is holy, just and good... it [the law] reaches to the thoughts and feelings;...If the law extended to the outward conduct only, men would not be guilty in their wrong thoughts, desires and designs. But the law requires that the soul itself be pure and the mind holy, that the thoughts and feelings may be in accordance with the standard of love and righteousness. "114
For Ellen White then any departure from God's love and righteousness is sin.
a. Christ's Sinless Life
When it comes to actual sin, whether of an outward or inner character, how did Ellen White view Christ's life? It is very clear that she saw Jesus Christ as sinless in word, thought and deed.115 For her He was free from all selfishness and sin.116 He was innocent and pure117 and never degraded His soul with one foul blot of sin.118 In Christ there was no imperfection, no selfishness, no spot, no stain of evil.119 Ellen White indicates that "had one stain of sin rested upon our Redeemer, His sacrifice would not have secured the salvation of man."120 Christ was the embodiment of purity121 and is spoken of as the "Sinless One."122 Satan was perplexed by the sinless life of Christ. "The unsullied purity of the childhood, youth, and manhood of Christ, which Satan could not taint, annoyed him exceedingly."123
b. The Reality of Temptation
Scripture indicates that Christ was "tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin" (Heb. 4:15, N.I.V.). Were these temptations real in the case of Christ and was there the possibility that Christ could yield to temptation? Ellen White believed in the reality of the temptations which came to Christ:
"It is impossible for man to fully comprehend the strength of Satan's temptations to our Saviour. Every enticement to evil, which men find so difficult to resist, was brought to bear upon the Son of God in as much greater degree as His character was superior to that of fallen man."124
Christ came to redeem the failure of man and He conquered where the first Adam failed. "Christ has passed over every step of the ground where Adam failed, and He has gained the victory in behalf of humanity."125 Notice the emphasis that Christ did not only gain the victory for Himself, but His victory was substitutionary for the whole of humanity.
Ellen White believed that it was possible for Christ to have yielded to temptation and to have sinned. She says: "But our Saviour took humanity, with all of its liabilities. He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to temptation. "126 She states that in the glories of the eternal world we will realize the tremendous sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf and that He "took the risk of failure and eternal loss127 for us.
2. The State of Sin
All will agree that Ellen White clearly taught that Christ committed no actual sin in His human life. When it comes to the state of sin the issues are more complex. Did Ellen White teach that Christ took the human nature of man before or after the fall? Did Christ in His human nature start where all other children start? Does Ellen White maintain that the human race was affected by original sin or not? If the race has been, was Christ also affected in this way or was He exempted? Did Christ have the same human nature that the converted man has, and if so, can all Christians live the unsullied life which Christ lived? To these issues in Ellen White we will now address ourselves.
a. Christ Took Fallen Human Nature
Ellen White states many times that Christ took our nature upon Himself. "He left His riches, His majesty, and His high command, and took upon Himself our nature."128 Here she is clearly speaking about human nature. "He laid off His kingly crown and royal robe, and for our salvation assumed human nature."129 However, Ellen White goes further than this. In describing the humanity which Christ took she says that "He accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin."130
Ellen White in numerous passages states that Christ took upon Himself our fallen nature. In 1874 she wrote: "The King of glory proposed to humble Himself to fallen humanity! He would place His feet in Adam's steps. He would take man's fallen nature and engage to cope with the strong foe who triumphed over Adam."131 In the third volume of Spirit of Prophecy which appeared in 1878 she said of Christ in relation to man that He " assumed their fallen nature."132 In 1896 she was still consistently speaking in this vein when she wrote:
"Christ the spotless Son of God, honored humanity by taking upon Himself fallen human nature."133 In the same year she spoke of Christ connecting our fallen human nature with His divinity:
"Though He had no taint of sin upon His character, yet He condescended to connect our fallen human nature with His divinity. By thus taking humanity, He honored humanity. Having taken our fallen nature, He showed what it might become, by accepting the ample provision He has made for it, and by becoming partaker of the divine nature."134
In her classic, The Desire of Ages, which appeared in 1898, she wrote: " Notwithstanding that the sins of a guilty world were laid upon Christ, notwithstanding the humiliation of taking upon Himself our fallen nature, the voice from heaven declared Him to be the Son of the Eternal."135 Not only does Ellen White speak of Christ taking our fallen nature upon Himself, but she also speaks of taking upon Himself man's sinful nature. She wrote: "Clad in the vestments of humanity, the Son of God came down to the level of those He wished to save. In Him was no guile or sinfulness; He was ever pure and undefiled; yet He took upon Him our sinful nature."136 Ellen White furthers her thought by stating that human nature "degraded and defiled by sin" ;137 came in "the likeness of sinful flesh";138
upon Himself "the offending nature of man";139 its deteriorated condition.140 It is interesting in nature in to note that Ellen White does not say that Christ possessed a sinful nature, but that He "took upon Him our sinful nature."
Thus far we have seen that Ellen White taught that Christ took upon Himself humanity, fallen humanity, our sinful nature, the infirmities of degenerate humanity and our nature in its deteriorated condition. Before addressing ourselves to this particular problem we will view the other side of the subject by observing her strong pronouncements on the sinlessness of Christ in the extreme.
b. Christ's State of Sinlessness
There are strong indications that for Ellen White sin was foreign to Christ not only in word, thought or deed, but to the very depths of His soul. She says repeatedly that Christ was free from the very taint of sin. "And thus He who knew not the taint of sin, pours out His life as a malefactor upon Calvary...Not only did Christ die as our sacrifice, but He lived as our example. In His human nature He stands complete, perfect, spotless."141
Christ was "free from the taint of sin";142 He was "free from every taint of selfishness."143
She is emphatic that Christ throughout His life was free from the taint of sin.144
Other terms which Ellen White employs to indicate Christ's state of sinlessness are the absence of corruption, pollution and defilement. She writes of Christ that "He was unsullied with corruption, a stranger to sin."145 Similar language is used when she says: "Jesus was incorruptible and undefiled..."146 Throughout His life Christ was untainted with corruption.147 Ellen White says clearly that Christ was "born without a taint of sin, but came into the world in like manner as the human family."148 This is a powerful dialectical statement showing the thinking of Ellen White on the birth of Christ. Here she is not speaking of deeds and actions but of state. For Ellen White Christ had no original sin.
Contrasting the leprosy of sin with the pure life of Christ she wrote: "But Jesus, coming to dwell in humanity, receives no pollution."149 If Christ entered the world without corruption, or taint of sin or pollution, does Ellen White teach that all other men came into the world in the same state?
Speaking of Seth, just one step away from Adam, Ellen White says: "Seth was a worthy
character, and was to take the place of Abel in right-doing. Yet he was a son of Adam, like sinful Cain, and inherited from the nature of Adam no more natural goodness than did Cain. He was born in sin..."150 And yet with regard to Christ who was born 4,000 years later and "accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity,"151 we have noted that Ellen White says that He was "born without the taint of sin."152 Here is a clear contrast between Seth and Christ. One was born in sin and the Other was born without sin.
Note the great gulf between Christ and the Christian: "Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that would enable him to gain a victory. He had kept His Father's commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could triumph over, no weakness or defect that he could use to his advantage. But we are sinful by nature..."153 "Our hearts are naturally depraved;"154 in comparison with the purity and glory of Christ we are "unworthy and corruptible"155 and "human nature is vile."156
Ellen White believed that it was important for us to see the contrast between Christ and ourselves. "Not to see the marked contrast between Christ and ourselves is not to know ourselves. He who does not abhor himself cannot understand the meaning of redemption."157 Notice how she contrasts the sinful desires of man with the attitude of Christ: "Satan finds in human hearts some point where he can gain a foot-hold; some sinful desire is cherished, by means of which his temptations assert their power. But Christ declared of Himself, 'The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.'"158
We have already observed Ellen White's teaching that Christ received no corruption, defilement or pollution in taking humanity. In this He is different from man, because even the converted child of God retains corruption. "As long as life shall last, there is need of guarding the affections and the passions with a firm purpose. There is inward corruption, there are outward temptations,..."159
Thus we can see that Ellen White makes a clear distinction between Christ and the Christian when it comes to the state of sin. She has stated firmly that in Christ there is no inner corruption, pollution, defilement or taint of sin. We will return to this issue in our analysis of Ellen White's treatment of Incarnation and sin.
114 E. G. White, Review and Herald, April 5, 1898. [back]
115 E. G. White, "A Message to Church Members," Review and Herald, April 26, 1906. "In thought, word, and deed Jesus was sinless." [back]
116 E. G. White, "Aggressive Work to be Done," Review and Herald, August 2, 1906. [back]
117 E. G. White, "Principle Never to be Sacrificed for Peace," Review and Herald, July 24, 1894. [back]
118 E. G. White, "Students Deciding their Eternal Destiny," Review and Herald, January 23, 1894. [back]
119 E. G. White, "Contemplate Christ's Perfection, not Man's Imperfection," Review and Herald, August 8, 1893. Speaking of Christ being spotless she says He lived a "spotless life from the manger to the cross" (Review and Herald, January 28, 1909); had a "spotless character" (Review and Herald, September 20, 1881); a "spotless righteousness" (Review and Herald, January 9, 1883); a "spotless purity" (Review and Herald, August 28, 1883); a "spotless life" (Review and Herald, January 20, 1885). She speaks of Christ as "the spotless Lamb of God who did no sin" (Review and Herald, April 22, 1884). [back]
120 E. G. White, "Sacrificial Offerings," The Signs of the Times, July 15, 1880. [back]
121 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.243. [back]
122 Ibid., p.111. She says that as the Sinless One He was "a faultless pattern" (Review and Herald, February 14, 1893); and that in His total life He "satisfied the demands of the law" (Review and Herald, November 28, 1912). [back]
123 E. G. White, "Christ's Triumph for Us," The Signs of the Times, April 5, 1883. [back]
124 E. G. White, Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 2, 1877, p.88. See E. G. White, "The Government of God," Review and Herald, March 9, 1886. [back]
125 E. G. White, "We Should Glorify God," Review and Herald, April 30, 1889. [back]
126 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.117. See also Review and Herald, February 18, 1890: "If it were not possible for Him to yield to temptation, He could not be our helper." Cf. The Youth's Instructor, July 20, 1899; October 26, 1899. [back]
127 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp.131,49. See also The Signs of the Times, May 10, 1899. [back]
128 E. G. White, "Christian Recreation," Review and Herald May 25, 1886. See also "Christian Perfection," Review and Herald, April 24, 1900. "Acquaint Now Thyself with Him," Review and Herald, February 15, 1912. See The Desire of Ages, p.25. [back]
129 E. G. White, "An Appeal," Review and Herald, September 26, 1907. In this general sense cf. The Signs of the Times, November 24, 1874; Ms. 21, 1895; Ms. 165, 1899. [back]
130 Note Ellen White's full statement in this connection: "It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man's nature, even when Adam stood in his innocence in Eden. But 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. What these results were is shown in the history of His earthly ancestors. He came with such a heredity to share our sorrows and temptations, and to give us an example of a sinless life" (The Desire of Ages, p.48). [back]
131 E. G. White, "Redemption No. 1," Review and Herald, February 24, 1874. [back]
132 E. G. White, Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. III, 1878, p.183. Further to the thought of taking fallen nature cf. Review and Herald, December 31, 1872; Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 2, p.39; The Signs of the Times, February 20, 1893; June 9, 1898; April 26, 1905; General Conference Bulletin, April 23, 1901. [back]
133 E. G. White, "The Uplifted Saviour," Review and Herald, September 29, 1896. See also The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1, p.46; Early Writings, pp.150-153. [back]
134 E. G. White, "Special Instruction Relating to the Review and Herald Office, and the Work in Battle Creek," May 26, 1896, p.13, in Questions on Doctrine, p.657. [back]
135 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.112. Perhaps amplifying the idea of fallen nature, Ellen White speaks of Christ taking the weaknesses and infirmities of degenerate humanity. See The Desire of Ages, p.117; The Signs of the Times, December 3, 1902; Review and Herald, October 13, 1896; January 19, 1905. [back]
136 E. G. White, "The Importance of Obedience," Review and Herald, December 15, 1896. This paragraph is repeated verbatim in an article "The Word of God" in the Review and Herald, August 22, 1907. See also Ellen White, Medical Ministry, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press, 1932, 1963, p.181 [back]
137 See E. G. White, The Youth's Instructor, August 23, 1894; Letter 106, 1896.[ back]
138 See E. G. White, The Youth's Instructor, December 20, 1900. She also speaks of the "nature of Adam, the transgressor" (Ms. 141, 1901). [back]
139 E. G. White, Review and Herald, July 17, 1900. [back]
140 E. G. White, Selected Messages, Book 1, p.253. [back]
141 E. G. White, "Should Christians Dance?," Review and Herald, February 28, 1882. [back]
142 E. G. White, "Humility Before Honor," Review and Herald, November 8, 1887.99. [back]
143 E. G. White, "Obedience the Path to Life," Review and Herald, March 28, 1893. [back]
144 Further references indicating that Christ was free from the "taint of sin." See The
Signs of the Times, December 9, 1897; Christ stood before Caiaphas "pure and undefiled, without a taint of sin" (Review and Herald, June 12, 1900); and before the woman caught in adultery Ellen White says of Christ: "Knowing not the taint of sin Himself, He pities the weakness of the erring one" (The Signs of the Times, October 23, 1879). [back]
145 E. G. White, "An Appeal to Ministers," Review and Herald, May 19, 1885. [back]
146 E. G. White, "How to Deal with the Erring," Review and Herald, January 26, 1911. [back]
147 Note Ellen White's strong statement: "In Christ dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily. This is why, although He was tempted in all points like as we are, He stood before the world, from His first entrance into it, untainted by corruption, though surrounded by it" (Manuscript 16, 1890, cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p.907). This is a very interesting thought. Here, instead of merely giving the secret of Christ's overcoming power as faith and trust in His Father, she indicates that the secret somehow lay in the deity of His Person. [back]
148 E. G. White, Letter 97, 1898, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p.925. [back]
149 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.266. [back]
150 E. G. White, The Signs of the Times, February 20, 1879.[back]
151 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.48. [back]
152 For reference see footnote 148. [back]
153 E. G. White, "God's Willingness to Save," Review and Herald, May 27, 1884; see also Review and Herald, October 21, 1884. [back]
154 E. G. White, "Literary Societies," Review and Herald, January 4, 1881.See also Review and Herald, November 24, 1885.[back]
155 E. G. White, "Sanctification," Review and Herald, February 8, 1881. [back]
156 E. G. White, "The All-Important Lesson," The Signs of the Times, November 15, 1883. [back]
157 E. G. White, "Self-Exaltation," Review and Herald, September 25, 1900. [back]
158 E. G. White, "Humility before Honor", Review and Herald, November 8, 1887.[back]
159 E. G. White, Letter 86, 1891, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 2,
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D. The Incarnation and Grace
Now that we have presented Ellen White's views on Incarnation and nature, and Incarnation and win, we turn to the aspect of Incarnation and grace. Here we will give consideration to Ellen White's understanding of the work of Christ as it is related to the Incarnation. Many theologians believe that the Person and work of Christ should not be separated but are closely linked;160 hence the reason for our inclusion of this section. I would suggest that there are at least five main aspects of the work of Christ which are emphasized by Ellen White. These are: 1) Christ's substitutionary work of obedience and atonement; 2) Christ's revelation of the character of the Father; 3) Christ's vindication of God's law and government; 4) Christ's example serving as a pattern and model; and 5) Christ's empowerment in the life of the redeemed.
1. Christ as Substitute and Surety
Of all the different aspects of the work of Christ, Ellen White gives greatest prominence to Christ's substitutionary work. Repeatedly she speaks of Christ as 'Substitute and Surety.'161 Ellen White believes that it is the fact that Christ is equal with the Father and one with God which enables Him to be our Substitute and Surety.162 She goes on to point out that because Christ possessed all the attributes of God and also was truly man, He could be our Substitute and Surety. It was His possession of both the divine and human natures which qualified Him for this responsibility. Ellen White puts it very clearly in the following words:
"The reconciliation of man to God could be accomplished only through a mediator who was equal with God, possessed of attributes that would dignify, and declare Him worthy to treat with the Infinite God in man's behalf, and also represent God to a fallen world. Man's substitute and surety must have man's nature, a connection with the human family whom He was to represent, and, as God's ambassador, He must partake of the divine nature, have a connection with the Infinite, in order to manifest God to the world, and be a mediator between God and man."163
Ellen White uses the term 'Substitute and Surety' with primary reference to Christ's atoning death on Calvary on behalf of sinners. She describes the substitutionary nature of this work of Christ when she says of Him: "Guiltless, He bore the punishment of the guilty, innocent, yet offering Himself to bear the penalty of the transgression of the law of God."164Because He was guiltless and innocent His death became substitutionary.
Furthermore, Ellen White sees Christ's life of obedience as of a substitutionary nature. She says that Christ kept the law for us.165 His whole life of obedience and His victory
over temptation was of a substitutionary nature. She says that in the wilderness temptation "Christ overcame on the sinner's behalf."166 Thus she pictures Christ in His life on earth and in His atoning death as the sinner's 'Substitute and Surety.'
2. Christ's Revelation of the Character of the Father
An additional aspect of the work of Christ according to Ellen White is that He came to reveal the character of the Father. She states that one of the main reasons for Christ's Incarnation and sojourn in this world was that He might reveal His Father to mankind. Note how she describes this purpose: "It was to give in His own life a revelation of His Father's character, that Christ came in the form of humanity."167
The reason why Jesus Christ could represent the Father and reveal His character, according to Ellen White, was that Jesus was one with God in nature and character and this qualified Him to be the Revelation. Very clearly she enunciates this: "Christ alone was able to represent the Deity. He who had been in the presence of the Father from the beginning, He who was the express image of the invisible God, was alone sufficient to accomplish this work."168 Thus, for Ellen White, Christ must be of the same nature as the Father if He is to truly reveal Him.
Finally, Ellen White indicates that the only way man can know God is through Christ. There is no other way to come to a full knowledge of God. She states that because nature is imperfect we cannot gain a perfect knowledge of God from nature alone.169 Jesus Christ came to earth to declare the Father to mankind.
3. Vindication of God's Law and Government
Another important reason for Christ's work of grace in coming to this world, according to Ellen White, was that He might vindicate God's law and government. Lucifer had challenged the government of God and accused the Ruler of the universe of imposing an arbitrary and harsh law upon His subjects.170 Because of this Christ came to demonstrate through a life of obedience the justice of God's requirements. Ellen White says:"It was to vindicate the just claims of the law of God, and to establish the supreme authority of its divine Author, that Christ came to this earth."171
Ellen White indicates further, that not only was the life of Christ a vindication of God's authority and love, but this was especially true of His death. In discussing the sacrificial system of the Old Testament she says that the flowing blood pointed forward to a coming Redeemer who would die for the sins of man, "thus fully vindicating His Father's law."172
Ellen White saw in the event of the cross the guarantee that not only was the redemption of man assured, but in addition "the universe was made eternally secure."173 Thus she sees the total life of Christ as a complete vindication of God's character, law of love and government.
4. Pattern and Empowerment
There are also clear indications that Ellen White believed that Christ served as example, pattern and Urbild for man. Linked with this concept of model is also the concept of the empowerment of Christ to assist man in following the model. The first would require the humanity of Christ; the second, His divinity. She states it well when she writes: "As the Son of man, He gave us an example of obedience; as the Son of God, He gives us power to obey."174
Amongst the names which Ellen White gives to Christ are Model, Exemplar and Pattern.175 Thus quite obviously she lends weight to the idea that Christ is to be man's example. It is the privilege and the duty of the Christian to live as Christ lived and to follow His example.176 According to her, Christ is the only perfect example that man may follow.177 Ellen White presents a paradoxical thought in suggesting that we may receive divine power exactly as Christ did, and yet indicates that while we are to follow the pattern we will never equal it.178
In Ellen White there is also the clear concept that Christ came to this world to grant man the power to live the new life and to follow the example of Jesus. Through Christ we may become partakers of the divine nature.179 Hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong may be cut away from the character180 and the moral image of God may be restored in man.181 According to Ellen White, Christ proved that man may obey the law of God through His strength.182 She indicates that it is as Christ imparts His righteousness to man that he is enabled to keep the law.183 As man becomes a partaker of the divine nature he grows more and more like the Saviour until he reaches perfection.184
To balance the picture it must be said that Ellen White believed that man's perfection can only be obtained through the merits of Christ, through the incense of Christ's righteousness and through imputation. Note these words:
"But that which God required of Adam in paradise before the fall, He requires in this age of the world from those who would follow Him, - perfect obedience to His law. But righteousness without a blemish can be obtained only through the imputed righteousness of Christ."185
We have thus seen that Ellen White pays much attention to the exemplary function of Christ's work and to His continuing work of grace in providing power for man to live the sanctified life.
In this section on Incarnation and grace we have paid special attention to Ellen White's concept of the work of Christ as it relates to the Incarnation. We have considered her views of His work as 'Substitute and Surety', revealer of the Father, vindicator of God's law and government, and example and empowerment for man. In our analysis of certain problem areas we will return to this aspect of Incarnation and grace and see whether there might be some overriding motif in Ellen White which could tie all these strands together.
160 See G. C. Berkouwer, The Person of Christ, p.109; P. T. Forsyth, The Person and Place of Jesus Christ, p.6. [back]
161 For a few selected references of her usage of the term, see E. G. White, Review and Herald, July 11, 1882; August 19, 1884; August 21, 1888; September 29, 1891; June 23, 1896; October 2, 1900. [back]
162 Ellen White says: "The price of man's ransom could be paid only by One equal with God, the spotless Son of the infinite Father" ("Laboring in the Spirit of Christ," Review and Herald, October 20, 1896). See also Review and Herald, July 11, 1882; September 15, 1896; July 17, 1900; September 30, 1909. [back]
163 E. G. White, Review and Herald, December 22, 1891 (Cited in Questions on Doctrine, p.692). See also E G White, The Youth's Instructor, June 21, 1900 (Cited in Questions on Doctrine, p.665). Further: "In Him divinity and humanity were combined, and this was what gave efficiency to the sacrifice made on Calvary's cross" (Review and Herald, December 20, 1892); "Deity suffered under the agonies of Calvary" (Review and Herald, April 4, 1899). [back]
164 E. G. White, "Christ our Hope," Review and Herald, December 20, 1892. It is the blood of Christ which provides merit for the sinner (see Review and Herald, January 25, 1881; November 27, 1883; December 11, 1883). [back]
165 Note her words: "By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for me" (The Bible Students' Library Series, April, 1893, cited in Selected Messages, Book I, p.396). [back]
166 E. G. White, "The Temptation of Christ," Review and Herald, August 18, 1874. See also Review and Herald, September 8, 1874, July 11, 1882. [back]
167 E. G. White, Review and Herald, December 7, 1905. Also: "He came to represent the Father" (Review and Herald, October 14, 1890). See also Review and Herald, July 26, 1892; February 8, 1898. [back]
168 E. G. White, Review and Herald, June 25, 1895. See also The Desire of Ages, p.22; Review and Herald, December 31, 1908; The Signs of the Times, June 9, 1898 (Cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, p.1101). [back]
169 Observe her words: "Those who think they can obtain a knowledge of God aside from His Representative, whom the Word declares is "the express image of His person," will need to become fools in their own estimation before they can be wise. It is impossible to gain a perfect knowledge of God from nature alone; for nature itself is
imperfect" ("The Revelation of God," Review and Herald, March 17, 1904). See also Review and Herald, July 20, 1897; October 19, 1897. [back]
170 Ellen White states that Lucifer suggested "thoughts of criticism regarding the government of God" in the heavenly courts (Letter 162, 1906, cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p.1143). See also E G White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp.33-43; The Great Controversy, pp.492-504. [back]
171 E. G. White, "Love Toward God and Man," Review and Herald, September 13, 1906. Elsewhere she says that Christ in human flesh would "bear witness to heavenly intelligencies that the law was ordained to life and to ensure the happiness, peace, and eternal good of all who obey" (Ms. 29, 1899, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p.915). See also Review and Herald, January 23, 1900. [back]
172 E. G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 2, p.86. If Christ fully vindicated the law in His life and death then man could hardly add anything to this complete vindication except by reflecting that vindication to the world. [back]
173 E. G. White, The Desire of Apes, p.764. For Ellen White the law and the government of God were vindicated and secured by Christ's life, death and resurrection. This will be the fruition of Christ's work: "Through Christ's redeeming work the government of God stands justified. The Omnipotent One is made known as the God of love. Satan's charges are refuted, and his character unveiled" (Ibid., p.26). [back]
174 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.24. [back]
175 E. G. White, "Search the Scriptures," Review and Herald, November 28, 1878. [back]
176 Ellen White says we are to 'copy' the perfect pattern (Review and Herald, July 11, 1882); we are to 'imitate' Christ (Review and Herald, February 14, 1893; see also "A Peculiar People," Review and Herald, May 18, 1886); "Christ lived the very life that He requires His followers to live" (Review and Herald, April 13, 1905). [back]
177 Speaking of the law Ellen White says: "The only perfect example of obedience to its precepts, is found in the Son of God" ("Nothing is Hidden," Review and Herald, March 27, 1888); see also "The Life of Christ was a Perfect Pattern" (Review and Herald, August 18, 1874).[back]
178 Note Ellen White's words: "divine power was not given to Him in a different way to what it will be given to us" (Manuscript 21, 1896, in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p.926); "We can never equal the pattern; but we may imitate and resemble it according to our ability" ("Conquer through the Conqueror," Review and Herald, February 5, 1895). [back]
179 E. G. White: Christ "clothed His divinity with humanity, that humanity might take
hold of divinity, and become a partaker of the divine nature" (Review and Herald, May 15, 1900); see also "Our Need of the Holy Spirit," Review and Herald, January 3, 1907. [back]
180 See E. G. White, "Christian Perfection," Review and Herald, April 24, 1900. [back]
181 E. G. White, "True Christianity," Review and Herald, March 1, 1898. [back]
182 E. G. White: "Christ kept the law, proving beyond controversy that man also can keep it" ("The Great Standard of Righteousness," Review and Herald, May 7, 1901); see also "An All-Sufficient Saviour," Review and Herald, July 4, 1912. [back]
183 See E. G White, Manuscript 126, 1901 in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, p.1092 .[back]
184 For this thought see E. G. White, "The Righteousness of Christ in the Law" (Review and Herald, April 22, 1902). [back]
185 E. G. White, "Obedience the Fruit of Union with Christ - No. 2," Review and Herald, September 3, 1901. See also "A Holy People," Review and Herald, March 15, 1906; "Made perfect by the merits of the Saviour" ("Courage in the Lord," Review and Herald, May 5, 1910); and note: "There is an inexhaustible fund of perfect obedience accruing from His obedience. In heaven His merits, His self-denial and self-sacrifice, are treasured up as incense to be offered up with the prayers of His people" (Review and Herald, October 30, 1900). [back]
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E. Christ and Eschatology
Having commenced the section on the Christology of Ellen White with a presentation of her view regarding the preexistence of Christ, it is only fitting that we close this descriptive phase with a picture of her concepts concerning Christ and the future. Biblical eschatology really commences with the events surrounding Christ's humiliation and ascension (see Heb. 1:2; 1 Cor. 10:11; Acts 2:17) and, therefore, it is from this point in time that we will consider Ellen White's view of Christ. To this task we now turn our thoughts.
1. The Ascended Christ
Ellen White presents a very high view of the importance of Christ's adoption of human nature. Having fulfilled the conditions of the atonement and wrested the kingdom from Satan, thus becoming the heir of all things,186 Christ ascended to His Father. In doing this, Christ did not discard His humanity like a worn-out garment and enter the ethereal realm. On the contrary, Ellen White maintains that "God has adopted human nature in the person
of His Son, and has carried the same into the highest heaven."187 Even though Christ will be exalted to the glory which He had with His Father from the beginning, He will ever "retain His human nature."188
Upon the ascension of Christ to the right-hand of His Father, certain significant events took place, according to Ellen White. Christ "was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels."189 Not only was He enthroned, but He was also glorified with the glory which He had with the Father from all eternity. Once this inauguration had been accomplished and the ceremony was complete, the Holy Spirit descended in rich currents and in power upon the waiting disciples in Jerusalem. This was the signal on earth that in heaven Christ had been enthroned as both Priest and King.
2. The Priestly Ministry of Christ
In His office as Priest and King, Christ is graphically pictures by Ellen White as seated on the right hand of the Father, ministering in the heavenly sanctuary as our merciful High Priest. She sees Christ serving as both Advocate and Judge throughout the Christian dispensation. Christ introduces His earthly children to His Father as His friends through the merits of His blood. From the heavenly sanctuary Christ bestows upon His followers the "benefits of His atonement."190
In apparently dialectical fashion Ellen White presents two concepts of Christ's heavenly ministry. On the one hand, she has Christ fulfilling the type of both the daily and the yearly Levitical priestly ministration in two great consecutive periods from His inauguration until the consummation of all things.191 In this view Christ's dominant role in the first period is of intercession and in the second period of judgment. On the other hand, Ellen White also presents the concept that Christ's entire humiliation and total ministry in the heavenly sanctuary throughout the Christian era fulfils only the day of atonement symbolism.192 Perhaps for her, the antitype is too rich and full to find fulfillment in only one view of the shadow.
3. Christ and the Eschaton
Ellen White's treatment of the cessation of Christ's heavenly ministry and His return to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords is an important segment of her eschatology.193 Christ's second advent with all the angelic beings will be glorious and it will inaugurate the resurrection of the righteous, the glorification and translation of all the saints and the temporary destruction of the wicked and the binding of Satan. Ellen White accepts the concept of the millennium during which time this earth will be desolate and Christ and the saints will be reigning in heaven engaged in a further aspect of the judgment with particular reference to the unsaved.194
At the close of the millennium, Ellen White pictures Christ returning to this planet with the redeemed of all ages and in the glorious New Jerusalem, the city come down from
God. Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah that His feet shall once again stand on Mount Olives (see Zech. 14:4,5,9).195 Christ now calls forth the wicked in the second resurrection and they come up with the same characteristics of rebellion with which they closed their earthly lives. Satan is pictured as leading the hosts of the wicked in one final attempt to overthrow Christ and the government of God.196
And now Ellen White pictures the glory of Christ as He is seated on a throne high above the city. She sees the redeemed saints surrounding Christ and states that no language can describe and no pen can portray the power and majesty of Christ. "The glory of the Eternal Father is enshrouding His Son. The brightness of His presence fills the city of God, and flows out beyond the gates, flooding the whole earth with its radiance."197
It is in such a setting that the final coronation of Christ takes place. At His first ascension He had been enthroned and inaugurated as Priest and King; now all events move to the consummation. Note Ellen White's description:
"In the presence of the assembled inhabitants of earth and heaven the final coronation of the Son of God takes place. And now, invested with supreme majesty and power, the King of kings pronounces sentence upon the rebels against His government, and executes justice upon those who have transgressed His law and oppressed His people."198
Ellen White closes her description of these final events in sweeping strokes. The wicked stand before Christ in His glory and majesty and in a panoramic fashion see the events of salvation history.199 Finally, the wicked are destroyed, sin is eradicated, the earth is cleansed and becomes the eternal home of the redeemed. This world which went astray will be honored above all other worlds in the universe and will become the centre of the activity of the Father and the Son.200 And as the years of eternity roll there will be fresh manifestations of the glory and the power and the majesty of Christ and the love of God will be remembered in its highest revelation - Emmanuel, "God with us."
We have now completed our descriptive presentation of Ellen White's Christology. We have covered the areas of the pre-existence of Christ, Incarnation and nature, Incarnation and sin, Incarnation and grace, and finally Christ and eschatology. Now we will turn our attention to analysis and evaluation.
186 Note Ellen White's words: "Christ's sacrifice in behalf of man was full and complete. The condition of the atonement had been fulfilled. The work for which He had come to this world had been accomplished. He had won the kingdom. He had wrested it from Satan, and had become heir of all things" (The Acts of the Apostles, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press, 1911, p.29). See also Letter 136, 1902, in Questions on Doctrine, p.670; The Youth's Instructor, April 16, 1903, in Questions on Doctrine, p.680. [back]
187 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.25. [back]
188 Ibid. Thus, Ellen White sees human nature as a part of the exalted, eternal Christ. Note: "In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken" (Ibid.); further: "Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enfolded in the bosom of Infinite Love" (Ibid., p.26). See also The Great Controversy, p.674. [back]
189 For this quote and the thoughts of the entire paragraph see E. G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 38,39: "He was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels...The Pentecostal outpouring was Heaven's communication that the Redeemer's inauguration was accomplished...that He had, as priest and king, received all authority in heaven and on earth,..." See also The Signs of the Times, August 16, 1899, in Questions on Doctrine, p.664. [back]
190 Ellen White says: "The intercession of Christ in man's behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross" (The Great Controversy, p.489). She states that Christ entered the heavenly sanctuary "to shed upon His disciples the benefits of His atonement" (Early Writings, p.260). For a picture of Ellen White's view on Christ as Mediator, Advocate, Intercessor and Judge see Questions on Doctrine, pp.661-692. [back]
191 In this more generally accepted view of Ellen White she sees Christ as fulfilling the first apartment phase of the earthly sanctuary shadow from His ascension to 1844 particularly as intercession, and His fulfilling the second apartment phase from 1844 to the close of human probation with special emphasis on judgment. See E G White, The Great Controversy, pp.409-432; Patriarchs and Prophets, pp.343-358. [back]
192 Note Ellen White's emphasis in this direction: "As in the typical service the high priest laid aside his pontifical robes, and officiated in the white linen dress of an ordinary priest; so Christ laid aside His royal robes, and garbed Himself with humanity, and offered sacrifice, Himself the priest, Himself the victim. As the high priest, after performing his service in the holy of holies, came forth to the waiting congregation in his pontifical robes; so Christ will come the second time, clothed in garments of whitest white, 'so as no fuller on earth can white them'" (The Acts of the Apostles, p.33). For further references see The Desire of Ages, p.24; The Signs of the Times, April 19, 1905; The Desire of Ages, p.757; Letter 230, 1907, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1109; Christ's Object Lessons, p.386; The Youth's Instructor, June 21, 1900, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1109. For a discussion of these see Desmond Ford, Daniel 8:14, The Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgment, Casselberry, Florida: Evangelion Press, 1980, pp.346-350. [back]
193 For a brief summary of her views regarding this see E G White, The Great Controversy, pp.613-652. For easy access to material on this subject see the recent compilation on last-day events and eschatology, E. G. White, Maranatha, the Lord is Coming., Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1976.[back]
194 See E. G. White, The Great Controversy, pp.653-661; Maranatha, the Lord is Coming, pp.313-342. [back]
195 E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p.663 .[back]
196 Ibid., pp.663-665. [back]
197 Ibid., p.665.[back]
198 E. G. White, The Great Controversy., p.666 [back]
199 Ibid., pp.666-672.[back]
200 See E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.26.[back]
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IV. An Interpretive Analysis of Three Problem Areas in Ellen White's Christology
In this section it is our intention to present an interpretative analysis of Ellen White's views on three problem areas in her Christology. The first will be in the area of Incarnation and nature and will deal with the relationship between the divinity and humanity of Christ. The second area will be that of Incarnation and sin and will seek to interpret Ellen White's apparent tension with regard to Christ and sin. The third area will deal with Incarnation and grace and will seek to present an overriding motif to seek to integrate Ellen White's views on the work of Christ.
A. The Problem of the Relationship Between the Divine and Human Natures in Christ
One of the most complex problems in Christology is the question of the relation of the divinity and humanity of Christ. We have already given evidence of Ellen White's views on the fact that Christ clothed His divinity with humanity and we will now give an interpretive analysis of her position on this relationship to seek greater clarity on her stand in this regard.
Ellen White sensed the complexity of the subject and the need for faith. She wrote: "Christ's mission was not to explain the complexity of His nature, but to give abundant light to those who would receive it by faith."201 She recognizes the wonder of the Incarnation and yet she encourages a reverent study of the theme. 202 In the light of this encouragement we seek for evidence of her understanding of this relationship.
1. The Divine Person of Jesus Christ
She maintains that the divine Son of God did not exchange His divinity for humanity; neither did He go out of Himself, but took humanity into Himself. Note her words:
"Christ had not exchanged His divinity for humanity; but He had clothed His divinity in humanity,..."203 "This was not done by going out of Himself to another, but by taking humanity into Himself."204
By these thoughts we would understand that Ellen White believed that the Person of Jesus Christ was the divine Son of God, the second Person of the Godhead or the Logos. As she put it elsewhere: "In the Person of His only begotten Son, the God of heaven has condescended to stoop to our human nature."205 This would be in harmony with the evidence we have seen that Christ was fully God while on earth during the Incarnation. The humility and condescension of Christ was that He was willing to discard the outward honor, glory and majesty of God to approach sinful man on the level of humanity. One of the attributes of God's omnipotence is that He can adopt humanity unto Himself and that the mighty God can reveal Himself in the weak dimension of fallen man. Thus Christ chose to veil His glory with human flesh but the glory and wisdom and power was always His and He did not cease to be God. 206
Christ voluntarily chose to reveal Himself on the level of man and to take his liabilities and weaknesses upon Himself. And so while inherently possessing all wisdom and knowledge, He chose on the human level to "grow in wisdom and stature" (Luke 2:52). He chose to face temptation like any other man, having to rely on prayer, faith and trust in His Father. He chose not to work miracles on His own behalf in order to walk the path of other men. One of the greatest temptations for Christ was to use His divine power to escape the lot of humanity. T his He could have easily done according to Ellen White:
"He might have helped His human nature to withstand the inroads of disease by pouring from His divine nature vitality and undecaying vigor to the human. But He humbled Himself to man's nature."207
And so Christ "did not employ His divine power to lessen His burdens or to lighten His toil."208
And yet at the same time Ellen White indicates that it is only because of Christ's divinity that His person had saving qualities. It was because of His Godhead that He was the Messiah. His miracles and wonderful works for others were an evidence of His Messiahship. It was because of His divinity that His person had merit and that His atonement was meritorious. No mere man or angel could have had saving virtue.
2. The Antithesis Between Christ's Divinity and Humanity
To illustrate the antithesis in her concept of the nature of Christ we wish to note contrasting pictures given by Ellen White in the childhood of Christ, in His wilderness
temptation and in His death.209
Firstly, in connection with the outward appearance of Christ we have already noted that Christ's brothers perceived Him only as an ordinary man. Ellen White wrote: "Their coarse, unappreciative words showed that they had no true perception of His character, and did not discern that the divine blended with the human."210 And yet she could write in the very same year:
"No one, looking upon the childlike countenance, shining with animation, could say that Christ was just like other children. He was God in human flesh. When urged by His companions to do wrong, divinity flashed through humanity, and He refused decidedly. In a moment He distinguished between right and wrong, and placed sin in the light of God's commands, holding up the law as a mirror which reflected light upon wrong."211
In regard to the temptations which Christ met in the wilderness, Ellen White presents a similar antithesis. We have noted her emphasis on Christ facing these temptations as man. She wrote: "It was only by trusting in His Father that He could resist these temptations. He walked by faith as we must walk by faith."212 And yet Ellen White could also write in 1874:
"Christ's humanity alone could never have endured this test, but His divine power combined with humanity gained in behalf of man an infinite victory.213
Regarding the events around Gethsemane and the cross we again note the antithesis. Speaking of Christ's humanity Ellen White says of Gethsemane:
"He must not call His divinity to His aid, but, as a man, He must bear the consequences of man's sin, and the Creator's displeasure toward a disobedient subject.214
In speaking of the cross we see the other side of the dimension of Christ:
"Human nature can endure but a limited amount of test and trial. The finite can only endure the finite measure, and human nature succumbs; but the nature of Christ had a greater capacity for suffering; for the human existed in the divine nature, and created a capacity for suffering to endure that which resulted from the sins of a lost world."215
The above three examples show that because Ellen White maintains both the divinity and the humanity of Christ, such a relationship can only be presented in antithetical terms. We would suggest that if we wish to correctly understand her in this area, we will have to be willing to hold the functioning divinity and the functioning humanity of Christ in equal tension. One can never speak of one without the other if we wish to do her full credit.
In conclusion, we would say that Ellen White held that the person of Jesus Christ was the divine Son of God, equal with the Father, possessing all the attributes of God and yet, at the same time, choosing to reveal Himself as a real man with the limitations of humanity.
B. The Problem of Christ and Sin
We have seen two apparently contradictory lines of thought in Ellen White with relation to Christ and the sin problem in the Incarnation. One line states that Christ took man's fallen, sinful nature after the fall and the other emphasizes the total sinlessness of the human nature of Christ. Some, in seeking to interpret Ellen White, lay stress on the first concept while almost ignoring the second, and teach that Christ and man both possess sinful human natures having the same basic equipment with a difference in performance;216 and others emphasize her statements regarding the sinless human nature of Christ and believe that He not only was free from the acts of sin but also from the state of sin, while all men are both in sin.217 This problem of the interpretation of Ellen White relative to Christ and sin is a major one and has resulted in totally different soteriological trends.218 We wish now to clarify Ellen White's position and to show that both aspects must be kept in mind in presenting a true picture of her Christology.
1. Ellen White states the Case
In an article in the Signs of the Times in 1898 Ellen White presents both aspects of the human nature of Christ in a truly dialectical fashion, thus showing that both aspects must be held in tension. We quote:
"In taking upon Himself man's nature in its fallen condition, Christ did not in the least participate in its sin. He was subject to the infirmities and weaknesses by which man is encompassed, 'that it might be fulfilled which w as spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.? He was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and was in all points tempted like as we are. And yet He 'knew no sin.'... We should have no misgivings in regard to the perfect sinlessness of the human nature of Christ."219
Here, in one paragraph, Ellen White combines the thought of the sinless human nature of Christ with the fact that Christ took man's fallen nature upon Himself. She states that Christ was not merely sinless in act but in nature. She defines the fallen nature which Christ took upon Himself as being "subject to the infirmities and weaknesses" which face men. Ellen White makes a distinction between "infirmities and weaknesses" on the one hand and sin on the other. In speaking of Christ and His Incarnation, Ellen White makes the statement: "On all points except sin, divinity was to touch humanity."220 And this is a tremendous exception and would exclude all sin from the humanity of Christ. This same thought is amplified
when Ellen White says: "He was to take His position at the head of humanity by taking the nature but not the sinfulness of man."221 In any attempt to explain the concept of Christ "taking upon Himself man's fallen and sinful nature" we must understand this in the light of Ellen White's view of the inherent sinlessness of Christ's human nature. She speaks of Christ "possessing our nature, though unstained by sin."222
We would, therefore, maintain that when Ellen White says that Christ took upon Himself man's fallen and sinful nature, she means that Christ took upon Himself all the effects of sin without being infected by sin. He stood in the very position and circumstances of fallen man, tasting all the sorrows, weaknesses and liabilities of man. He took a physical nature subject to all the effects of sin except sin itself. He accepted mortality and the coincident infirmities of humanity such as weariness, hunger, thirst, sorrow and subjection to temptation. He stood where sinful man stands in order to save him and "became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh."223 He likewise took upon Himself the sins and the guilt of the whole world. By imputation the sins of the whole world pressed upon His sinless soul.
While Ellen White has Christ taking the fallen nature of man after the fall, she is careful to make it clear that this does not mean that Christ participates in man's corruption, or evil passions or propensities. She wishes to maintain the distinct sinlessness of the human nature of Christ. There is a clear difference between true Christian believers and Christ. Speaking of the prayers, the praise and the penitent confession of true believers ascending to the heavenly sanctuary where Christ ministers, she says: "but passing through the corrupt channels of humanity, they are so defiled that unless purified by blood, they can never be of value with God."224 According to Ellen White Christ took upon Himself sinful human nature and yet He never needed the purification of blood or of a mediator to make His prayers acceptable to the Father. Christ had no inherent corruption, but t rue believers or saints need the constant merits of Christ225 because of the corrupt channels of humanity. It was because Christ possessed a sinless human nature and had no inherent corruption that He did not need a mediator.
Although Christ took upon Himself our fallen nature, He did not possess our evil passions. Ellen White was emphatic: "He is a brother in our infirmities, but not in possessing like passions. As the sinless One, His nature recoiled from evil."226 While Ellen White is clear that Christ did not possess the passions of our fallen natures, she did elsewhere indicate that Christ was fully human and, therefore, had the neutral passions of humanity.227This fact would mean, for Ellen White, that Jesus Christ was a real, fully functioning man. His humanity was not docetic or partial. It was complete. He was a genuine human being who possessed appetite, knew hunger and thirst, experienced the sexual drive, became weary, understood self-worth and self-preservation. However, in clear contrast, Ellen White says He did not possess the passions of our human, fallen natures. His nature recoiled from evil and inherently there was no tendency towards evil. He did not possess corrupt tendencies or passions of inordinate appetite, of perverse sex, of human pride, envy or jealousy. Not for a moment was there in Christ an evil passion.
2. Light from Contemporary Sources
Ellen White's dialectical usage of the concept of Christ taking upon Himself man's fallen nature and yet possessing a sinless human nature is similar to that of certain theologians of her time. Note the words of Abraham Kuyper:
"...this intimate union of the Son of God with the fallen human nature does not imply the least participation of our sin and quilt. In the same epistle in which the apostle sets forth distinctly the fellowship of Jesus with the human flesh and blood, he bears equally clear testimony to the fact of His sinlessness, so that every misunderstanding may be obviated. As by virtue of our conception and birth we are unholy, guilty, and defiled, one with sinners, and therefore burdened with the condemnation of hell, so is the Mediator conceived and born holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens. And with equal emphasis the apostle declares that sin did not enter into His temptations, for, although tempted in all things, like as we are, yet He was ever without sin.
Therefore the mystery of the Incarnation lies in the apparent contradiction of Christ's union with our fallen nature, which on the one hand is so intimate as to make Him susceptible to its temptations, while on the other hand He is completely cut off from all fellowship with its sin."228
Kuyper makes it clear that through the ages the Church has confessed that Christ took upon Himself real human nature, not as it was before the fall, but such as it had become by and after the fall.
Important evidence has recently come to hand of Ellen White's selection of Henry Melvill as a source for her writings.229 Henry Melvill (1798-1871) was an Anglican minister who was a teacher, preacher and writer. Melvill's sermons were published in several different volumes, with many editions. The White Estate possesses Ellen White's personal, marked copy of one of the collections, Melvill's Sermons, 3rd edition, New York, 1844. Research at this stage has revealed that Ellen White used Melvill quite heavily. Of the 55 sermons, there were only 18 in which no parallels to Ellen White's writings have been discovered.
There are interesting parallels between Ellen White and Melvill in the field of Christology. Both held to the deity of Christ, to His divinity and humanity and to Christ's sinlessness. On the question of the human nature of Christ, Melvill has a sermon in his collection, entitled, "The Humiliation of the Man Christ Jesus." This sermon was extensively drawn upon in the preparation of Ellen White's article for the Review and Herald of July 5, 1887, which she entitled, "Christ Man's Example."
Within this sermon Melvill pauses to consider the question of Christ's humanity. While denying that Christ was included in the covenant violated by Adam at the fall? and therefore not technically "fallen" -Melvill is quick to define what he means by "fallen" and "unfallen" humanity. For Melvill there are two primary consequences of the fall: (1) "innocent infirmities," and (2) "sinful propensities." "From both was Adam's humanity free before, and with both was it endowed after, transgression" (Melvill's Sermons, p.47). By "innocent infirmities" Melvill understands such characteristics as hunger, pain, weakness, sorrow and death. "There are consequences on guilt which are perfectly guiltless. Sin introduced pain, but pain itself is not sin" (Ibid.). By "sinful propensities" Melvill refers to the proneness or tendency to sin.
In his summary of the discussion, Melvill makes it clear that, in his view, Adam had neither "innocent infirmities" nor "sinful propensities;" we are born with both, and Christ took the first but not the second.230 Tim Poirier of the White Estate has suggested that while Ellen White did not quote the words of the previous footnote the sentiments of Melvill could very well reflect Ellen White's own conviction.231 It is suggested that the apparent conflict found in Ellen White's statements on the humanity of Christ can be resolved in the context of Melvill's discussion. Could it be that when Ellen White states that Christ took upon Himself man's "fallen and sinful nature" she is thinking of those "innocent infirmities" that brought Christ to man's level, and that when she speaks of the sinlessness of Christ's humanity she is thinking of the fact that Christ did not possess "sinful propensities?" We would concur that this concept of Melvill throws some interesting light on Ellen White's total understanding of the problem of Christ and sin.
3. The Baker Letter
In an important letter written by Ellen White in Australia in 1895 to a Seventh-day Adventist minister working in Australia by the name of W L H Baker, she devotes five paragraphs to the subject of the humanity of Christ.232 There must have been some emphasis in Baker's Christology which caused concern and called forth the warning counsel in this letter. The five paragraphs reveal important insights regarding the question of the humanity of Christ and sin. Special weight must be given to this letter as Ellen White is specifically addressing herself to the problem of the humanity of Christ and sin. These five paragraphs are explicit and direct and are not incidental. paragraph is as follows:
"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, without a taint of sin upon him; he was in the image of God. He could fall, and he did fall through transgressing. Because of sin his posterity was born with inherent propensities of disobedience. But Jesus Christ was the only begotten Son of God. He took upon Himself human nature, and was tempted in all points as human nature is tempted. He could have sinned; He could have fallen, but not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity. He was assailed with temptations in the wilderness, as Adam was assailed with temptations in Eden."233
In the above paragraph our attention is drawn to Christ, Adam and the posterity of Adam. Ellen White warns that Christ should not be set before the people as a man "with the propensities of sin" and that not for "one moment was there in Him an evil propensity." Adam's descendants are contrasted with Christ in that they are "born with inherent propensities of disobedience." It is quite clear that she is here speaking not of cultivated propensities but of inherent propensities. Adam is spoken of as "without a taint of sin upon him."
In the third paragraph of the letter Ellen White warns Baker, "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."234 Quite clearly it must have been that Baker was giving a wrong impression regarding Christ. If he was presenting the fact that Christ took upon Himself man's fallen nature and that He came "in the likeness of sinful flesh," it could have been that he was overstating his case and implying that Christ possessed inherent propensities to evil like all other men. Ellen White goes on in the third paragraph to say:
"That which is revealed, is for us and for our children, but let every human being be warned from the ground of making Christ altogether human, such an one as ourselves; for it cannot be."235
In the clearest language Ellen White shows the difference between ourselves and Christ. We are "born with inherent propensities of disobedience," whereas with Christ "not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity." Christ is the second Adam and in regard to sin He must be compared with the first Adam. Ellen White says: "He [Christ] was assailed with temptations in the wilderness, as Adam was assailed with temptations in Eden." And does Ellen White give any indication how Adam was assailed with temptation in Eden? In a letter written in 1899 she writes:
"In what consisted the strength of the assault made upon Adam, which caused his fall? It was not indwelling sin; for God made Adam after His own character, pure and upright. There were no corrupt principles in the first Adam, no corrupt propensities or tendencies to evil. Adam was as faultless as the angels before God's throne.236
In view of the above we would state that Ellen White held that Christ was assailed with temptations in the wilderness on the same basis as Adam in Eden. It was not on the basis of inherent evil propensities or tendencies to evil. Like the first Adam Christ had no inner corruption. Adam was sinless and was tempted and fell. The second Adam was sinless and was tempted but did not fall.
We conclude this section by stating that Ellen White believed that Christ took upon Himself the nature of man after the fall with all its weaknesses and liabilities but not with its sin. He stood where every sinner stands in his weakened physical, mental and moral nature, but unlike all sinners, possessing a pure, sinless human nature without the propensities or tendencies to evil.
C. The Problem of Ellen White's Concept of the Work of Christ
We have observed that Ellen White emphasizes five different concepts of the atonement with reference to the work of Christ relative to the plan of salvation. These are substitution, revelation or revealing the character of God, vindication of God's law and government, example or model and empowering. This has led to at least three schools of interpretation within Adventism. One is the "substitutionary atonement" school with a strong emphasis on justification by faith; the other is the "moral influence" interpretation with a call to trust the loving God revealed particularly in the life of Jesus Christ; the
third is the "vindication-demonstration" school which sees Christ's fulfillment of the law as central and man's ability to keep the law by God's grace and the special final generation demonstration of sinless living as the complete vindication of God.
There is often a clash between interpreters of Ellen White, because some tend to retain only one trend in her writings. Or at least one line of interpretation is chosen as paramount and is made the dominant theory of the atonement. Now there are two basic options open for the researcher. Either one must accept that Ellen White's concepts with regard to the work of Christ are fragmentary and contradictory, or there is some overriding motif in Ellen White which provides a unifying synthesis of the various trends. We suggest the following procedure to test which of these options is correct. If one could find within a specific article or chapter all views brought into harmony, the option of contradiction would be shown to lack evidence. Such an explicit discussion of the topic in which all the trends were harmonized within a more comprehensive framework would favor the option of an overriding motif providing a higher synthesis.237
We must emphasize that the issue under discussion here is not the evaluation of Ellen White's view or of its validity but rather an attempt to analyze and understand her position. We now propose to take the first chapter of The Desire of Ages as a test case for the following reasons: Firstly, it deals explicitly with an overall view of Christ's work. Secondly, it is a self-contained unit, written by Ellen White expressly for the purpose of introducing the book and is not a compilation of statements made for other purposes. Thirdly, as an opening chapter its express purpose is to outline the overall themes of the person and work of Christ. This is evidently part of Ellen White's explicit Christology and must be given more weight than an incidental reference. Fourthly, it presents in one unified section her advanced thought on the subject appearing in print in 1898.
We proceed now with our analysis of the first chapter of The Desire of Ages. We notice the title and find that it gives the theme clearly, "God with us." Firstly, we observe that this is the covenant formula of the Old Testament, namely, "I will be your God and you will be my people." This is also seen in God's instruction to Moses, "Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8). Secondly, "God with us" is revealed in the name "Immanuel" given to Jesus of Nazareth. Thirdly, it is the phrase John chooses to indicate the consummation of all history (Rev. 21:3,7). The opening words of the chapter reinforce that this is indeed the topic - "His name shall be called Immanuel... God with us."238 Ellen White then focuses on the "revelation" theme. She states that "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ,"239 for He is God. Note that Jesus is not just a representative of God - come to tell us in words and actions what God is like, for "He came to reveal the light of God's lo240ve, - to be "God with us." It was in the "happening" of the Incarnation that the extent of God's true love was revealed for the first time. Therefore, the person of Jesus is the revelation.
Immediately Ellen White widens the scope. "Jesus was to reveal God both to men and to angels...But not alone for His earthborn children was this revelation given. Our little world is the lesson-book of the universe.241 This forces us to see God's plan and His grace in cosmic terms and not in terms of mere reaction to a sin problem. The plan of God is
issue of sin alone. Because God is sovereign, one can conclude that God's plan from eternity had this wider dimension. This is not to say that we are 'guinea pigs' or a 'test-tube-world,' but that God had always planned something special for this world that "angels would desire to look into and study throughout endless ages."242
Next Ellen White shows that the character of God and His law is "self-renouncing love." The issue here has nothing to do essentially whether man can keep the law or not. We note that this revelation of the law of God is in two phases. Firstly, the Incarnation itself and secondly, in the cross of Calvary.
Ellen White then moves on to consider the sin problem. She indicates God's purpose "to bring the lost into a fellowship with Christ which is even closer than they themselves [angels] can know."243 Sin originated in Lucifer's self-seeking. We have seen that this arose over the plan to create this world and man through Christ and was a rebellion against Christ by Lucifer.244 Sin must therefore be seen Christologically. The answer to this challenge was in the self-sacrifice of the person and the death of Christ. "This work only one Being in all the universe could do. Only He who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it known."245
Thus far we have noticed Ellen White's emphasis on the importance of the Incarnation. This theme of "God with us" is foundational to her thinking. In this act of "self-renouncing love" the character of God would be revealed. Even the problem of sin would be overcome by this principle of love.
We proceed now as Ellen White again shows the eternal plan of God. She is not dealing simply with God's reaction to the ontological priority of the reality of sin. She writes: "The plan for our redemption was not an after-thought, a plan formulated after the fall of Adam."246 Secondly, "It was a revelation of 'the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal.'"247 Thirdly, "It was an unfolding of the principles that from eternal ages have been the foundation of God's throne."248 Fourthly, Ellen White observes:
"From the beginning, God and Christ knew of the apostasy of Satan, and of the fall of man through the deceptive power of the apostate. God did not ordain that sin should exist, but He foresaw its existence, and made provision to meet the terrible emergency.249
The clear implication is that we are dealing here with the eternal purpose of God250
whereby He planned to reveal His love to the whole universe by taking a creature and bringing him into a closer union with Himself than even the angels might enjoy.
But God is faithful to His covenant. Note the following key sentence. "So great was His love for the world, that He covenanted to give His only begotten Son, 'that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'"251 In the context of the paragraph this took place from eternity. Elsewhere Ellen White makes this clear when she says: "From everlasting He was the Mediator of the covenant,..."252 God is faithful to His covenant. It was not a necessary, but a free act of grace. Note Ellen White says: "This was a voluntary sacrifice...He chose to give back the scepter into the Father's hands, and to
step down from the throne of the universe,..."253
In the next paragraph Ellen White again underscores the theme of her whole concept of the work of Christ. She writes: "Lo, I come....In these words is announced the fulfillment of the purpose that had been hidden from eternal ages. Christ was about to visit our world, and to become incarnate."254 The work of Christ in its main feature was to be "God with us." Everything else depends upon this grand accomplishment. "This great purpose had been shadowed forth in types and symbols."255 It was seen in the burning bush on the mount, in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of cloud by night and in the whole sanctuary symbol. These symbols met their fulfillment in the Incarnation:
"So Christ set up His tabernacle in the midst of our human encampment. He pitched His tent by the side of the tents of men, that He might dwell among us, and make us familiar with His divine character and life."256
Ellen White indicates clearly that all doctrines are related to this central truth. She says: "For in every doctrine of grace, every promise of joy, every deed of love, every divine attraction presented in the Saviour's life on earth, we see "God with us."257 In illustrating this claim she surveys the trends of thought mentioned previously regarding the work of Christ to show how they reveal "God with us." In an ascending order of importance she presents the evidence. She begins with Satan's attack on the law of God and Christ's purpose to vindicate its claims and God's government. "Satan represents God's law of love as a law of selfishness... Jesus was to unveil this deception."258 She then moves on to the example of Christ and to His moral influence upon us and also to Christ's empowering ability in our lives. Satan calls the law selfishness, thereby driving us away from God as a tyrant, while Jesus shows the law to be self-sacrifice, thus drawing us to God and empowering us to obey. But His two natures provide the key: "As the Son of man, He gave us an example of obedience; as the Son of God, He gives us power to obey."259
Now Ellen White goes even further in her picture of the work of Christ. She says:
"But He stepped still lower in the path of humiliation. 'Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.'...'He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.'
"Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserved. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. 'With His stripes we are healed.'"260
But the glory of the substitutionary atonement is only possible because of the Incarnation. As man He fulfilled the covenant as God's faithful covenant partner. As man He died in our place. As man He ascended to heaven as our representative.
We have thus seen Ellen White's graphic view of God's eternal plan and covenant as it centers in Christ. This plan reaches back into the eternal ages and points particularly to the Incarnation and atoning death. The shadows of the Old Testament as well as the doctrines of grace reveal the plan and purpose of God. The Incarnation is seen to be the pivotal fulcrum for the total work of Christ.
In the next paragraph Ellen White goes on to say: "By His life and His death, Christ achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin."261 She is now back to the overarching theme:
"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...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...Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enfolded in the bosom of Infinite Love. "262
Here we note the overarching theme of the covenant - "God with us." Here is an eternal fellowship between God and man made possible by the self-renouncing love of Christ who took upon Himself human nature.
The chapter closes with a picture of not only a restored world but of an exalted one. "In the place where sin abounded, God's grace much more abounds. The earth itself, the very field that Satan claims as his, is to be not only ransomed but exalted. Our little world, under the curse of sin, the one dark blot in His glorious creation, will be honored above all other worlds in the universe of God."263 And then Ellen White quotes Revelation 21 and presents the covenant promise that God will dwell with His people and be their God. She ends the chapter with the words in bold letters, "Immanuel, 'God with us.'"
In conclusion we would say that Ellen White sees as the fundamental central premise of all theology and of the Person and work of Christ the covenant between God and Christ in eternity.264 All other themes depend on this one for their place and importance. Christ's divinity is the presupposition for all else. Only one who was God could fulfil the covenant and redeem man. Christ's humanity was not a necessity but was sheer grace. It was God's eternal free decision. It was not necessary to prove anything by means of Christ's humanity such as the possibility of keeping the law or that God is love. If such things are proved, they are incidental. Furthermore, Christ's humanity is not a means to an end - but the goal itself. Essentially, the gospel or the everlasting covenant is not only something Christ came to teach us, or to show us or to demonstrate to us or even to achieve for us. He Himself in His Person is that everlasting gospel and the eternal covenant.
201 E. G. White, Review and Herald, April 23, 1895. [back]
202 We observe Ellen White's caution: "When we approach this subject, we would do well to heed the words spoken by Christ to Moses at the burning bush, 'Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.' We should come to this study with the humility of a learner, with a contrite heart. And the study of the Incarnation of Christ is a fruitful field, which will repay the searcher who digs deep for hidden truth" (The Youth's Instructor, October 13, 1898, cited in Questions on Doctrine, p.647). [back]
203 E. G. White, Review and Herald, October 29, 1895. [back]
204 E. G. White, Review and Herald, April 5, 1906 [back].
205 E. G White, "The Revelation of God," Review and Herald, March 17, 1904. [back]
206 Note Ellen White's significant words: "But although Christ's divine glory was for a time veiled and eclipsed by His assuming humanity, yet He did not cease to be God when He became man. The human did not take the place of the divine, nor the divine of the human. This is the mystery of godliness. The two expressions 'human' and 'divine' were, in Christ, closely and inseparably one, and yet they had a distinct individuality. Though Christ humbled Himself to become man, the Godhead was still His own" (The Signs of the Times, May 10, 1899, cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1129). By her statement that the 'human' and 'divine' were in Christ closely and inseparably one we would understand that the Person of Christ showed a unity and yet He was at the same time really man and fully God. [back]
207 E. G. White, "Christ Man's Example," Review and Herald, July 5, 1887. [back]
208 E. G. White, The Signs of the Times, October 9, 1884. See also the reference in footnote 84 of this chapter. [back]
209 Because of the complexity of the union between the divine and the human we are often confronted with antithesis in the field of Christology. We wish to illustrate this in the presentation of Ellen White. A decision has to be made whether we are here facing true antithesis or pure contradiction. [back]
210 E. G White, The Desire of Ages, p.326. [back]
211 E. G. White, The Youth's Instructor, September 8, 1898 (Cited in Questions on Doctrine, p.649). See also Review and Herald, March 3, 1874, where she speaks of the "unsullied purity of the childhood, youth, and manhood of Christ which Satan could not taint." [back]
212 E. G. White, The Review and Herald, March 9, 1886. See also Ms. 21, 1895; The Youth's Instructor, April 25, 1901. [back]
213 E. G. White, The Review and Herald, October 13, 1874. Note: "Christ could have done nothing during His earthly ministry in saving fallen man if the divine had not been blended with the human" (Letter 5, 1889, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p.904). Observe these words: "In Christ dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily. This is why, although He was tempted in all points like as we are, He stood before the world, from His first entrance into it, untainted by corruption, though surrounded by it" (Ms. 16, 1890, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p.907). See also Review and Herald, January 28, 1909. [back]
214 E. G. White, The Review and Herald, October 9, 1888. [back]
215 E. G. White, Manuscript 35, 1895, (cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1103). She says: "But Christ is equal with God, infinite and omnipotent. He could pay the ransom for man's freedom" (The Youth's Instructor, June 21, 1900). Also: "The whole series of sorrows which compassed humanity Christ bore upon His divine soul (Ms. 12, 1900, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, p.1103). Further: "Deity suffered and sank under the agonies of Calvary" (Ms. 153, 1898, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p.907). Ellen White writes: "Justice demanded the sufferings of man; but Christ rendered the sufferings of a God" (Letter 12, 1892, in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p.913). [back]
216 Some examples of this school of thought are M L Andreasen (see footnote 218); Robert J. Wieland (see The 1888 Message, An Introduction, Nashville, Tennessee: Southern Publishing Association, 1980, pp.41-51); Kenneth H Wood (see "F.Y.I.-4," Review and Herald, November 18, 1976; "Jesus - the God-man," Review and Herald, May 5, 1977 "Divinity and Humanity to be Combined in Us," Review and Herald, December 29, 1977; Herbert E. Douglass (see Chapter V of this dissertation for a full discussion); Thomas a Davis (see Was Jesus Really Like Us? 1979). [back]
217 Selected representatives of this school of thought are Leroy E Froom (see Movement of Destiny, revised edition, 1978, pp.495-499); Roy A. Anderson (see Faith That Conquers, Nashville, Tennessee: Southern Publishing Association, 1967, pp.59-75); Edward Heppenstall (see Chapter IV of this dissertation); Desmond Ford (see "The Relationship Between the Incarnation and Righteousness by Faith," Documents from the Palmdale Conference on Righteousness by Faith, pp.25-41); J. Robert Spangler (see "Ask the Editor," Ministry, April, 1978, pp.21-23). [back]
218 Questions on Doctrine appeared in 1957 and chapter 2 attempted to give answers to questions about Christ. A careful reading of the section on the Incarnation (pp.50-65) will reveal that the authors (mainly L. E. Froom, W. Read and R. A. Anderson) leaned heavily on Ellen White in an attempt to give the Seventh-day Adventist position. They endeavored to give emphasis to both streams of thought in Ellen White. There are those who feel that Questions on Doctrine emphasized Ellen White's statements on the sinless human nature of Christ to the neglect of her teachings on His having "taken our sinful natures upon Himself." M L Andreasen issued his Letters to the Churches in which he
took sharp exception to the sentiments of Questions on Doctrine relative to the human nature of Christ. In his first chapter he disagrees with the statement on page 383 of Questions on Doctrine where it says that Christ was "exempt from the inherited passions and pollutions that corrupt the natural descendants of Adam." He quotes many statements from Ellen White to indicate what he feels is her opposition to such sentiments. Many in the church would be happy with Andreasen's evaluation of the Ellen White evidence. On the other hand, L. E. Froom later put out Movement of Destiny (1971) in which he presented the Ellen White evidence for the sinless human nature of Christ and maintained that Ellen White supported the idea that Christ took the sinless nature of Adam before the fall and gives Ellen White support for this (see page 497). F. T. Wright, a former Seventh-day Adventist and a strong supporter of the 'sinful human nature' concept of Christ in Ellen White, published a book, The Destiny of a Movement, in 1976 in which he believes that the Seventh-day Adventist movement has virtually apostatized as evidenced by Froom's interpretation of Ellen White's Christology. Many names could be mentioned of men who, as a result of their interpretation of Ellen White, are either in the 'sinful human nature' camp or the 'sinless human nature of Christ' camp. As an example see the book Perfection, Nashville, Tennessee: Southern Publishing Association, 1975, in which four Adventist theologians present their views on Christian perfection. One observes that the soteriology of these men is affected by their position on Christology. Both Douglass and Maxwell lean towards the 'sinful human nature' concept of Christ and end up with perfectionism, while Heppenstall and LaRondelle are closer to the 'sinless human nature' concept more moderate view of perfection (see the entire book). The significance of this rift in Seventh-day Adventism is not insignificant. [back]
219 E. G. White, The Signs of the Times, June 9, 1898, (Cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1131). [back]
220 E. G. White, "Written for our Admonition - No. 2," Review and Herald, January 7, 1904. See also The Signs of the Times, April 17, 1884 and Review and Herald, January 20, 1863. [back]
221 E. G. White, The Signs of the Times, May 29, 1901, (Cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p.912). [back]
222 E. G. White, "The Great Standard of Righteousness," Review and Herald, May 7, 1901. [back]
223 E. G. White, Manuscript 165, 1899, (Cited in The Faith I Live By, p.48). [back]
224 E. G. White, Manuscript 50, 1900, (Cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, p.1078). [back]
225 E. G. White, Manuscript 50, 1900, (Cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, p.1078). [back]
226 E. G. White, Testimonies, Vol. 2, pp.201,202. Note the similar thought in the same volume: "He 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" (p.509). [back]
227 Note Ellen White's thought: "Though He had all the strength of passion of humanity, never did He yield to temptation to do one single act which was not pure and elevating and ennobling" (Manuscript 73, undated, cited in In Heavenly Places, p.155). We would submit that this thought is not a contradiction to the sentiments presented under footnote 211. The normal passions of humanity were experienced by Adam and Eve before the fall and are distinct from the "passions of our fallen natures." [back]
228 Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, London: Funk and Wagnalls, 1900, pp.84,85. Cf. Robert L Ottley, The Doctrine of the Incarnation, London: Methuen & Co., 1896, p.604. There are those who see the "fallen human nature" of Christ more radically than Kuyper and Ottley might do. See Harry Johnson, The Humanity of the Saviour, London: The Epworth Press, 1962. In this book the author demonstrates that through the centuries there have been Christian leaders who believed that Jesus did have a "fallen human nature," a term Johnson uses. For him this means that Jesus Christ participated in 'original sin' with tendencies and propensities to sin, but through His divinity Christ never yielded to sin. At the cross He finally purged His 'fallen nature'. [back]
229 See the 98-page typed document assembled by Ron Graybill, Warren H. Johns, and Tim Poirier, Henry Melvill and Ellen G White: A Study of Literary and Theological Relationships, Ellen G. White Estate, Washington, D.C.: May 1982. [back]
230 Melvill writes: "But whilst he [Christ] took humanity with the innocent infirmities, he did not take it with the sinful propensities. Here Deity interposed. The Holy Ghost overshadowed the Virgin, and, allowing weakness to be derived from her, forbade wickedness; and so caused that there should be generated a sorrowing and a suffering humanity, but nevertheless an undefiled and spotless; a humanity with tears, but not with stains; accessible to anguish, but not prone to offend; allied most closely with the produced misery, but infinitely removed from the producing cause. So that we hold - and give it you as what we believe the orthodox doctrine - that Christ's humanity was not the Adamic humanity, that is, the humanity of Adam before the fall; nor fallen humanity, that is, in every respect the humanity of Adam after the fall. It was not the Adamic, because it had the innocent infirmities of the fallen. It was not the fallen, because it never descended into moral impurity. It was, therefore, most literally our humanity, but without sin" (Mellvill's Sermons, p.47). [back]
231 Tim Poirier, "A Comparison of the Christology of Ellen White and Henry Melvill," White Estate, April 1982. [back]
232 In a research paper prepared for Andrews University in March, 1975, entitled, "The Christology of Ellen G White Letter 8, 1895: An Historical Contextual and Analytical Study," Lyell Vernon Heise seeks to analyze the Christology of the letter. He gives a
sketch of the career of W. L. H. Baker as a minister, scholar and teacher. There is no clear evidence as to what Baker was teaching in the area of Christology to elicit this letter from Ellen White. Heise seeks to look at contextual factors such as the writings of Ellen White in The Bible Echo around this time, the possible influence of E. J. Waggoner on Baker and the work of W. W. Prescott in Australia between September 1895 and April 1896 to give some possible clue as to Baker's Christology. He then proceeds with a detailed analysis of the five paragraphs in the letter. [back]
233 E. G. White, Letter 8, 1895, (Cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1128). In the book by R. J. Wieland, The 1888 Message: An Introduction, Nashville, Tennessee: Southern Publishing Association, 1980, the author discusses this letter on pages 59-63. In two columns he seeks to give a comparison between the above statement and portions of the ensuing paragraphs with a selection of an article by E. J. Waggoner from the Signs of the Times, January 21, 1889. In Waggoner's column there are similar sentiments to those in Ellen White's letter, but very clearly Waggoner is speaking of the divine nature of Christ when he says: "yet His divine nature never for a moment harbored an evil desire.' Wieland begins the Ellen White statement not at its commencement as above, but with the words, "Jesus Christ was the only-begotten Son of God." In comparing these two selections Wieland appears to want to give the impression that Ellen White is also speaking of the divine nature of Christ as is Waggoner. However, a careful analysis of the context of the five paragraphs reveals clearly that the burden of Ellen White's thought is the humanity of Christ and not His divine nature. [back]
234 E. G. White, Letter 8, 1895, (Cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, [back]
235 Ibid., p.1129. It is interesting to note that R. J. Wieland does not quote this important section of Ellen White's letter in his treatment of the material. [back]
236 E. G. White, Letter 191, 1899, (Cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, p.1083). When Wieland discusses Ellen White's usage of "propensity" with reference to Christ he refers to the Oxford English Dictionary and finds its meaning to be "to hang or lean forward or downward." He then says: "The word propensity implies a 'response to gravity,' 'a definite hanging down,' instead of resistance. It definitely connotes actual participation in sin, and Ellen White used the word in its finest English connotation" (Wieland, op. cit p.62). It is interesting to note in Ellen White's 1895 letter that she indicates that Adam's posterity are "born with inherent propensities of disobedience." If one is born with such a propensity one would question Wieland's definition of "propensity" as "actual participation in sin." Surely Ellen White's own usage of the word would be determinative. Wieland further seeks to make a difference between 'propensity' and 'tendency.' He indicates that Christ did not have a 'propensity to evil' which would connote participation in sin, but He could have 'tendencies or inclinations' to evil. He says: "Ellen White did not equate 'evil propensities' with 'tendencies' or 'inclinations,' which all have as 'the results of the working of the great law of heredity' and which Christ 'took upon Himself' in His battle with temptation as we must fight it. She stated that Christ had 'to resist the inclination "'(Wieland, op. cit., pp. 62,63). It is
important to note in the letter of 1899 that Ellen White does equate 'corrupt propensities' and 'tendencies to evil' in her discussion of Adam. [back]
237 We must bear in mind that if there was an overarching theme connecting the various trends together, compilations of statements would miss this completely because the connections between the trends might only become apparent in extended passages. Moreover, the quotation industry has through the years built up preconceptions of what Ellen White believed - each compiler tending to take the quotations that suit his purpose. One would expect this overall theme to be reflected not only in specific writings, but also in all her works taken as a whole. This overriding motif should be found to be the theme of her entire theology. [back]
238 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.19. [back]
239 Ibid. [back]
240 Ibid. [back]
241 Ibid. [back]
242 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.20. [back]
243 Ibid., p.21. [back]
244 4E. G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1, pp. 17-24. [back]
245 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.22.137 [back]
246 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.22. [back]
247 Ibid. [back]
248 Ibid. [back]
249 Ibid. [back]
250 Ellen White held that God's plan to create man and His knowledge of the possibility of sin reach back into the eternal ages. Accompanying the possibility of sin was also God's plan of redemption involving the Incarnation. Thus the plan of the Incarnation would also reach into the past eternal ages in Ellen White's thinking. [back]
251 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.22. [back]
252 E. G. White, "The Word Made Flesh," Review and Herald, April 5, 1906. [back]
253 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.23 [back]
254 Ibid. [back]
255 Ibid. [back]
256 Ibid. [back]
257 Ibid., p.24. [back]
258 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.24. [back]
259 Ibid. [back]
260 Ibid., p.25. [back]
261 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p.261. [back]
262 Ibid., pp.25,26. [back]
263 Ibid., p.26.141 [back]
264 The institution of the Sabbath and the various covenants of the Old Testament are signs and symbols of the everlasting covenant of grace. [back]
At Issue Index Webster Index Previous Next
V. Evaluation and Critique
In this concluding section we wish to give an evaluation and critique of Ellen White's Christology and will proceed in the following manner. Firstly, we will offer certain general observations as a background; secondly, we will discuss the total impact of Ellen White's Christology; thirdly, we will offer a specific critique; and, finally, we will present a summary and conclusion.
A. General Observations
We will make our general observations under three headings, namely, concerning Ellen White's theological development, her style and intention and finally, her use of sources.
1. Ellen White's Theological Development Relative to Christology
Ellen White commenced writing in 1846 at the age of 19 and continued until 1915 when she was 88 years of age. It should be observed that this covers a period of 69 years
spanning two generations. I would place her Christological presentations into three approximate chronological periods, as follows: 1) 1850-1870; 2) 1870-1890 and 3) 1890-1915. The first period is illustrated by such works as Christian Experience and Views of Mrs. E G White (1851); A Supplement to Experience and Views (1854); and Spiritual Gifts (1858-1864). During this period there was an emphasis on visionary experiences and her descriptions of the pre-existent Christ could be termed graphic, literalistic and anthropomorphic. Her writings always featured Jesus, but were mostly set within the framework of her eschatological visions. It was only with the unfolding of her 'great controversy' theme in 1858 that her Christology broadened and began to be more prominently presented. The second period is illustrated by writings such as the Spirit of Prophecy series (1870-1884) and her Christology now showed clear signs of growth and maturity. The third period could be considered as inaugurated with Patriarchs and Prophets (1890) and is the period of Christological dominance in the writings of Ellen White. This is the period of elaborate, far-reaching and increasingly insightful pronouncements in her Christology. It is difficult to differentiate between the actual Christology of the second and third periods; the content is very similar but the volume is greater in the third. As far as the pre-existent Christ is concerned, during the first period Ellen White appears to present Jesus Christ as subordinate to the Father; in the second period she presents Christ as equal with the Father and eternal; during the last period Christ is presented as of the same substance and essence as the Father and one in whom is life original, unborrowed, underived.265
To what extent was Ellen White influenced by her contemporaries within Adventism with regard to her Christology? Froom showed that Arianism and semi-Arianism had manifested themselves in an unofficial way through the writings of John M. Stephenson (1854), Uriah Smith (1865)266 and Joseph Waggoner (1884).267 Froom also shows that James White, the husband of Ellen White, commenced his ministry with an anti-Trinitarian stance, but by 1877 came out clearly in the Review and Herald on the equality between the Father and the Son.268 Gane believes that early Adventism at least up to 1898 was even more strongly anti-Trinitarian and Arian than what Froom maintains. He remarks:
"As has been shown, there was prior to 1898 considerable diversity of belief on the subject of the nature of God. Bordeau in 1890 regretted this. But the present writer has been unable to discover any evidence that 'many were Trinitarians'269 before 1898, nor has there been found any Trinitarian declaration written, prior to that date, by an Adventist writer, other than Ellen G White."270
Two observations should be made in connection with Ellen White. Firstly, in spite of the fact that Ellen White exercised the gift of prophecy, one can believe that God speaks to people in the setting of their times and within the scope of their theological thought patterns. With a strong anti-Trinitarian atmosphere in her early environment even including her husband, it can be understood that Ellen White could present her views of Christ within her theological world and understanding. The second observation is that it is quite remarkable to observe the rich and profound anti-Arian Christology issuing forth from her pen starting as a gentle flow in the 1870's, becoming stronger in the 1880's and
swelling to a torrent in the 1890's when all around her were influential men with differing views. Ellen White showed remarkable independence of thought in her Christological development.
2. Ellen White's Style and Intention
Bearing in mind Ellen White's lack of formal education271 it can be appreciated that her style of writing was at first simple, resulting in a feeling of inadequacy to present the grand themes of salvation.272 She commenced writing out of a sense of mission and calling. Ellen White was convinced that God had spoken to her and had placed a burden upon her to make known to others what He had revealed to her. Her earlier writings consisted of messages making clear what had been shown to her. In addition, she soon began to write 'testimonies' to individual members and small companies and churches. These messages were in the form of counsel, guidance, admonition and reproof and were generally of a hortatory nature. The emphasis in the beginning was not upon exegetical or expository writing but rather in the field of spiritual admonition.
Ellen White was not a trained theologian and, therefore, we cannot look for systematic treatment of spiritual truth. But as time went by her intention to admonish, exhort and guide the church flowered into a coherent presentation of Biblical themes. She excelled herself in the development of the Conflict of the Apes series as these grew from the earlier Spiritual Gifts into the Spirit of Prophecy and then, finally, into the five volumes of the Conflict of the Ages series. Ellen White carefully traced the history of the drama of the ages, weaving practical spiritual lessons into this recital. The end product has been spiritual and edifying for the church. It is in this setting that her Christological themes have been presented. They lie scattered throughout her writings and instead of forming a systematized network of truth are rather like scattered jewels waiting to be gathered and collected by observant wayfarers.
3. Ellen White's Christology in the Light of her Sources
It is helpful when making an evaluation of Ellen White's theology and particularly her Christology to bear in mind her use of sources.273 Through the years it has generally been thought that Ellen White only made use of sources when writing historical works such as The Great Controversy.274 Research in more recent years and bibliographic work on the inventory lists of her library books reveals that Ellen White had more than eleven hundred books by non-Seventh-day Adventist authors275 and read more widely than has generally been known. It is now known that she used sources in her writings covering all subjects.276
Of particular interest for this dissertation is the question of Ellen White's use of sources in the field of Christology. Here we think particularly of a book such as The Desire of Ages, dealing with the life of Christ. In the development of this book, whether drawing from her existing works or writing fresh material, Ellen White made use of at least twelve
other sources.277 Reference has already been made to a comparison of the Christology of Ellen White and Henry Melvill, the Anglican preacher (1798-1871) from whom she drew heavily. This latter source has thrown considerable light on the apparent conflict in Ellen White's statements on the humanity of Christ.278
How does the question of Ellen White's use of sources affect our evaluation of her Christological contribution? The tension and antithesis apparent in Ellen White's Christology could arise, either from her use of sources with contradictory ideas, or from the very nature of the subject. After personal research and consideration I would favour the latter alternative. In fact, the general consistency in Ellen White's views over a considerable span of time is a testimony to her clarity of thought. The fact that different sources are used makes it all the more imperative for an author to use discretion and wisdom in presenting a uniform picture. It would be easy to offer a confused and contradictory Christological pattern, unless one was blessed with discernment. The knowledge of Ellen White's use of different sources has heightened our appreciation of her general Christological impact.
B. The Total Impact of Ellen White's Christology
In this section we will endeavor to evaluate Ellen White's Christological impact upon the church in three sub-sections, namely, the dominance of her Christology, the heart of her Christology and the tension of her Christology.
1. The Dominance of her Christoloqy
Many different subjects and themes are treated by Ellen White and various students might have conflicting ideas as to her chief concern. There are those who feel that her treatment of health and the body has priority. Others would see her burden for parents, children and the home as dominant. Others again might even feel that her counsel on last-day events has pre-eminence. We would like to suggest, however, that Ellen White's favorite theme and topic woven into everything else is Jesus Christ.279Not only is this theme found in a book like The Desire of Ages but it is intertwined with all types of subjects throughout her writings. In going through all of her articles in the Review and Herald from 1850 to 1915 we found Christological nuggets lying all around and often in the most unexpected places. Whether writing on temperance, the home, faith, Christian work or simply recording travel notes, the theme of Jesus surfaced. For Ellen White Jesus Christ was the manifestation of the Father, He was the Substitute and Surety, He was our sanctification and our righteousness and our Example. For her Jesus Christ was the centre and the heart of all Christian doctrine and ethics. No wonder she wrote:
"Christ, his character and work, is the center and circumference of all truth, he is the chain upon which the jewels of doctrine are linked. In him is found the complete system of truth. "280
2. The Heart of her Christology
Having described Ellen White's Christology and attempted to analyze it we now ask whether it is possible for us to place our finger on the very heart of it all. What is it that makes Ellen White's Christology live and move? What is the significance of Jesus Christ in her total thought and scheme? How does Jesus Christ fit into the cosmic sweep of time and eternity? I would suggest that lying in the very centre of Ellen White's thought, whether conscious or unconscious, is the reality of Jesus Christ as the Mediator, the Link, the Middleman and the Bridge between God and the universe. While this is true of the whole universe, for us it has special meaning for this world. In this connection there comes clearly to mind Ellen White's vivid picture of Christ who with His divine arm grasps the throne of God and with His human arm the hand of man.281 Here Christ draws God and man together in fellowship. In His very nature as both human and divine He illustrates this tremendous truth of unity between the finite and the Infinite.
Let us test this heart of Ellen White's Christology. She herself speaks of Christ as the eternal Mediator.282 Long before sin, Christ was the Mediator or Link between God and the universe. In the plan to create man for fellowship Christ was to the medium of creation. Once sin appeared in heaven and on earth Christ would in a special way be the Bridge to restore fellowship. Underlying her whole concept of the great controversy between Christ and Satan is the central fact of Christ's role as Mediator and Medium between God and creation. In opposition to this role Lucifer commenced his nefarious schemes of rebellion against God and His character. Now the issue of God's government and His law of love came into focus as the 'great controversy between Christ and Satan,283
began to unfold. When man fell into sin this called for an additional dimension of Christ's mediatorial function; thus "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). This dimension of Incarnation and atonement lay dormant in the heart of God from the days of eternity but was made manifest when sin appeared. Now during "the great controversy" Christ would engage in this special mediatorial work of restoring fellowship between a loving God and sinful man. In the process Christ will vindicate God's character, His law and His government. Christ as Mediator, Link, Middleman and Bridge between God and creation is marvelously illustrated in the eradication of the temporary aberration of sin. The heart of Ellen White's Christology is Christ the Mediator.284
3. The Tension of her Christology
Another important aspect of Ellen White's total impact is the force of the tension in her Christology. Not that she worked as a trained theologian with an intentional philosophy of antithesis and paradox. Nevertheless, it is interesting to discover that the whole world of theological tension comes into play in her presentation of Christ.285 She presents the helpless babe of Bethlehem and yet the mighty God of the universe; the combination of the divinity and the humanity of Christ; the paradox of Christ possessing the attributes of God and the fullness of the Godhead bodily and yet manifesting the weakness of
humanity; taking upon Himself our sinful natures but still possessing inherently a sinless human nature; coming in the likeness of sinful flesh and yet Himself being without corruption, pollution or the taint of sin. Ellen White presents the marked contrast between Adam in Eden and Christ in the wilderness of temptation, and yet the tremendous similarity between Christ and Adam in relation to the absence of inherent sinfulness. She sees Christ relying on faith in His Father and the written word to overcome temptation in the wilderness and yet the necessity of divinity combining with His humanity in order to face the test. She pictures His miracles as an evidence of His Messiahship and yet His reliance on prayer to perform His miracles. She shows that Jesus Christ came down to the level of the sinner bearing the circumstances and results of sin and yet knowing no sin Himself. She indicates that Christ did not use His divine powers to alleviate His human position and yet He could read human hearts, forgive sin and manifest forth His divinity. Christ had to be more than a man or an angel in order to make atonement for sin and so Deity suffered and sank at Calvary and yet Deity did not die because God cannot die. The complexity of Ellen White's Christology is an indication of its depth and richness.286
C. A Specific Critique of Ellen White's Christology
We would suggest that in the very strength of Ellen White's Christology as one of tension and paradox, lurks also her greatest weakness. Because of the volume of her writing it is difficult for many to obtain a balanced overview of her Christological offerings. It is thus easy to see one side of the picture and to come away with a partial concept of Ellen White's Christology. Some have recognized that this makes it possible to select and use quotations of Ellen White to support differing concepts.287 Ellen White wrote under differing circumstances and on different occasions when a particular need arose. These very conditions have laid Ellen White open to the charge of contradiction.
As Ellen White was not a systematic theologian she did not attempt to systematize her Christology and place it in a neat bundle. This has resulted in loose ends lying around and each researcher can enter the field and decide for himself how he would like to stack the bundles. There is plenty of evidence as to the variegated results of such enterprises.288 Gil Gutierrez Fernandes has found that "a certain degree of ambiguity, however, seems to characterize her statements on the condition of Christ's human nature."289
Because Ellen White never attempted to gather her Christological material into a systematic whole we are left with some conflicting views.290 Those who have a high view of inspiration in connection with Ellen White would hold that any apparent contradiction is only apparent and not real, or that Christology is so complex that what appears to be contradiction is only divine. Others would say that because Ellen White used paradox different sources and was human she could end up with differing concepts. Still others would say that some of the contradictory ideas are due to her own theological growth and development, or to varying contextual circumstances. Much will depend in the end upon one's own philosophical and spiritual presuppositions in approaching the work of Ellen White.
D. Summary and Conclusion
We have presented Ellen White's views on the preexistence and eternity of Christ and of His unity with the Father in nature and character. We have pictured her doctrine of the Incarnation and its relation to the person and work of Christ. We discovered that for Ellen White, Christ did not lay aside His divinity when He took on humanity; He was fully God and fully man. While His deity was veiled, it functioned sufficiently for Christ to be God, in a similar way as His humanity functioned sufficiently for Him to be man. In relation to sin we found that Ellen White has Christ coming to earth in the post-fall nature of man with all the "innocent infirmities and weaknesses of man," together with the imputed sin and guilt of the whole world, thus bearing vicariously the guilt and punishment for all sin; and yet, in a nature that was sinless and without corruption, pollution, defilement, sinful propensities and tendencies or taint of sin. Furthermore, Ellen White sees all the manifold work of Christ bound and tied together as the great Mediator, Middleman, Link and Bridge between God and man.
Ellen White's impact on the Seventh-day Adventist Church and particularly on its theology has been significant. It is a pity that her Christology has not been more readily available to the general theological world. The scattered nature of her Christological writings over many years and covering many sources has made it difficult for non-Adventist scholars to get their hands on the comprehensive material. For one and all the challenge to dig deeper and to study more remains. After all, Christology is like a well that never runs dry._______________
265 E. R. Gane denies that there is any evidence of thought evolution in the Christology of Ellen White. In a thesis presented to Andrews University in June, 1963, entitled, "The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian Views Presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G. White Answer," (already referred to in footnote 25), he says: "It has been demonstrated that there was an evolution of thought among Adventists generally on the nature of God. This took the form of gradual repudiation of Arianism and acceptance of Trinitarianism. But Ellen G. White writings do not reveal this type of thought evolution. The profound statements of her later period do not contradict anything she wrote in the earlier period. Instead they reveal a growing awareness of the deeper mysteries of the Godhead" (p.67). It is interesting to note that practically all of the quotations cited from Ellen White on Christology in Gane's paper come from the years 1890 and beyond. Alden Thompson, professor of religion at Walla Walla College, College Place, Washington, U S A, takes a different line from Gane. In a series of five articles in the Review and Herald, (December 3,10,17,24,21, 1981), entitled "From Sinai to Golgotha," Thompson discusses what he calls the Sinai-Golgotha principle. Simply stated, this principle, according to Thompson, illustrates how God takes His people from the commands of Sinai to the invitation of Golgotha, enabling them to respond out of love instead of from fear. Applying this principle to Ellen White's theological growth he sees a shift of emphasis in the way she told the great controversy story itself. In comparing Patriarchs and Prophets (1890) with Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1, (1858), and The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1, (1870),
Thompson found that, in general, Spiritual Gifts gives a simple narrative; The Spirit of Prophecy expands it; Patriarchs and Prophets transforms it. In connection with the eternal nature of Christ, Thompson writes: "Both Spiritual Gifts and The Spirit of Prophecy reflect the tendency of some early Adventists to see Christ as a created being who was exalted to equality with the Father. But in Patriarchs and Prophets the statement of Christ's eternal relationship with the Father is clear and unmistakable" ("The Theology of Ellen White: The Great Controversy Story," Review and Herald, December 31, 1981). [back]
266 Froom quotes from Uriah Smith's Thoughts on the Revelation (1865) pages 14 and 59 to illustrate the Arian views of Smith. He then uses the second edition of 1875 and the third edition of 1881 to show how Smith moved from an Arian to a semi-Arian position on Christ. Froom maintains that even in Smith's book Looking Unto Jesus which appeared in 1898 he still propounds semi-Arian views on Christ and taught a derived Christ. See Froom, Movement of Destiny, pp.152-166. [back]
267 Froom discusses Waggoner's (the father of E. J. Waggoner) book, The Atonement, which first appeared in 1868, with a second edition in 1872 and an enlarged edition in 1884. Froom shows that Waggoner held and taught Arian concepts regarding Christ. See Froom, Movement of Destiny, pp.168-174. [back]
268 Ibid. , pp.175-177. [back]
269 Gane is referring to documents circulated by the Seventh-day Adventist leadership in the early 1960's in which it was stated that "many were Trinitarians" in our early history and that the Arian view was a minority one. See paper in next footnote, p.64. [back]
270 Cane, op. cit., p.65. [back]
271 The reader is referred to footnote 1. [back]
272 See Selected Messages, Book 3, p.90. See also Letter 40, 1892, and Letter 67, 1894 (both cited in Ford, Daniel 8:14, p. sA-257). [back]
273 The question of Ellen White and her use of sources has come up for discussion at regular intervals. It has generally been known that she did make use of certain historical works as source material in The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan, Battle Creek, Michigan: Review and Herald, 1888. She also drew from Conybeare and Howson, The Life and Epistles of Saint Paul, London: Scribner, 1851, in her Sketches from the Life of Paul, Battle Creek, Michigan: Review and Herald, 1883. For the Adventist defense of this usage see: F. D. Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, pp.403-467; A. L. White, The Ellen G. White Writings, pp.121-136. In recent years the subject has been researched more intensely. Ronald Numbers gave evidence in 1976 of Ellen White's use of sources in the field of health (see Ronald L. Numbers, Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G. White, New York: Harper & Row, 1976). In a series of articles in the Review and Herald, Arthur L. White, former secretary of the White Estate, presented evidence as to how
Ellen White prepared the Conflict of the Ages books (see Arthur L. White, "The E G. White Historical Writings," Review and Herald, July 12,19,26, August 2,9,16,23, 1979). See Molleurus Couperus, "The Bible Conference of 1919," Spectrum, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1979, pp. 23-57; Donald R. McAdams, "Shifting Views of Inspiration: Ellen G White Studies in the 1970's," Spectrum, Vol. 10, No. 4, 1980, pp.27-41; Douglas Hackleman, "GC Committee Studies Ellen White's Sources," Ibid., pp.9-15. For a recent critical approach see Robert D. Brinsmead, Judged by the Gospel, Fallbrook, California: Verdict Publications, 1980, pp.145-156; 361-383. Neal C. Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, has admitted that her use of sources is more extensive than was generally known. He writes: "Walter Rea, a former pastor in the Southern California Conference, has shown that E. G. White borrowed more extensively from contemporary sources than we had thought previously" ("The Ellen G White Writings and the Church," Review and Herald, July 9, 1981). See also Wilson, "This I Believe about Ellen White," Review and Herald, March 20, 1980. Recently a Roman Catholic attorney, Vincent L. Ramik, who specializes in copyright law, rendered a 27-page opinion on Ellen White's use of sources. He concluded that Ellen White was not guilty of copyright infringement/ piracy (see Review and Herald, September 17, 1981, pp. 3-7). For the most recent critical work see: Walter T. Rea, The White Lie, Turlock, California: M & R Publications, 1982. For recent critical evaluations of The White Lie see Jonathan Butler and Alden Thompson, "The White Lie: Two Perspectives," Spectrum, Vol. 12, No. 4, 1982, pp.44-55. For a recent sympathetic review see: Desmond Ford, Daniel 8:14, The Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment, Casselberry, Florida: Evangelion Press, 1980, pp.A-256-261. For a recent discussion of the topic by a representative of the White Estate we refer to Ron Graybill, "E G White's Literary Work: An Update," Aspire Tape, March 1982. See also a thorough discussion of the latest findings on the subject, Warren H. Johns, "Ellen White: Prophet or Plagiarist?" Ministry, June, 1982, pp.5-19. [back]
274 At the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Conference held in August 1919, at Washington, D.C., leaders of the church discussed Ellen White and her writings amongst other subjects. At that time it was thought that Ellen White's sources were confined to approximately twelve other books besides the Bible. See Warren H Johns, "Ellen White: Prophet or Plagiarist?" Ministry, June, 1982, p.16. [back]
275 See footnote 11 with regard to her library. Ellen White actually had three libraries—an office library to which her literary assistants had access, a personal library, and a library of 572 titles sold to her by C. C. Crisler in 1913. When she died in 1915 an inventory was made of all her possessions including her books. It is unlikely that she would have used many of the books bought from Crisler two years before her death. More than 800 of the books listed in the inventory are no longer to be found in the White Estate collection. See Warren H. Johns, "Ellen White: Prophet or Plagiarist?" Ministry, June, 1982, p.9). [back]
276 Johns writes: "Today we know that Ellen White used literary sources in her periodical articles, her unpublished manuscripts, her diaries, and her letters, in addition to the published books...I cannot think of any major subject where I have not located
examples of 'literary adaptation!" See Ibid., p.16. [back]
277 Desmond Ford writes: "Desire of Ages drew upon at least the greater part of a dozen well-known commentators on the life of Christ" (Desmond Ford, Daniel 8:14, p.A-256). Amongst authors used were Geikie, Lightfoot, Fleetwood, Farrar, Hanna, Edersheim, Samuel Andrews and John Harris. See Johns, Ministry, June, 1982, pp.6,7; See also Arthur L White, "Completing the Work on The Desire of Ages," Review and Herald, August 16,23, 1979. [back]
278 See discussion involving footnotes 229-231 in this chapter. [back]
279 The Index to the Writings of E. G. White give an index of the various topics in the writings of Ellen White. It is very interesting to note the large number of entries under the title, 'Christ.' Notice the number of pages, of entries of some selected subjects: Sabbath-14; Ten Commandments-7; Health-3; Home-10; Advent-4; Christ-76. [back]
280 E G White, "Contemplate Christ's Perfection, not Man's Imperfection," Review and Herald, August 15, 1893. [back]
218 For selected reference see footnote 59 of this chapter. [back]
282 Ellen White says: "From everlasting he was the Mediator of the covenant," ("The Word Made Flesh," Review and Herald, April 5, 1906). [back]
283 There are some who believe that the heart of Ellen White's theology lies in "the great controversy between Christ and Satan" (see Joseph Ballistone, The Great Controversy Theme in E G White Writings, Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University Press, 1978). While the history of this world and of sin could very well be described in terms of 'the great controversy' we would suggest that the Person of Christ is much richer, deeper and greater than the aberration of sin. Christ's participation in "the great controversy" represents only one phase of Christ's activity in the sweep of eternity. [back]
284 We suggest that this presentation would harmonize with our discussion of the first chapter of The Desire of Ages regarding Ellen White's overriding motif in the work of Christ. That theme of the covenant as fulfilled in the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ would harmonize with Christ as the Mediator between God and the universe. [back]
285 It should be remembered that if Jesus Christ is very God and very man, then we are bound to face mystery, complexity and antithesis in Christology. It was Forsyth who said: "Beware of clearness, consistency, and simplicity, especially about Christ. The higher we go the more polygonal the truth is. Thesis and antithesis are both true" (P. T. Forsyth, The Person and Place of Jesus Christ, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, [n.d.], p.71). [back]
286 At face value the above could be taken as simply evidence of contradiction in Ellen
White. However, there are a number of factors which make this unlikely. Firstly, there is the consistency with which Ellen White presents her style of paradox, tension and antithesis throughout her writings. It is not isolated to one aspect of her Christology but permeates the whole field. Secondly, this paradox is seen within the shorter confines of single articles, letters or chapters. Thirdly, in this chapter on Ellen White we have already explored shorter paragraphs and even sentences which are rich in purposeful tension and dialectic. Fourthly, it should be remembered that even theologians of note such as Barth and Pannenberg have been accused of similar paradox and tension. [back]
287 0ne non-Adventist friendly critic has written: "I mentioned that Mrs. White wrote voluminously. Those writings took place over a considerable period of time. They took place in specific contexts, and they stood in a definite relationship to each other. To use those writings correctly (so as not to misrepresent them) requires a great deal more skill than is generally being exhibited" (Geoffrey J. Paxton, The Shaking of Adventism, p.156). The author goes on to say that Ellen White has a wax nose and can be turned this way or that way by those desiring to score a point. [back]
288 Let us review some of these results. We have already mentioned that Gane found no theological growth in Ellen White's Christology while Thompson found the opposite (see footnote 265 in this chapter); William H. Grotheer has given a history of the conflicting opinions regarding Ellen White's Christology in "An Interpretative History of the Doctrine of the Incarnation as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church," (1972, see page 457); Desmond Ford interprets Ellen White one way on the nature of Christ and on righteousness by faith (see Documents from the Palmdale Conference, pp.36-59) while A John Clifford and Russell R. Standish interpret her another way (see Biblical Research Institute Paper, Conflicting Concepts of Righteousness by Faith, 1976); W. E. Read prepared a 17-page mimeographed pamphlet of Ellen White extracts on "The Sinlessness of Jesus," 1956; see a differing view by Albert H. Olesen, Think Straight about the Incarnation, An Examination and Application of Original Beliefs in Doctrine, [n.p., 1960?]; see also A. Leroy Moore, The Theology Crisis, Texas: Life Seminars, 1980; see Thomas A. Davis, Was Jesus Really Like Us? 1979. Many more examples could be given. [back]
289 See G. G. Fernandez, Ellen G White: The Doctrine of the Person of Christ, Ph.D. Dissertation, Drew University, 1978, p.73. [back]
290 Aside from the paradoxical elements as already presented in various parts of this chapter we mention one example. Commenting on Hebrews 5:7, Ellen White says: "He made his supplications to his Father with strong crying and tears. He prayed, not for himself, but for those whom he came to redeem" (Testimonies, Vol. 4, p.373); further, "He spent whole nights in prayer upon the lonely mountains, not because of his weakness and his necessities, but because he saw, he felt, the weaknesses of your natures..." (Testimonies, Vol. 3, p.379); similarly see Testimonies, Vol. 4, p.528. On the other hand, note: "He was unsullied with corruption, a stranger to sin; yet he prayed, and that often with strong crying and tears. He prayed for his disciples and for himself (emphasis supplied), thus identifying himself with our needs, our weaknesses, and our failings,
which are so common with humanity" (Testimonies, Vol. 2, p.508); for similar thoughts see Ministry of Healing, p.500; The Desire of Ages, pp.419,420. Do the two views complement each other or contradict? This is simply an example of material which will have to be handled with skill. Of course, the Scriptures also provide an ideal fruitful field for potential conflict of views. [back]
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THE CHRISTOLOGY OF ELLET JOSEPH WAGGONER
In this chapter we set ourselves the task of outlining the Christological views and convictions of E. J. Waggoner. Showing ability as a writer, he commenced in this field in 1883 and continued using the pen as a denominational worker until 1903. One of Adventism's most prolific authors, he wrote a number of books, numerous pamphlets and hundreds of journal articles.1 Rising to prominence at the historic twenty-seventh General Conference held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1888, he along with A. T. Jones, made an indelible mark on the church by their theological presentations at the session. Up to the present these two men have haunted the conscience of the Seventh-day Adventist movement, resulting in numerous and continued attempts to uncover and unravel their messages, to analyze the truthfulness of their positions and to relate the present situation of the church to their theological views.2
We wish firstly to place E. J. Waggoner into his historical context and then to look at his Christological contributions and development in chronological periods. The first period will be from 1883 to 1887 with E. J. Waggoner in editorial work with The Signs of the Times. The second period will be from the Minneapolis Conference of 1888 to the end of his editorial work at the Pacific Press in 1891. The third period will cover his years of service in England where he was editor of The Present Truth (1892-1902), and will include his years of decline from 1903 until his death in 1916.3 The final section of the chapter will be devoted to an evaluation and critique of the Christology of E. J. Waggoner.
I. The Historical Context
Ellet Joseph Waggoner was born on January 12, 1855, in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and was the sixth child of Joseph Harvey and Maryetta Hall Waggoner. His father had joined the Adventist cause in 1852, eight years beyond the 'Great Disappointment' and eleven years before the adoption of the official name 'Seventh-day Adventist Church.' The senior Waggoner became a leading Seventh-day Adventist preacher and writer, remaining active until his death in 1889.
E. J. Waggoner attended the Battle Creek College in Michigan, earliest Seventh-day Adventist educational institution, dedicated on January 4, 1875. After gaining a classical training he proceeded to the Bellevue Medical College in New York City and obtained a
medical degree. For a short period he served on the staff of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. About this time he married Jessie Fremont Moser whom he had met at Battle Creek College. With his heart really in evangelism Waggoner left the sanitarium and entered the ministry.4
Notice should be taken of a remarkable experience which Waggoner had in October 1882, while attending a campmeeting in Healdsburg, California. This experience is of significance for his later Christological emphasis. He describes the incident in his book, The Everlasting Covenant (1900), and again just before his death in 1916.5 Waggoner relates that one rainy afternoon he was sitting in a tent listening to the preaching of the Word. He did not recollect the text or the topic but suddenly he experienced what he considered a "revelation."6 Let us hear him in his own words:
"Suddenly a light shone round me, and the tent was, for me, far more brilliantly lighted than if the noon-day sun had been shining, and I saw Christ hanging on the cross, crucified for me. In that moment I had my first positive knowledge, which came like an overwhelming flood, that God loved me, and that Christ died for me. God and I were the only beings I was conscious of in the universe. I knew then, by actual sight, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; I was the whole world with all its sin. I am sure that Paul's experience on the way to Damascus was no more real than mine."7
Waggoner relates that there and then he resolved to spend the rest of his life making known to others the Biblical message of God's love for individual sinners and he testified that the light which shone on him that day from the cross of Christ had ever been his guide in Bible study; that wherever he turned in the sacred Book, he found Christ set forth as the power of God unto the salvation of sinners.8 No doubt this experience should be seen as a key to his Christological development and emphasis.
In 1883 Waggoner was called to the Pacific Press to assist his father, who was editor-in-chief of The Signs of the Times. Thus began his editorial experience. In 1884 he met A. T. Jones and together they were destined to play an important role in the theological development of the fledgling movement. In 1886 E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones became joint-editors of the magazine and Waggoner remained at the post until May 1891.
At the Minneapolis General Conference session held from October 17 to November 4, 1888, E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones were the main speakers. Because no official records were kept of the messages delivered it has been difficult to discover the full Waggoner message of 1888. While it is generally accepted that justification by faith was a key theme, variant views have been expressed.9
During the next few years Waggoner along with A. T. Jones and Ellen White endeavored to spread the message of righteousness by faith in the churches and amongst the ministry. From November 5, 1889, to March 25, 1890, Waggoner participated in a Bible school for ministers at Battle Creek.10 The next year this school was repeated. The publication of his book, Christ Our Righteousness, in 1890, would clearly indicate the Christological burden of Waggoner. At the General Conference session in 1891 Waggoner presented
sixteen studies on the book of Romans.11
The General Conference invited Waggoner to become editor of the British Present Truth and thus he with his family went to England in 1892, remaining there until 1903. During this time he visited the United States in 1897, 1899, 1901 and 1903 to attend the General Conference sessions and at all of these, except the last, he was a prominent speaker at the Bible study sessions. Returning to his homeland in September 1903, he connected with Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University) in Michigan as a Bible teacher during 1903 and 1904 In 1904 he left the college and went to Battle Creek to become co-editor of the magazine, Medical Missionary.
Experiencing domestic difficulties, Waggoner was divorced from his wife in 1905, resulting in his withdrawal from church employment. In 1906 he married Miss Edith Adams whom he had known during his stay in England. Waggoner and his new wife spent several years in Europe and returned permanently to the United States in 1910.12
The last six years of his life were spent at Battle Creek assisting Dr. J. H. Kellogg in medical and spiritual work associated with Dr Kellogg's school and sanitarium.
E. J. Waggoner died on May 28, 1916, from a heart attack at the age of 61.His Confession of Faith was discovered on his desk after his death and is rich in Christological content, giving his basic views at the end of his life.13 The funeral service was conducted in the Battle Creek Tabernacle and the sermon was preached by his old friend, A. T. Jones.14
1 See David P. McMahon, Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, Fallbrook, California: Verdict Publications, 1979, p.14. The following are Waggoner's main books: Fathers of the Catholic Church, Oakland, California: Pacific Press Publishing Company, 1888; Christ and His Righteousness, Oakland, California: Pacific Press Publishing Company, 1890; The Gospel in Creation, Battle Creek, Michigan: International Tract Society, 1895; The Glad Tidings, Oakland, California: Pacific Press Publishing Company, 1900; The Everlasting Covenant, London: International Tract Society, 1900. [back]
2 We list a sampling of the attempts: A. G. Daniells, Christ our Righteousness, 1926; L. H. Christian, The Fruitage of Spiritual Gifts, 1947; B. W. Steinweg, "The Developments in the Teaching of Justification and Righteousness by Faith in the Seventh-day Adventist Church after 1900," 1948; A. W. Spalding, Captains of the Host, 1949; D. K. Short and R. J. Wieland, 1888 Re-examined, 1950; A. L. Hudson, ed. A Warning and its Reception, [1960?]; N. F. Pease, By Faith Alone, 1962; A. V. Olson, Through Crisis to Victory.: 1888-1901, 1966; L. E. Froom, Movement of Destiny, 1971; G. J. Paxton, The Shaking of Adventism, 1977; D. P. McMahon, Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, 1979; R. J. Wieland, The 1888 Message An Introduction, 1980. [back]
3 We believe that this is the most natural method, Waggoner's life and work lending itself to this scheme. The 1888 Minneapolis Conference is an important dividing mark between the developing Waggoner and the prominent church figure. The second period naturally fits between Minneapolis and his departure to England. The third period is fairly long, but
the major developments took place between 1892 and 1903 with little change thereafter. While there are some inconveniences in this method we feel it warrants consideration. [back]
4 Richard W. Schwarz, Adventist historian and vice-president of Andrews University, admits to the lack of a good authoritative biography of E. J. Waggoner. He is not certain as to when Waggoner attended Battle Creek College, but suggests that it would be at the very start of the school. He believes that Waggoner probably had very little theology other than the regular lectures given by Uriah Smith several times a week. Most of the subjects were classical at the time. Schwarz has no idea when Waggoner studied medicine at Bellevue or how long he was on the staff at the Battle Creek Sanitarium after his return. In those days one had to spend at least three years in medicine at Bellevue to obtain the doctor's degree (see Letter Richard W Schwarz to E. C. Webster, June 23, 1982). If McMahon is correct in stating that Waggoner and his wife moved to California about 1880 (see McMahon, Ellet Joseph Waggoner, p.19), then the experiences above had to be packed in between 1872 and 1880. We do know that Waggoner was in California at the Healdsburg campmeeting in 1882. [back]
5 See E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, p. v.; also Confession of Faith, n.p., [1916?], pp.5,6. The manuscript of this letter was the last thing written by Waggoner and was addressed to M. C. Wilcox. Found on Waggoner's desk after his sudden death, May 28, 1916, it was published posthumously at the request of friends. [back]
6 Waggoner calls it "an impersonal, extra-Biblical revelation;" (see Confession of Faith, p.6). [back]
7 E. J. Waggoner, Confession of Faith, pp.5,6. [back]
8 See E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, p. v. [back]
9 When we come to the section dealing with the 1888 Conference in greater detail we will take note of these different views. See footnote 56 of this chapter. [back]
10 In Schwarz' letter, he states that a recent doctoral student who has just completed a dissertation on W. W. Prescott, informs him that during this Ministerial institute, Waggoner lectured on the covenants and the book of Galatians (see Letter R. W. Schwarz to E. C. Webster). [back]
11 These 16 studies on Romans are recorded in the General Conference Bulletin of 1891 and can be found in the James White Library, Heritage Room. [back]
12 While Waggoner was living in England (1892-1903), he periodically did some Bible teaching in Denmark. His daughter mentions the summer of 1897 and then again for two or three months in 1902 (see Pearl Waggoner Howard, "Biographical Sketch and Background," obtainable E. G. White-S.D.A. Research Centre, Newbold College, England). Waggoner and his new wife returned to Denmark in 1907 until 1910 where he
gave English lessons to university students, probably in Copenhagen (see Ibid., and letter of R. W. Schwarz). [back]
13 A copy of Waggoner's Confession of Faith can be obtained from the James White Library, Heritage Room. [back]
14 For details on the life and work of E. J. Waggoner see Froom, Movement of Destiny, 1971, pp.188-217, 239-252, 269-299, 343-348, 518-526, 529-540; Pearl Waggoner Howard, "Dr. E. J. Waggoner: Biographical Sketch and Background," 7 pages (obtainable from E. G. White-S.D.A. Research Center, Newbold College, Bracknell, Berkshire); McMahon, Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, 1979; Richard W. Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press, 1979, pp.183-196, 470-475; Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, 1966, p.1385; Emmett K. Vande Vere, The Wisdom Seekers, Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1972, pp. 61,62,114,122. [back]
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II. The Christology of E. J. Waggoner
We wish to present the Christology of Waggoner in three chronological periods as already indicated. In each period we will seek to describe Waggoner's Christology thematically.
A. The First Period: 1883 to 1888
During this period E J Waggoner emerged as a theological writer of no mean ability. Only 29 years of age in 1884, a perusal of his articles during that year in The Signs of the Times indicates a theological grasp and a clear style of writing. His pen was rapidly to bring him into prominence within his church and would lead to his being one of the two main speakers at the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference session, the highest deliberative gathering of the church.
The main platform of Waggoner during this period was The Signs of the Times printed in California, U.S.A., with some articles appearing in the Australian counterpart, Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, from 1886 to 1888. A careful analysis of the articles would indicate that Waggoner specialized in the theological study of the law and the gospel.15
Intermingled with these themes was the role of justification by faith and the important place and role of Christ. It is as Waggoner discusses the involvement of Christ in the law and the gospel that we are able to obtain glimpses of his Christology.
1. The Divinity of Christ
Waggoner taught that all things were created by Christ and therefore angels worship the
only-begotten Son with equal reverence as the Father.16 Christ partakes of the attributes of God and has life within Himself.17 In speaking of the Lord's day Waggoner says that the title 'Lord' can be applied to both Christ and the Father, thus indicating their equality.18
In an article appearing in the June 19, 1884, The Signs of the Times, Waggoner discusses the Biblical story of the rich young man and Christ as recorded in Matthew 19:16-22. In commenting on Christ's remark, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God" (Matt.19:17), Waggoner says: "Our Saviour did not mean to intimate by this that He was not good."19 He then proceeds to show Biblical evidence that Christ knew no sin and that He was absolutely good and the very embodiment of goodness. He then concludes by stating:
"This being the case, we can understand His words, 'there is none good but one, that is God,' as nothing but a statement of the fact that He Himself was entitled to be called God. If there is but one that is good, viz., God, and Christ is good, then Christ must be God."20
Waggoner then shows that this is in harmony with the sentiments of Isaiah 9:6 and John 1:1 and that as the Son of God He partakes of the attributes of God. He is far more exalted than the angels and has life within Himself, being the Creator of all things. Waggoner states that God alone may be worshipped but it is clear from Scripture that Christ accepted worship. The Father and Son are, therefore, one. This unity is expressed in somewhat anthropomorphic terms:
"This oneness, then, is that of two distinct individuals having the same thoughts, the same purposes, the same attributes. The Father and the Son were one in creating the earth, and one in devising and carrying out of the plan of salvation."21
2. Christ the only Saviour in both Dispensations
Waggoner presents a strong view of Christ functioning as Mediator in Old Testament times. "Did the Patriarchs Know Christ?"22 he answers in the In his article, affirmative and shows from Abel's offering, Abraham's faith in Christ, Moses' esteeming the reproach of Christ and the experience of the Israelites drinking from the spiritual Rock that this is so. In answering the charge that men in the Old Testament had very limited knowledge of Christ, Waggoner says:
"If it were true, it would show that God's ways are not equal, and that in different ages of the world He has different ways of saving men; and still worse, the holding of such a view dishonors Christ by virtually denying that in all things He has the pre-eminence."23
Waggoner believed that Christ was the Lamb "slain from the foundation of the world" and it was on the basis of the clear promise of the Old Testament regarding immortality through Christ that any were resurrected in Old Testament times.24
In this connection we must look at a 71-page pamphlet which Waggoner wrote in 1887
entitled, The Gospel in the Book of Galatians, in answer to a 85-page pamphlet put out by G. I. Butler entitled The Law in the Book of Galatians: is it the Moral Law or does it refer to that system of laws peculiarly Jewish?"25 While the pamphlet by Waggoner deals primarily with the law in Galatians we do find some of His Christological views surfacing.
Waggoner believed that the only method of approach to God in Old Testament and New Testament times was through Christ.26 This also meant that the forgiveness in Old Testament times was real.27 He was convinced that God only has one method of salvation and Christ was the Saviour throughout.28 He believed that no one could build on anything except Christ.29 To depend on anything except Christ for justification is the rejection of Christ.30 Waggoner states that Christ was the One who spoke the ten commandments from Sinai and, therefore, He was the great Mediator of the law in Galatians 3.31 He also maintained that the term 'until the seed should come' (Galatians 3:19), not only applied to the first advent of Christ but to the second advent and thus for him the function of the moral law remained to lead men and women experientially to faith in Christ at all times.32
3. Christ and Sin
With regard to the problem of sin, Waggoner taught that man was sinful and Christ was holy and righteous. In 1884 he was teaching that all of Adam's posterity were born into a state of sin.33 As far as Christ was concerned, Waggoner believed that He came into the same position as the sinner and bore the guilt of the sins of man from his entrance into the world and yet was inherently righteous and holy. Note this contrast in his words:
"Christ was sinless; the law was in His heart. As the Son of God His life was worth more than those of all created beings, whether in heaven or on earth...He took upon Himself our nature, Heb. 2:16,17; and on Him was laid 'the iniquity of us all.' Isa. 53:6. In order to save us, He had to come where we were, or, in other words, He had to take the position of a lost sinner...And because Christ was 'numbered with the transgressors,' He suffered the penalty of transgression.
"But the suffering of Christ was not on His own account. 'He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.' Pet. 2:22."34
In an article in The Signs of the Times Waggoner shows that Christ "had to put Himself in the exact condition of those whom He would save."35 Does this mean that Christ was a sinner? No, Waggoner says that Christ was "absolutely good, the embodiment of goodness, yet He was counted as a sinner."36 So Waggoner says that Christ was counted as a sinner although He was not one. He says that "He bore the sins of the world as though they were His own."37 Waggoner believed that the innocent assumed the crimes of the guilty and the sinless One was made sin for us. He wrote:
"None can die except those in whom sin is found; our sins were laid on Christ, and accounted as His; and so, although personally 'He knew no sin,' He was made to suffer the penalty of the law as a transgressor."38
In this article, "Under the Law," Waggoner takes the position that the term 'made under the law' relative to Christ means not merely that Christ was subject to the law but that He was subject to its penalty as an accounted sinner. Christ put Himself in the place of those who had violated the law and were under the condemnation of death and thus suffered the penalty of the law. Waggoner states his position very clearly in his article, "A New Creature in Christ":
"God made Christ (the sinless one) to be sin for us. He was made in all things 'like unto His brethren;' and that means not simply as to the outward, physical frame, but that he bore sin, just as we do. The sins that he bore were not his own, but ours. He 'knew no sin,' yet 'the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.' Isa. 53:6. Although the sins that he bore were ours, they were counted as his own, and so caused his death." (Isa. 53:5 quoted).39
In his booklet, The Gospel in the book of Galatians, Waggoner deals with Galatians 4:4 and the fact that Christ became flesh. After quoting John 14 and Romans 8:3, Waggoner says: "Christ was born in the likeness of sinful flesh."40 He then proceeds to quote Phil. 2:5-7 and Heb. 2:9 and writes:
"These texts show that Christ took upon Himself man's nature, and that as a consequence He was subject to death. He came into the world on purpose to die; and so from the beginning of His earthly life He was in the same condition that the men are in whose place He died to save."41
After quoting Romans 1:3, Waggoner states that Christ was made of the seed of David. The nature of David was sinful and Waggoner says: "Don't start in horrified astonishment; I am not implying that Christ was a sinner. I shall explain more fully in a few moments."42 After quoting Heb. 2:16,17 he says that Christ's being made in all things like unto His brethren is the same as His being made in the likeness of sinful flesh. The ancestors of Christ had all the weaknesses and passions that we have and we cannot excuse our sinful acts on the ground of heredity. He says:
"If Christ had not been made in all things like unto His brethren, then His sinless life would be no encouragement to us. We might look at it with admiration, but it would be the admiration that would cause hopeless despair."43
Waggoner then quotes 2 Cor. 5:21 and indicates that Christ was made sin for us from His birth when He was made flesh. He was made like men that He might undergo the suffering of death. Waggoner says that Butler would agree that if Christ was under the condemnation of the law on the cross without being a sinner Himself, then, why could He not be under the condemnation of the law from birth and still be sinless? Quite clearly Waggoner regards Christ as being accounted a sinner and not made one Himself
inherently. He goes on to say: "I do not know how the pure and holy Savior could ensure all the infirmities of humanity, which are the result of sin, and be reckoned as a sinner, and suffer the death of a sinner."44 With Waggoner we find this tension between a Christ who knew no sin and did no sin and yet was counted as guilty and covered with degradation.45
On the one hand, for Waggoner, Christ "was made on a level with man"46 and He took the position of the lost sinner. It was in this sense that Christ came in "the likeness of sinful flesh."47 In 1886 Waggoner was speaking of human flesh being depraved and having no good thing in it,48 and at the same time, Christ being the embodiment of goodness and so He could only have depraved flesh in an accounted sense. On the other hand, Waggoner proclaimed Christ as the sinless One,49 the perfect Pattern,50 the One who is perfect righteousness,51 who did no sin52 and knew no sin.53
For Waggoner Christ was sinless and the embodiment of holiness but "He went to the very lowest depth of which man had fallen, in order that He might lift man to His own exalted throne; yet He never ceased to be God, or lost a particle of His holiness."54
In discussing Christ's baptism, Waggoner makes it clear that we are dealing not merely with an example, but with the vicarious nature of the atonement. It must have been for the same reason that He died, namely, for sin. And then Waggoner makes a statement showing clearly the vicarious nature of Christ's whole life:
"Not His own sin, but ours; for as in His death, so in His life, our sins were counted as His. And thus it is that He could be all His life, even from His birth, under the condemnation of the law. It was not on His own account, but on ours."55
Thus, for Waggoner, Christ ever remained sinless but He was verily made or accounted a sinner and a transgressor with the sins of the world upon Him. This was a vicarious atonement for Christ from His birth to His death.
During this period of 1883-1888 we have observed Waggoner's position with regard to the divinity of Christ and Waggoner's high regard for a Saviour who possessed the same attributes as God the Father. Moreover, we have seen Waggoner's insistence on Christ's uniformity of mission and work during both the Old and New Testament dispensations. Finally, we paused to consider Waggoner's view of Christ and sin and found that while Waggoner has Christ coming to the place and position of the sinner from birth, it is in an accounted sense. Thus, while Christ is made sin in a vicarious manner, He remains pure and sinless in Himself.
15 Notice some of the titles of his articles in The Signs of the Times during 1884 to 1888. The figures behind the titles indicate the number of articles by that name in a series: "Nature of the Law," (3), June 26, 1884, January 21, 28, 1886; "Under the Law," (8), August 28, September 4, 11, 18, 1884; May 6, 13, 27, June 3, 1886; "Jurisdiction of the
Law," (4), February 4, 11, 18, 25, 1886; "Comments on Galatians 3," (9), July 8, 15, 22, 29, August 5, 12, 19, 26, September 2, 1886; "Christ the end of the Law," (2), July 24, August 7, 1884. [back]
16 E. J. Waggoner, "Eternal Life," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 10, No. 33, August 28, 1884, p.522: "Yet He gave His only-begotten Son, - the one by whom all things were made, whom angels worship with reverence equal to that which they yield to God, - that man might have eternal life." [back]
17 "> Ibid., No. 34, September 4, 1884, p.538: "...we turn to John 5:26 and read Christ's words: 'For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.' Christ, then being the only-begotten Son of God, partakes of His attributes, and has life in Himself. That is, He is able to impart life to others." [back]
18 E. J. Waggoner, "Eternal Life," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 10, No. 46, December 4, 1884, p.729: "The title Lord is applied to both Christ and the Father. Since these two are one, that which belongs to one must be the property of the other also, there can be no division between them." See also November 27, 1884, p.713. Waggoner wrote a series of five articles on the divinity of Christ appearing in The Signs of the Times from March to May 1889 but we will present their main points in the second period of Waggoner. [back]
19 Ibid., No. 24, June 19, 1884, p.377. [back]
20 Ibid. See also "Which is Evangelical?" The Signs the Times, Vol. 11, No. 43, November 12, 1885, where he applies Heb. 1:2,3 and Col. 2:9 to Christ. [back]
21 E. J. Waggoner, "An Important Question," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 10, No. 24, June 19, 1884, p.377. See also "Comments on Galatians 3, No. 7" The Signs of the Times, Vol. 12, No. 32, August 19, 1886, p.502: "Thus in everything that concerns man, we see oneness of thought and action between the Father and the Son." [back]
22 Waggoner, "Did the Patriarchs Know Christ?" The Signs of the Times, Vol. 12, No. 50, December 30, 1886, p.790. See also "The Oracles of God," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, Vol. 3, No. 7, July 1888, p.106. Waggoner applies Isaiah 6:1 to Christ in "Thine is the glory," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, Vol. 3, No. 12, December 1888, p.166. back]
23 Waggoner, "Did the Patriarchs Know Christ?" The Signs of the Times, December 30, 1886, p.790.back]
24 See Waggoner, "Lesson for the Pacific Coast," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 10, No. 22, June 5, 1884, p.342. [back]
25 In 1886 Waggoner wrote a series of articles in The Signs of the Times on Galatians in which he advocated that the law in Chapter 3 was the moral law. This disturbed Uriah Smith, editor of the Review and Herald, and George Butler, president of the General
Conference. Butler then wrote his pamphlet in favor of the ceremonial law in Galatians and the pamphlet was issued to coincide with the commencement of the 1886 General Conference session on November 18.Butler also brought the matter to the Theological Committee at the General Conference session of December 6. Although Waggoner was a member of this committee, a resolution was passed with the idea that theological views not held by the majority should not be published unless they had first been presented to leading brethren of experience. On February 10, 1887, Waggoner prepared his 71-page reply to the pamphlet issued by Butler. For some reason he held this back for almost two years, only releasing it in December 1888, after the Minneapolis Conference. It could be that a letter from Ellen White dated February 18, 1887, led Waggoner to hold his pamphlet back. In this letter Ellen White spoke words of caution to Waggoner and appealed for unity between the Review and Herald and The Signs of the Times. She expressed her conviction that the matter was not of sufficient importance to have caused Waggoner to have published his views in The Signs of the Times. A copy of Ellen White's letter to Waggoner and Jones was sent to Smith and Butler and they took the opportunity to attack Waggoner's views in the Review and Herald. This led to a letter from Ellen White to Butler and Smith dated April 5, 1887, in which she stated that because of their actions, matters were now different and it would only be fair for open discussion to take place, and for Waggoner to have a fair opportunity to put his case. No doubt, this led to the development of discussion leading to Waggoner's presentation of his talks at the Minneapolis Conference of 1888. In December 1888, Waggoner issued his pamphlet and in the explanatory note he wrote: "The delay of nearly two years has given ample time to carefully review the subject again and again, and to avoid any appearance of heated controversy." McMahon says: "The clash between Butler and Waggoner was a classic conflict between ecclesiastical conservatism and the real spirit of Protestantism" (David P. McMahon, Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, p.56). For details see Ibid., pp.53-62. [back]
26 "Do you mean to intimate by this that there was ever a time when any people could approach God except through Christ?...Your words seem to imply that before the first advent men approached God by means of the ceremonial law, and that after that they approached Him through the Messiah; but we shall have to go outside the Bible to find any support for the idea that anybody could ever approach God except through Christ" (Waggoner, The Gospel in the Book of Galatians, Oakland, California: 1888, pp. 11,12). [back]
27 "How could this be? Simply because Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. That He should offer Himself as a sacrifice, was promised to our first parents in Eden, and confirmed to Abraham by an oath from God, and, therefore, by virtue of that promise, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all who wished, could receive as much virtue from the blood of Christ as we can" (Ibid. p.30). [back]
28 Waggoner accuses Butler of having two plans of salvation, one for the Jews before the cross and one for Christians after the cross. To counter this, Waggoner asks: "Were they [the people before the cross] accepted in any other way than by humility of heart, repentance, confession of sins, faith in the blood of Christ, and a determination to obey
God? Nay, verily" (Ibid., p.56). [back]
29 "Those who attempt to build their house on anything except the rock Christ Jesus, are building for destruction" (Ibid., p.11). [back]
30 See Ibid., pp.9,11,15,16. [back]
31 Ibid., p.36. [back]
32 Ibid., pp.37-42. It is questionable whether Waggoner was correct in applying the term 'until the seed should come' (Gal. 3:19) to both the first and second advents. It appears reasonable that the phrase has primary application to the historical coming of Christ and the first advent. [back]
33 E. J. Waggoner, "The Mission of Christ," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 10, No. 41, October 30, 1884, p.650: "The stream, unassisted, cannot rise higher than the fountain, and therefore Adam's posterity were necessarily born into a state of sin. When Adam sinned, God looked down the ages and saw the whole human race in a state of rebellion, and, consequently, of condemnation; and then it was that His great love was manifested, in giving His only-begotten Son to die for a rebellious world." See also "Inheritance of the Saints," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 11, No. 12, March 19, 1885, p.182: "By his sin, Adam not only lost the dominion for himself, but he made it impossible for any of his posterity to possess it. For since it was forfeited through sin, his descendants could not possess it, because they were born sinful. Moreover his whole posterity were, with himself, doomed to death." [back]
34 E. J. Waggoner, "Condemned and Justified," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 10, No. 26, July 3, 1884, p.409. See also "Justified by Faith," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 12, No. 12, March 25, 1886, p.183: "Christ's righteousness was perfect. He delighted to do the will of God, because the law - God's will - was within His heart." See also "Justification and Sanctification," The Signs of the Times, April 1, 1886, p.199. [back]
35 For the source of the statements found in this paragraph see E. J. Waggoner, "Under the Law," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 10, No. 36, September 18, 1884. p.569. [back]
36 E. J. Waggoner, "Under the Law," The Signs of Times, Vol. 10, No. 36, September 18, 1884, p.569. [back]
37 Ibid. [back]
38 Ibid. [back]
39 E. J. Waggoner, "A New Creature in Christ," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 10, No. 27,July 17, 1884, p.425. [back]
40 E. J. Waggoner, The Gospel in the Book of Galatians, p.60. [back]
41 Ibid. [back]
42 Ibid., p.61. [back]
43 Ibid. [back]
44 E. J. Waggoner, The Gospel in the book of Galatians, p.62. [back]
45 "And so the Innocent suffered for the guilty. Man had been overcome by sin, and by it brought into bondage (2 Pet. 2:19), and in order to redeem him from this corruption, and the death that must necessarily follow (James 1:15), the spotless Son of God took upon Himself the form of a servant of sin, and consented to be covered with the same degradation into which man had plunged himself." E. J. Waggoner, "Under the Law," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 12, No. 18, May 13, 1886, p.279. [back]
46 E. J. Waggoner, The Signs of the Times, Vol. 11, No. 41, October 29, 1885. [back]
47 E. J. Waggoner, "Principles and Precepts," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 11, No. 48, December 17, 1885, p.761. At this stage Waggoner does not elaborate on an explanation of Christ coming "in the likeness of sinful flesh." We will note further development in the next period. [back]
48 E. J. Waggoner, "Brief Comments on Romans 7," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 12, No. 24, June 24, 1886: "The flesh is depraved, having no good thing in it so that although he may determine to do good, he will not find any power in him to carry out his determination" (p.374). [back]
49 E. J. Waggoner, "Judged 5y the Law," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 11, No. 45, November 26, 1885, p.713. [back]
50 Ibid., Vol. 11, No. 46, December 3, 1885, p.729. [back]
51 Ibid., Vol. 12, No. 13, April 1, 1886, p.199. [back]
52 Ibid., Vol. 10, No. 47, December 11, 1884, p.744.back]
53 Ibid., "Things We Should Know," No. 2, The Signs of the Times, February 10, 1887. [back]
54 E. J. Waggoner, The Gospel in the book of Galatians, p.63. [back]
55 Ibid. [back]
At Issue Index Webster Index Previous Next
B. The Second Period: 1888-1892
We have chosen to use the historic Minneapolis Conference session of October 17-November 4, 1888, as a useful point of time to introduce the second period of our concentration. Here it was that E J Waggoner, along with A T Jones, were principal speakers at this session which resulted in bringing Waggoner into greater prominence than ever before. From this high point we will view his Christology until his departure to England in 1892.
No official record was kept of the Waggoner-Jones messages given at the 1888 session. It is not our task in this dissertation to try and solve the problem as to the exact message.56 It could well afford a single field of study for another dissertation. For our Christology of Waggoner during this period we will concentrate on three main sources, namely, Waggoner's periodical articles during this period; Waggoner's book on Christology published in 1890, Christ and His Righteousness; and Waggoner's sixteen studies on the book of Romans given at the 1891 General Conference Session. Using these sources we will now seek to describe Waggoner's Christology during this period under different themes.
1. The Divinity of Christ
In 1889 Waggoner wrote a series of six articles on the divinity of Christ which first appeared in The Signs of the Times and were then repeated in the Australian Bible Echo and Signs of the Times later in the same year.57
Using a textual method Waggoner adduces the divinity of Christ from such texts as John 1:1; Isa. 9:6; John 14:8,9; Heb. 1:4-8; Ps. 50:1-6; Flab. 3:3-6; and Isa. 6:1-5. He makes a strong point of the dialogue between Christ and the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Instead of finding a problem in Christ's words "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God," Waggoner finds this very strong evidence that Christ who is wholly good was here asserting His oneness with God.58
Waggoner next presents the works of Christ to prove His divine nature. Because Christ is Creator, Lawgiver and Redeemer, He partakes of the nature of God. Once again he gives textual evidence that Christ is the Creator of all things. Waggoner says that some have drawn a hasty conclusion from the expression 'first-born of every creature' (Colossians 1:15), as indicating that Christ is also a created being. He gives arguments to show that Christ cannot be a created being as all things were created by Him. The expression 'first-born of all creatures' shows the pre-eminence of Christ rather than His being the first one to be born. Waggoner states: "No language could more perfectly show the pre-existence and the creative power of Christ than does the language of Col. 1:15-17."59
Waggoner is clear on the pre-existence of Christ and states that Christ partakes of the nature of God. He has life within Himself and is able to perpetuate His own existence. The fact that Christ receives worship is further evidence of His oneness with God. When
Christ came to the earth He did not lay aside His divinity, but only His glory, and He veiled His divinity with humanity. While Waggoner believed that Christ was not created he does understand the term 'only-begotten' as indicating that there was a time when the Son was not and when the Father brought Him forth. Note his words:
"In arguing the perfect equality of the Father and the Son, and the fact that Christ is in very nature God, we do not design to be understood as teaching that the Father was not before the Son...While both are of the same nature, the Father is first in point of time. He is also greater in that He had no beginning, while Christ's personality had a beginning."60
In this series on the divinity of Christ Waggoner discusses Christ as the Lawgiver. He gives proof from 1 Cor. 10 and Heb. 3:5-11 that Christ was in fact the leader of the children of Israel in Old Testament times. The Angel of the Lord who appeared as the 'I AM' is none other than Christ. The voice that spoke the law from Sinai is the divine Word and it is this same Word that will shake the world at the end of time according to 1 Thess. 4:16; John 5:28,29 and Rev. 19:15.
Waggoner indicates that the Sabbath is tied to Christ as Creator, Lawgiver and Redeemer. The One who created all things is Christ and, therefore, Christ made the Sabbath and it is thus the Lord's day. Christ gave the Law, including the Sabbath command, on Sinai and He is the One who effected redemption through His death on Calvary. Someone may cavil that an innocent man cannot die for the guilty, but Waggoner says "when that Innocent One is the Lawgiver Himself, there is no injustice."61
Waggoner's book, Christ and His Righteousness,62 (1890), basically reflects views which he had already expressed in editorials in The Signs of the Times prior to this date. For example, the section in the book dealing with the divinity of Christ parallels to a large extent the series of five articles entitled, "The Divinity of Christ," appearing in The Signs of the Times from March to May, 1889,63 which we have just considered.
He commences the book by giving reasons why it is important to consider Jesus Christ. Because in Him "are hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge" and because Christ is the source of all righteousness we are to lift Him up. We are invited to give the same honor to Christ as to the Father. Waggoner has a high view of the deity of Christ. He gives scriptural evidence of the fact that Christ is God. "As the Son of the self-existent God, He has by nature all the attributes of Deity."64 Christ has not been elevated to this position, but it is one which He has by right.65 Waggoner is clear that Christ was truly God even when here among men.66 In one section of the book Waggoner shows Christ's divinity by all the scriptural indications that He is Creator.67 In another section he uses the evidence of Christ as the Lawgiver to illustrate the actuality of Christ's divinity and of His equality with the Father.68
For Waggoner Christ was not a created being but was begotten of the Father. He makes a clear distinction between being created and being begotten.69 He shows that it is through misconceptions that such verses as Rev. 3:14 and Col. 1:15 are applied to try to teach that Christ was created.70 He indicates that Christ is of the "very substance and nature of God"
and that "He possesses immortality in His own right, and can confer immortality upon others."71 It is interesting to note that Waggoner hints at the extra-Calvanisticum attributed to the Reformer when he writes:
"Note the expression, 'the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father.' He has His abode there, and He is there as a part of the Godhead, as surely when on earth as when in heaven."72
With regard to the question of the 'begetting' of Christ, we have already noted that Waggoner expressed himself strongly that Christ was not created. But he does have the conception that the Father was prior to Christ. While not as extremely stated as in his Signs articles,73 he nevertheless, still expresses this concept concerning the priority of the Father:
"We know that Christ 'proceeded forth and came from God' (John 8:42), but it was so far back in the ages of eternity as to be far beyond the grasp of the mind of man."74
2. The Humanity of Christ and Sinful Nature
In a very important article entitled "God Manifest in the Flesh" in The Signs of the Times of January 21, 1889,75 Waggoner enunciates his convictions relative to the nature of Christ in the Incarnation. While on earth Christ was both God and man. At first only divine, He took upon Himself human nature and passed through this life as a common mortal except at those times when His divinity flashed through His humanity. In elucidating Romans 8:3,4, Waggoner once again states his conviction that Christ was not only accounted a sinner, but took upon Himself sinful nature. He appears to go even further in this article than he did in his letter to Butler of February 10, 1887. Waggoner says that if Christ was made in the likeness of men then "it must have been sinful man that He was made like, for it is only sin that causes death."76 Not only was the iniquity of us all laid upon Him, but "the flesh which He assumed had all the weaknesses and sinful tendencies to which fallen human nature is subject."77
If there was any ambiguity in the previous period as to whether Christ actually possessed sinful human nature like other people or was only made a sinner in an accounted sense, Waggoner has now come out clearly that Christ in His humanity was like all other descendants of Adam in possessing not only weaknesses, but also sinful tendencies of the flesh. Waggoner continues to press the point as he says: "If He was made in all things like unto His brethren, then He must have suffered all the infirmities and passions of His brethren."78 As he discusses the question of Christ being made sin for us, he writes: "Sinless, yet not only counted as a sinner, but actually taking upon Himself sinful nature."79 Waggoner proceeds to show that while children come into the world not directly condemned by the law, for in infancy they have no knowledge of right and wrong and are incapable of doing either, nevertheless "they are born with sinful tendencies, owing to the sins of their ancestors. And when Christ came into the world, He came subject to all the conditions to which other children are subject."80
In this article one senses that Waggoner has done more than emphasize the reality of the humanity of Christ. Not only has he indicated that Christ was accounted a sinner and that He accepted humanity with its weaknesses and liabilities, but he has blurred the fine line between the sinfulness and sinlessness of Christ. He has pictured Christ as assuming the sinful tendencies of human nature, as suffering the passions of His brethren, as taking upon Himself sinful nature and as being born with sinful tendencies as other children are.81
In the book, Christ and His Righteousness (1890), Waggoner presents a section on the humanity of Christ, entitled "God Manifest in the Flesh, "82 which is virtually a repetition of the article which appeared in The Signs of the Times, (1889) under the same title.83
There is thus no basic change in the position which Waggoner takes in 1890 over against the stance of 1889. Christ still comes in the likeness of sinful flesh, was made like sinful man, assumed all the sinful tendencies to which fallen human nature is subject, and actually takes upon Himself sinful nature.84 While Waggoner's stand on the human nature of Christ is still the same in 1890, there are some slight nuances which make the book presentation a little less outspoken than the article.85 We would assert that Waggoner's position on the sinful human nature of Christ in 1890 confirmed his stand of 1889.86
3. Christ could not sin
In continuing the theme "God Manifest in the Flesh" in both the Signs article and in the book, Christ and His Righteousness, Waggoner makes it clear that for him there is no danger in bringing Christ's humanity to the level of all other sinners, for in actuality Christ could not sin because of the presence of His divine nature. Because He was God in the flesh He could not sin. It was really His divine nature that was acting under the garb of humanity and, therefore, however strong the tendencies of sin in the flesh He would triumph.87
Waggoner believed that the fact that Christ could not sin because of His inherent divine nature should not discourage us. We too can benefit by having Christ, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells, abide in us and by faith in Him we can conquer as well. "All the power which Christ had dwelling in Him by nature, we may have dwelling in us by grace, for He freely bestows it upon us."88 There is no doubt that Waggoner felt that in bringing Christ to the level of the sinner and showing that Christ was able to resist temptation successfully, men and women could have hope and confidence to do the same. This would be accomplished by allowing Christ to dwell in the heart and thus He in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily would achieve victory for the sinner.89
While ideally Waggoner has Christ and the sinner on the same level as to their human state it is important to note that Waggoner gives this important place to the functioning of Christ's Divine nature during the Incarnation. In practical terms this meant for Waggoner, as we have seen, that Christ could not sin. Quite evidently, Waggoner did not subscribe to
a 'dormant' divinity in Christ during His earthly life.90
4. The Work of Christ
Waggoner was one of the main speakers at the 1891 General Conference Session held at Battle Creek, Michigan. During this session Waggoner presented sixteen lectures on the book of Romans.91 The main themes which Waggoner presents have to do with the law, sin, righteousness, justification, the gospel and Jesus Christ. The emphasis is on soteriology and the work of Jesus Christ in relation to the sinner saved by the grace of God.92 The Christology which does appear has greater relevance to the work of Christ than to His person.
For Waggoner the central doctrine in the book of Romans is the gospel of Christ.93 The law requires a perfect righteousness from man which as a sinner he cannot give. No one has ever lived the perfect life as Christ did and all men are guilty. Waggoner states that through one man's fall all his children are born into the same condition. Instead of trying to figure out the justice or injustice of this let us rather devote ourselves to accepting the proffered salvation. What would we think of a drowning man who would not accept the extended rope unless he knew that it was his own fault that he was drowning? Waggoner presents a picture of the reality of the condition of original sin and its effects upon all men.94
Because all men are in a condition of sin by birth and are sinners by action, Waggoner states that righteousness, which is harmony with God's moral law and character, can never come through the law.95 Jesus Christ is the only One who can provide righteousness for He is righteous and without sin.96 Thus, righteousness may only be obtained by faith in Jesus Christ who is equal with the Father and part of the Godhead.97
Seeing that man is unrighteous and righteousness is only found in Christ, the only way for man to obtain this righteousness is as a gift through justification by faith.98 While Waggoner does have Christ imputing His righteousness to the sinner in justification,99 the Weight of his teaching at this time is towards an effective justification which makes the sinner righteous and does not only declare him righteous.100 Christ brings the righteousness of the law into the heart of the sinner and transforms his life. For Waggoner the distinction between justification and sanctification is blurred and justification appears to encompass not only a declarative act covering the past but a transforming and empowering experience of the indwelling Christ.
This idea of the present Christ living in the Christian and abiding in the heart is a strong one for Waggoner. He even speaks of the mystery of the Incarnation appearing again.101
With this strong idea of Christ in the flesh of the Christian Waggoner advocates that the true Christian becomes an instrument in the hands of Christ who obeys the law in us.102
The obedience of the historic Christ is not sufficient in that Christ's obedience must be made manifest in the life of the Christian.103 Because Waggoner sees Christ dwelling in the heart of the believer and obeying the law he does not see Romans 7 as applying to the
true Christian life.104 Waggoner sees Christ fully victorious in yielded flesh and instead of a struggle continuing he hints at the removal of the sinful nature from the true Christian.105 Because this Christ was sinless, He will live out a sinless life within the yielded Christian.106 Sinless living is quite possible because there is the infinite power of Christ working in the life.107
In Waggoner's thinking, Jesus Christ made a dispensational view of salvation impossible. Men do not look forward or back to Christ, but Christ has always been a Saviour and in fact has ever been a present Saviour.108 For Waggoner the message of the third angel of Revelation 14:9-12 in the last days is no different from the message of Paul in the first century. It is not an advance on Paul's message of justification by faith.109 Waggoner thus shows a consistency in his Christological and soteriological convictions.
Finally, Waggoner's concept of the everlasting gospel of the first angel of Revelation 14 is broad enough to incorporate all of the second and third angels' messages. The everlasting gospel is justification by faith, and Christ and Him crucified covers every true doctrine. A true understanding of Christ and Him crucified will see the link between Christ and all doctrines such as the law, the Sabbath, the saints' inheritance, the immortality of the soul and spiritualism.110
We have looked at Waggoner's Christology in the period 1888-1892 under four headings, namely, the divinity of Christ, the humanity of Christ and sinful nature, Christ's divine power over sin and the work of Christ. We have discovered that Waggoner held a high view of Christ's divinity, ascribing to Him the same nature and substance as the Father, with the one suggestion of a coming forth at some point in the days of eternity. We also noticed that Waggoner came out clearly in 1889 to the effect that Christ possessed a sinful human nature with the same evil tendencies as all other men. And yet, Waggoner maintained in 1889 that because of the presence of His divine nature it was not possible for Christ to sin. Lastly, we focused attention on the work of Christ, noting Waggoner's emphasis on justification by faith on the basis of Christ's righteousness. This justification by faith was for Waggoner, not only a declarative act but an effective justification which brought God's righteousness into the heart of the Christian.
56 To show the diversity of thought regarding the actual message note the following: The General Conference Daily Bulletins for October 1888 state briefly that Waggoner discussed the question of the law of God and its relation to the gospel of Christ. According to this source he appears to have based his messages on the books of Galatians and Romans. Uriah Smith stated that Waggoner gave an instructive series of lectures on 'Justification by faith' (see General Conference Daily Bulletin for October 19, 21 and 26, 1888). Waggoner himself reported on Jones' and his own lectures in the November 2, 1888 issue of The Signs of the Times and stated that one of the subjects had reference to the law and the gospel in their various relations, coming under the general head of justification by faith. On the other hand, Leroy Edwin Froom believes that Waggoner's 1888 presentations were taken down in shorthand by his wife, Jessie F. Moser-Waggoner, and then edited by Waggoner to appear later in book form as Christ and His
Righteousness (1890); The Gospel in Creation (1894) and The Glad Tidings (1900). (See Froom, Movement of Destiny, p.189). While it could well be that the first book of 1890 reflected some of Waggoner's presentations at the 1888 session, one questions to what extent this is true of the latter two books, except that his 1888 presentation of Galatians coincided with the subject matter of the book, The Glad Tidings (1900). Robert J. Wieland follows Froom's thought when he wrote in the foreword to his edited version of The Glad Tidings which appeared in 1972: "I discovered that the message of this book was in reality a transcript of studies that Dr. Waggoner gave personally to a gathering of ministers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the fall of 1888" (p.6). Wieland also says in his The1888 Message: An Introduction, (1980) that: "The very heart of the 1888 message was a clear revival of New Testament justification by faith" (P.35). Elsewhere he says that the message can be summed up in one word - "Christ" (see p.34). In contrast to Froom and Wieland, Dr. Donald Yost, Archivist of the General Conference in Washington, stated in October 1980, in private conversation, that there was no evidence that the nature of Christ was the content of the 1888 presentations. David P. McMahon is convinced that the human nature of Christ was not the content of Waggoner's message. He writes: "There is no evidence that Waggoner's teaching on the humanity of Christ was part of his message in 1888. This is one of the Waggoner myths demolished by an investigation of the original sources" (Ellet Joseph Waggoner, p.104). Ellen G. White makes many allusions to the message of 1888. In Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91,92 she indicates that God sent a precious message through Jones and Waggoner. The message was to bring before the world the uplifted Savior. It presented justification through faith in the Surety and invited people to accept the righteousness of Christ made manifest in obedience to God's commandments. They needed to see Christ's divine person, His merits and His love. Christ had all power to impart the gift of His righteousness to the human agent. This was the third angel's message to be given in a loud voice. Furthermore, Ellen White also says that it was an unwillingness to accept Waggoner's exposition of the moral law in Galatians which caused the opposition to his messages (see Letter 96, 1896 and Manuscript 15, 1888, in A. V. Olson, Through Crisis to Victory, pp.52-55). Among the significant items that have been discovered recently are the W. C. White handwritten notes from the Minneapolis meetings. These were uncovered at the White Estate in Washington, D.C. In the light of these notes and other discoveries, Bert Haloviak, assistant director of the Archives (General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists), wrote as follows: "You can see from the handwritten W. C. White notes and also know from thousands of documents recently studied pertaining to the 1888 period that Christology was not the point of friction in 1888. The theology of the law in Galatians and of the covenants and the question of the role of the Spirit of Prophecy were the basic points of contention" (Letter from Bert Haloviak to E. C. Webster, August 3, 1982) [back]
57 Waggoner, "The Divinity of Christ," The Signs of the Times, March 25, April 1, 8, 15 and 22, May 6, 1889. Also Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, September 1, 16, October 1, 15, November 1, 1889. The original six articles in The Signs of the Times appeared in five articles in the Australian Bible Echo. [back]
58 Here Waggoner is using the same argument for the divinity of Christ based on Matt. 19 as he did in 1884 (see The Signs of the Times, June 19, 1884, footnote 20 in this
chapter). His position on the divinity of Christ has not changed. [back]
59 E. J. Waggoner, "The Divinity of Christ," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, Vol. 4, No. 18, September 16, 1889, p.281. [back]
60 Ibid., October 1, 1889, p.298. This indicates that Waggoner in 1889 did not believe in the full eternity of Christ. Wieland is not entirely correct when he writes: "The Jones-Waggoner idea of the divine, eternally pre-existent Christ coming to rescue man where he is..." (R. J. Wieland, The 1888 Message an Introduction, pp.41,42). For Waggoner Christ was divine and pre-existent, but, at least according to his views in 1889, not fully eternal. In this one connection Waggoner shows affinity with the semi-Arian position. [back]
61 Waggoner, "The Divinity of Christ," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, Vol. 4, No. 21, November 1, 1889, p.330. [back]
62 For full details on this book see footnote 1 in this chapter. [back]
63 For details see footnote 57 in this chapter. [back]
64 Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, Oakland, California: Pacific Press Publishing Company, 1890, p.12. [back]
65 Ibid. [back]
66 Ibid., p.14. [back]
67 Ibid., pp.16-19. [back]
68 Ibid., pp.39-46. [back]
69 Ibid., p.21. [back]
70 Ibid., pp.20,21 [back] .
71 Ibid., p.22. [back]
72 Ibid., p.15. Did Waggoner study John Calvin's works and obtain these ideas from him or did he arrive at this conclusion from his own independent study of Scripture? Waggoner did quote extensively from Luther's Commentary on Galatians. See "Different Kinds of Righteousness," and "Lawful Use of the Law," The Signs of the Times, February 24, 1888, p.119; July 13, 1888, p.422. [back] .
73 Waggoner, "The Divinity of Christ," The Signs of the Times, April 8, 1889: "While both are of the same nature, the Father is first in point of time." [back] .
74 Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p.9. See also pp.19,22. [back] .
75 Waggoner, "God Manifest in the Flesh," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 15, No. 3, January 21, 1889, pp.38,39. [back] .
76 Waggoner, "God Manifest in the Flesh," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 15, No. 3, January 21, 1889, p.39. 9 7 [back] .
77 Ibid. [back] .
78 Ibid. [back] .
79 Ibid. [back] .
80 Ibid. [back] .
81 While Ellen White also maintained the reality of the humanity of Christ and the fact that He took upon His sinless nature our sinful nature, she was far more careful than Waggoner in stating her case relative to sin. Well before this time she had written concerning Christ: "He is a brother in our infirmities, but not in possessing like passions. As the sinless One, His nature recoiled from evil" (Testimonies, Vol. 2, pp.201,202). When Lyell Vernon Heise discusses Ellen White's letter of 1895 to Baker in Australia (already referred to in previous chapter. See footnote 232, chapter 2), he suggests that Baker was an admirer of E. J. Waggoner and was, no doubt, influenced by his theology. It would be quite easy for one not skilled in theological niceties to play with Waggoner's concepts on the humanity of Christ and suddenly to find himself in deep water. Ellen White warned Baker of the danger in setting forth the humanity of Christ: "Be careful, exceedingly careful, as to how you dwell upon the human nature of Christ...Avoid every question in relation to the humanity of Christ which is liable to be misunderstood...That which is revealed, is for us and for our children, but let every human being be warned from the ground of making Christ altogether human, such an one as ourselves; for it cannot be" (E. G. White, Letter 8, 1895). Even in this article of Waggoner in 1889 he came very close to making Christ 'such an one as ourselves'. [back] .
82 See Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, pp.24-31. [back] .
83 For details on this article also entitled, "God Manifest in the Flesh, "see footnote 75 of this chapter. [back] .
84 See Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, pp.24-31. [back] .
85 We note that two sections appearing in the 1889 Signs article do not appear in the book. One consists of a paragraph on the ancestry and posterity of David showing the line from which Christ sprang which would be such "as would tend to concentrate in him all the weaknesses of humanity" ("God Manifest in the Flesh," The Signs of the Times, January 21, 1889, p.39). The other section consists of basically two paragraphs regarding the fact that just as all other children are born with sinful tendencies, owing to the sins of
their ancestors, Christ entered the world subject to these same conditions (see Ibid.). Although these two sections were left out of Christ and His Righteousness, we believe that the material which remains expresses the same sentiments. There is one further modification which should be noted. In referring to Christ being made like unto His brethren, while the Signs article says: "then He must have suffered all the infirmities and passions of his brethren" the book states: "then He must have suffered all the infirmities, and been subject to all the temptations, of His brethren" (Christ and His Righteousness, p.27). It could be argued that being "subject to temptations" is more mild than suffering the "passions of His brethren." [back] .
86 It is important to note the three main expositions of Waggoner relative to the humanity of Christ and the question of being made in the likeness of sinful flesh. The first is found in his February 10, 1887, letter to Butler regarding the gospel in the book of Galatians (see Waggoner, The Gospel in the Book of Galatians, pp. 60-63). The second is his January 21, 1889, Signs article entitled "God Manifest in the Flesh." The third is the section "God Manifest in the Flesh" in his 1890 book Christ and His Righteousness (pp.24-31). While all three are unified in their general thrust the 1887 letter has a stronger emphasis on Christ being accounted a sinner while the two later statements veer more strongly towards Christ actually partaking of the same sinful tendencies as all men with the 1889 Signs statement the strongest. We would pinpoint the 1889 Signs article as the occasion when Waggoner came out clearly in proposing that Christ's humanity was subject to the same sinful tendencies as all other men. [back] .
87 Note sentiments along this line from the Signs article: "'God was in Christ,' and hence he could not sin. His humanity only veiled his divine nature, which was more than able to successfully resist the sinful passions of the flesh...his divine nature never for a moment harbored an evil desire, nor did his divine power for a moment waver" (The Signs of the Times, January 21, 1889, p.39). Waggoner goes on to say that Christ could not be held in the tomb "because it had been impossible for the divine nature which dwelt in him to sin...Christ could not sin, because He was the manifestation of God" (Ibid.). The book, Christ and His Righteousness, brings out the similar thought that because of Christ's Divine nature and because of the Divine power dwelling within Him, Christ was more than able to successfully resist the weaknesses of the flesh (see Christ and His Righteousness, pp.28,29). It is true that the nuances of the Signs article are slightly stronger in favor of the impossibility of Christ's sinning than the book. If this means anything it could indicate Waggoner's possible conviction in 1888 that Christ could not sin because of the power of His divine nature. [back] .
88 E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p.30. Cf. Waggoner, "God Manifest in the Flesh," The Signs of the Times, January 21, 1889, p.39, for the identical statement. [back] .
89 See the latter few paragraphs in E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, pp.30,31, and The Signs of the Times, January 21, 1889, p.39. [back] .
90 To illustrate the fact that Waggoner was opposed to the idea of a 'dormant' divinity in
Christ we note two articles by Samuel T. Spear, D. D., which Waggoner, as editor of The Signs of the Times, placed in the issues of December 2 and 9, 1889, evidently with approval. In the section where Spear discusses Christ's functioning as God while on earth, he mentions the idea of a distinguished clergyman that Jesus simply declared His divinity as a matter of His own faith but did not, while on earth, show the fact by divine acts and hence His divinity was held in a 'dormant' and inactive state. Spear comments: "A 'dormant' divinity in Jesus, while rather a queer idea, and for the time being no divinity at' all, would practically reduce Him, while on earth, to the level of merely an inspired man, not essentially different from the position of Moses of Paul" (Samuel T. Spear, "The Personality of Christ," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 15, No. 46, December 2, 1889). This emphasis on an active divinity in Christ while on earth appears to be in harmony with Waggoner's thought in his article of 1889 entitled "God Manifest in the Flesh" which we have discussed. [back] .
91 See General Conference Bulletin of 1891 where these 16 studies are recorded. Obtainable from the Heritage Room, James White Library, Andrews University. We will be referring to a facsimile reproduction from the General Conference Bulletin (1891) lithographed by A. L. Hudson, Baker, Oregon, U.S.A., consisting of 54 pages. [back] .
92 We notice this same emphasis on soteriology in Waggoner's periodical articles during the period 1890-92. His favorite themes were the law and the gospel and how righteousness is obtained through justification by faith. [back] .
93 E. J. Waggoner, "Letter to the Romans - No. 1," General Conference Bulletin, 1891: "There is but one doctrine we have to preach, that is the gospel of Christ" (p.1). Waggoner in this first lecture states that our task is not to preach a message comprising such subjects as the law, the Sabbath, the nature of man, the advent, etc., to which we add a little gospel. All of these Biblical doctrines are summed up in righteousness by faith, justification by faith and the gospel of Christ. See also "The Christian a Debtor," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, June 15 and December 1, 1891. [back] .
94 Waggoner discusses the state of sin in "Letter to the Romans - No. 9." He says many will question as to why we are here in this 'sinful condition' without having had any choice in the matter. He says: "Now we know that there was one man in the beginning, and he fell. We are his children, and it is impossible for us to be born in any higher condition than he was" (p.13). While this condition is not our fault and we might not understand it, "We know that we are in a sinful condition and that this sinful condition, is a lust condition" Therefore, let us acknowledge our lost condition in Adam and take hold of salvation in Christ. "The work of Adam plunged man into sin; the work of Christ brings men out of sin" (Ibid., p.14). [back] .
95 Waggoner believed that God's righteousness is "summed up in the ten commandments" ("Letter to the Romans - No. 1," p.1). However, no man can find harmony with the law through his works. "Whoever seeks to be justified by his works will reap only wrath" ("Letter to the Romans - No. 9," (p.13). Discussing Paul's statement that "by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (Rom; 5:19), Waggoner
states: "That settles the whole question, as to whether you and I can do works that will make us righteous" (Ibid., p.15). [back] .
96 Note Waggoner's thought on the righteousness found in Christ: "The law requires in man the perfect righteousness manifested in the life of Christ" ("Letter to the Romans-No. 3," General Conference Bulletin, 1891, p.3); "In Christ is the perfect righteousness of the law" ("Letter to the Romans-No. 4," p.4); Christ could lay down His life and take it up again "because he was sinless" and was the only one "who was perfectly sinless" ("Letter to the Romans-No. 8," p.11); furthermore: "Sin had spent all its force on him, and had not marred him in the least...the only sinless life is the life of the Son of God" (Ibid., p.12); "There is one spotless life...He could stand before the world, and challenge any to convict him of sin" ("Letter to the Romans - No. 9," p.15); "He had no sin, consequently the law had no claim upon him" ("Letter to the Romans - No. 10, p.18). See also "The Unconquerable Life," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, October 15, 1892, where Waggoner says: life which Christ lived was untainted by sin." [back] .
97 See Waggoner's two articles entitled "How Righteousness is Obtained," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, November 1, 1890; September 1, 1891. [back] .
98 Speaking on Romans 3, Waggoner refers to Christ's gift of His righteousness and says the prophets bore witness to this "for they preached justification through Christ, by faith" ("Letter to the Romans-No. 4," General Conference Bulletin, 1891, p.4). He says: "There is but one thing in this world that a man needs, and that is justification...Righteousness can only be attained through faith; consequently all things worthy to be preached, must tend to justification by faith" (Ibid.). He says that justification by faith covers the present as well as the past (Ibid.). Waggoner states that if we do not preach justification by faith we are not preaching the gospel ("Letter to the Romans - No. 5," p.6). He continues to say: "Those that are justified will be saved, and those that are not justified will be lost" ("Letter to the Romans - No. 16," p.52). Seeing that we are unprofitable servants, eternal life must be "the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (see "Unprofitable Servants," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, February 1, 1892). [back] .
99 Note Waggoner's thought: "God has promised to make us righteous, and the only way to obtain that righteousness is to believe that God is able to impute it" ("Letter to the Romans-No. 6," p.7). While Waggoner does here speak of imputation the general thrust of his 1891 Romans lectures is toward an infusion of Christ's righteousness into the heart of the believer, thus actually making him righteous. Thus actual righteousness and obedience comes through faith in Christ. When Waggoner says in "The Unconquerable Life," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, October 15, 1892: "This endless, spotless life Christ gives to all who believe on Him" he does not clarify whether this is by imputation or by actuality in impartation. [back] .
100 Observe Waggoner's thought: "When the Lord puts it on [robe of righteousness], it is not as an outward garment merely; but He puts it right through a man, so that he is all righteous" ("Letter to the Romans-No. 3," p.4); see also "Christ the End of the Law," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, February 15, 1892. While Waggoner clearly has an
element of declarative righteousness in his doctrine of justification by faith, which covers the sins of the past, he appears to lay stress on God's making the sinner righteous in justification. This raises the whole question of the dialogue and controversy regarding the analytical or synthetic character of justification by faith. If Waggoner is considered to espouse the view of analytical justification it should be remembered that this term has been used to describe a very broad spectrum of views. See G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Justification, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1954, pp.91-140; Hans Küng, Justification, The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection, London: Burns and Oates, 1964; 0. J. Venter, Analities of Sinteties? Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1959. [back] .
101 Waggoner sees it as a precious thought that we can be one flesh with Christ. We see "the mystery of the Incarnation appearing again." If we can believe that God was incarnate in Christ we can believe that Christ can live in our flesh today. (See "Letter to the Romans - No. 12," p.27). [back] .
102 "Christ in us obeys, and by His obedience we are made righteous" ("Letter to the Romans - No. 10," p.17). [back] .
103 Waggoner says that if we have Christ's life His obedience works in us and that makes us righteous. We cannot say that Christ obeyed for us and therefore we can do as we please. "His obedience must be manifested in us day by day. It is not our obedience, but the obedience of Christ working in us" (See "Letter to the Romans - No. 9," p.15). While Ellen White would agree that the child of God cannot simply do as he pleases after justification she does emphasize that Christ kept the law for us: "Every soul may say: 'By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my Substitute and Surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for me'" (E. G. White, Selected Messages, Book 1, p.396, from "The Bible Students' Library" series, April, 1893). [back] .
104 Waggoner states that Paul is not relating his own Christian experience. "He is writing the experience of those who serve, but in the oldness of the letter, and while professedly serving God, are carnal, and sold under sin" ("Letter to the Romans - No. 11," p.26). [back] .
105 Waggoner says that we are made partakers of the divine nature, thus: "He has taken away this sinful nature, - taken it upon Himself that we might be delivered from it" ("Letter to the Romans-No. 12," p.29). See also "The Issues of the Present Times," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, March 1, 1890. [back] .
106 Waggoner writes: "If we have the life of Christ, and it is working in us, it must do for us all that it did for Him when He was in Galilee and Judea" ("Letter to the Romans - No. 10," p.19). [back] .
107 Waggoner says that we do not understand the power of justification by faith. It should be able to lead to sinless living. He reprimands the preacher for his lack of faith: "We have never dared to come to that place where we would believe that the Christian
life should be a sinless life. We have not dared to believe it or preach it. But in that case we cannot preach the law of God fully" (see "Letter to the Romans - No. 10," p.19). [back] .
108 Waggoner says that sometimes we think that the patriarchs and prophets looked forward to Christ and we look back to the cross. This is not so, for Waggoner says: "We look up to Christ, and so did they. We look to Christ a loving Redeemer by our side, and so did they" (emphasis Waggoner's in "Letter to the Romans-No.8," p.9). On the same page Waggoner speaks of a "present Saviour" to both Old and New Testament times. Because of this forgiveness of sin in Old Testament times was real (see Waggoner, "Real Forgiveness," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, June 15, 1890). [back] .
109 Note Waggoner's conviction: "Now the question arises, Was this preaching of Paul's anything like the third angel's message, or the three-fold message which is committed to us? Did his preaching differ from the preaching which we preach? If it differs, are we preaching what we ought to preach? In other words, should our preaching embrace anything more than what the apostle Paul had? If it does, then whatever it may be, we had better get rid of it as soon as we can" ("Letter to the Romans - No. 16," p.48). Contrary to Waggoner's sentiments, there is some contemporary Adventist conviction that the message given by Adventists in Rev. 14:6-12 is definitely an advance on Paul's preaching. [back] .
110 See Waggoner's entire last lecture on Romans at the General Conference Session of 1891 ("Letter to the Romans - No. 16," pp.47-54). [back] .
At Issue Index Webster Index Previous Next
C. The Third Period: 1892-1916
This third period of Waggoner's life which we have chosen may be sub-divided into two sub-divisions. The first division would cover the time when Waggoner was in England serving as editor of the Present Truth (1892-1903).111 This would be the most important section of the two sub-divisions and will demand most of our attention in connection with Waggoner's Christology. The second division of the total period would be Waggoner's years of decline, as far as his connection with church work was concerned (1903-1916).112
This latter time period did not see any major Christological development over his years in England.
In focusing on Waggoner's Christology during the first half of the period, namely, 1892-1903, we will do this thematically as we did with the first two periods of Waggoner's ministry. We will look at Waggoner's Christology under the following seven headings: Christ considered as God; Christ the only means of salvation; the unity of Christ's work in Old and New Testament times; Christ sinless but made sin; the internal and immanent Christ; Christ produces sinless living in man; and the blurring of grace and nature. We will devote an eighth section to a general overview of the main Christological position of
Waggoner in the years of decline (1903-1916).
1. Christ Considered as God
Waggoner upheld the divinity of Christ during this period. In an article in The Present Truth of 1896113 he gave textual evidence for Christ as Creator in evidence of His divinity. He maintained that Christ is not a created being and only a misconception of Revelation 3:14 would lead one into this error. Christ is of the very substance and nature of God and has life in Himself, possessing immortality in His own right. Christ is properly called Jehovah and the self-existent One. It is right and proper to worship the Son. Waggoner taught that Christ was begotten but not created. For Waggoner this begetting, whatever it indicated, was so far back in the days of eternity that it meant practically without beginning.114 In a pamphlet, "How to Get Knowledge," Waggoner sees all true wisdom centered in Christ. For him Christ is the only manifestation of God and is the source of all creation. Christ is the beginning, the head, or source of the creation of God. The study of natural science must begin and end with the study of God in Christ.115
In The Glad Tidings Waggoner gives an exposition of Paul's epistle to the Galatians.116
While focusing on the message to the Galatians, aspects of Waggoner's Christology are clearly apparent. One of the important themes relative to Christ in this book deals with the divinity of Christ. Waggoner sees all gospel teaching as based on the fact of the divinity of Christ.117 He sees Jesus Christ and God the Father associated on equal terms.118
Waggoner accepts Christ as the truth, the power of God, and the Divinity of God.119 In summarizing the first chapter of Galatians, Waggoner "notes the fact that Christ is Divine."120 In this book Waggoner presents Christ as of the same substance as the Father and as one with Him.121 It is from this high sense of the nature of Christ that Waggoner discusses the claims of the gospel in this epistle.
It is important to note Waggoner's emphasis on the distinction between the divine Christ and the Man, Jesus of Nazareth. He says that Christ is larger than the visible Jesus of Nazareth. Flesh and blood cannot fully reveal the Christ. By the Spirit, Christ can dwell in every man on earth, and fill the heavens as well, a thing which Jesus in the flesh could not do.122 We observed this same hint of what is called the 'extra-Calvanisticum' in Waggoner's work of 1890.123
2. Christ the Only Means of Salvation
Waggoner sees Christ in His person and work as unique and believed that He was the only means and channel of salvation. To trust in anyone or anything else is to remove Christ from His singular position as Saviour. Any teaching that leads men to trust in any object or any work or effort of their own for salvation, is a perversion of the truth of the gospel. It is only the life of God in Christ which has efficacy for salvation.124
To trust in Christ plus anything in addition is to destroy the unique role and work of Christ. Waggoner, in discussing the true gospel and a counterfeit gospel, indicates that although the question of the specific rite of circumcision for the purpose of salvation is not an issue today, the question of salvation itself, whether by human works or by Christ alone, is as live as ever. He states that when people lose the unique place of Christ in salvation they are in danger of drifting far and will surely return to their former evil ways. It is dangerous to turn any man away from Christ to some substitute.126
3. The Unity of Christ's Work in Old and New Testament Times
During this period Waggoner continued to maintain the unity between the Old and New Testament dispensations. He did not see a dichotomy between the Old Testament and Christianity. For him the religion of the Old Testament was Christianity. He saw perverted 'Judaism' as a rejection of the gospel as set forth in the Old Testament and a following of tradition. Waggoner believed that Moses revealed Christ.127 Waggoner strongly advocated that Moses and Christ cannot be separated and we must believe in both.128
In The Glad Tidings (1900) Waggoner continues to depict Christ's work as uniform in both dispensations. He takes a typically anti-dispensational stance regarding the work of Christ. Because God does not change, Waggoner cannot see any change in the gospel. The same gospel which Paul preached to the Corinthians - "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" - was the gospel preached by Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Isaiah. "Thus we find that the way of salvation has every age.”129
Speaking of Christ as the Mediator, Waggoner says:
"It should be understood that Christ's work as Mediator is not limited either as to time or extent...Christ was Mediator before sin came into the world, and will be Mediator when no sin is in the universe, and no need for expiation...He is, then, the means, medium, Mediator, the way, by which the light of life pervades the universe. He did not first become Mediator at the fall of man, but was such from eternity.”130
It is interesting to note that Waggoner here also indicates the eternity of Christ which could be an advancement on his 1890 position.131 In Waggoner's interpretation of the phrase 'after that faith is come' (Gal. 3:25), he takes the position that this refers not to a point in time but to one in experience.132 In this way he avoids two dispensations and has the work of Christ and the gospel maintain their uniformity in all times. He does also apply the phrase 'till the Seed should come' in a unique way as referring for its complete fulfillment to the second advent of Christ.133 Waggoner also sees the sacrifice of Christ as efficacious for all times: "It is 'through the eternal Spirit' that He offers Himself for us (Heb. 9:14), so that the sacrifice is equally present and efficacious in every age."134
In The Everlasting Covenant (1900),135 Waggoner again reiterates the truth that Christ is the Mediator of the covenant throughout the gospel dispensation which runs from Eden
lost to Eden restored.136 Christ is the only means of salvation and no change in this method has been made by God.137 In the entire experience of Abraham and especially in the covenant which God made with him it is clear that Abraham saw Christ and believed in Him as his Savior. Waggoner believes that in Abraham's experience with Isaac, the patriarch perceived the reality of God's revelation in Christ and saw His death and resurrection.138In the experience of Jacob Christ is represented by the ladder connecting heaven and earth.139 Waggoner believed that Moses clearly understood the sacrifice of Christ for man and had such a knowledge of Christ as few other men have had. Moses gladly accepted the reproach of Christ.140 Waggoner was clear that Israel of old understood and knew Christ as a real and living Saviour.141 For him Calvary and Sinai are connected and linked by the presence of Jesus Christ.142
4. Christ Sinless but made Sin
In this period Waggoner proceeds with the almost paradoxical position that Christ came in sinful flesh with the same evil tendencies as all other flesh, and yet maintains the sinlessness of Christ. He sees Christ as born in sinful flesh and believes that if the flesh of Jesus was not like ours it would involve the idea of the immaculate conception.143
Strangely enough, after taking his stand on the similarity of Christ and all other men, Waggoner maintains that it was Christ's miraculous birth which neutralized the evil tendencies of His evil ancestry.144
Despite this picture of a Christ in sinful flesh possessing evil tendencies, Waggoner endeavors to maintain the sinlessness of Christ. He says that because Christ was sinless Satan could not have power over Christ's life and the grave could not hold Him captive. Because His life was untainted by sin He could not be held bondage to this evil world.145
In The Glad Tidings (1900) the problem of the sinful nature of Christ is not accentuated as much as in Waggoner's earlier Christ and His Righteousness (1890) and The Signs of the Times article, "God Manifest in the Flesh," of January 21, 1889. He presents Christ as without sin of His own and yet made sin for man. He says that these sins were not merely figuratively laid on Christ, but they were actually in Him.146 Waggoner also sees Christ continually bearing the sins of all men in an intimate association with mankind.147
5. The Internal and Immanent Christ
As this period progressed Christ became more and more immanent in Waggoner's thinking. More emphasis was placed upon an internalized Christ of the heart and the life than the Christ of history. The internal, existential crucifixion of Christ in the heart of the believer took on great importance. In fact, the distinction between Christ and all humanity became blurred, for Waggoner maintained that Christ dwells in all sinful human flesh awaiting only to be recognized by the awakened sinner. This whole tendency on the part of Waggoner grew slowly, gaining greater momentum around 1897 and flowering by 1900 when The Glad Tidings and The Eternal Covenant appeared.148
By 1900 Waggoner's emphasis on the immanent, internal Christ had become pronounced. One could defend Waggoner to some extent for a legitimate usage of Paul's concept of the abiding Christ in the life (See Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:27).149However, Waggoner proceeds further to declare that Christ abides in the flesh of sinners. He says: "What a glorious thought that wherever sin is there is Christ, the Saviour from sin! He bears sin, all sin, the sin of the world. Sin is in all flesh, and so Christ is come in all flesh."150 Waggoner is clear that Christ dwells and abides in all men whether they recognize it or not. The very fact that we live is evidence that Christ is in all men. Sometimes the mere fact of living and breathing is the only evidence that Christ is there.151 For Waggoner, the internal experience of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is vital. He says: "A man may believe that Jesus was crucified eighteen hundred years ago, and may die in his sins; but he who believes that Christ is crucified and risen in him, has salvation."152
6. Christ Produces Sinless Living in Man
In Waggoner's emphasis on the Christ of the inner life he maintained that the power of Christ would be radically manifested in the believer. The power of the crucifixion and the resurrection would be demonstrated in the life. Christ's healing of the palsied man illustrated the powerful effect of the forgiveness of sins. Just as physical healing brought restoration, so forgiveness of sin would bring an eradication of evil from the heart and life. This power of Christ in the heart would bring about sinless living, perfect obedience and the conquering of all lust, for Christ would do the obeying rather than man.153
While Waggoner accepted that the corruptible and sinful body would remain with us until the end, he believed that God would demonstrate His perfection in man through the indwelling Christ. This demonstration of God's power and ability would be seen in a group of people before Christ returns at the end of time.154Christ is the power of God for He is the Creator and when Christ abides in the heart by faith this brings the power of God into the life of man.155 When Christ dwells in the heart of man He will be as obedient to the law as He was eighteen hundred years ago.156 Waggoner, furthermore, saw the internal Christ living the perfect life in place of the believer who exercised faith in Christ. Notice his words: "It is not we that live, but Christ that lives in us, and uses His own faith to deliver us from the power of Satan."157
7. The Blurring of Nature and Grace
It is important to notice the gradual merging in the thinking of Waggoner between the spiritual and the natural worlds. This blurring of grace and nature began almost imperceptibly like a tiny flow until it grew into a steady stream. No doubt, his very emphasis on the internal and immanent Christ abiding in all flesh contributed to this merging of the two realms. We notice an innocent reference to the similarity between redemption and creation in 1893.158 While this position is Scriptural it can also serve as a foundation for a progressive blurring of the spiritual and the natural realms. We observe a
tendency in 1895 to equate the gospel, at least partially, with the revelation of God's power in the grass and flowers.159
Waggoner's book, The Gospel in Creation,160 while setting forth important spiritual truths from the natural world could very well indicate the beginnings of a path which might eventually lead Waggoner onto the slippery rocks of pantheism. Some have believed that the contents of this work might also reflect the message of 1888 but there is no evidence for this.161
In the Introduction to the book, Waggoner indicates that the reason why comfort and hope can be found in the Scriptures, and particularly the Old Testament, is because Christ is found in them. He maintains that the Old Testament contains the gospel. Creation is intricately related to Christ as Creator and to the gospel message.162
Waggoner devotes one chapter to each day of creation and draws spiritual lessons from each day's activities. In the first chapter he emphasizes that Christ is the Creator and gives Scriptural evidence for this. He maintains that Christ is inseparably connected with creation as Creator.163 By virtue of His power as Creator, Christ is set forth as Redeemer.164 As to whether redemption or creation are the greater, Waggoner believes that both are equal, for redemption is creation.165 It is only as we acknowledge and worship Christ as the Creator that we acknowledge His divinity. Only by faith does one get to know the alphabet and Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, even the entire alphabet of God.166 Christ is the Word and just as everything Was spoken into existence in the beginning, so Christ is the divine Word who speaks righteousness upon the sinner.167
Not only does Christ speak everything into existence, but He holds everything together as well. Christ is a Rock and as we build on the Rock we become part of Him.168 The word of God creates and upholds all things and the gospel is simply the creative power of God applied to men.169 Christ as Creator created light and He is light. The light of Christ's sinless life is to shine into the dark and evil hearts of mankind and this light of Christ is the only source of righteousness.170 Righteousness is only found in Christ and thus man can only live a righteous life if Christ, the light of the world, is abiding in him.171
For the second day Waggoner sees the clouds, the rain and the bow as symbolic of God's presence, grace and pardon. On the spiritual plane these are revealed to us in Jesus Christ.172 Christ, the Creator, who brought the sea into existence was able to control its raging waters when He was on earth, and the growth of plant life reminds us of Him who created this on the third day and is still able to control all physical and spiritual growth.173
The fourth day declares God's creative power in the heavens. The heavens, according to Waggoner, preach the gospel and reveal Christ as the light of the world. The sun reminds us that Christ is the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of His person. The heavens show forth the faithfulness of God and Christ is the faithful and true Witness. The saints will in the future shine as the stars which will be the flashing forth of the grace with which they were filled by the indwelling of Christ.174
God's providential care for the animal world created on the fifth day is illustrative of His
care for man through Jesus Christ. While intense activity on the part of the creatures is evidenced, the gracious nature of God's gifts is reminiscent of the gifts of God by His Son.175 The creation of man on the sixth day from the dust of the ground is a reminder of man's frailty and weakness apart from God. Sin entered to mar the image of God in man but Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of God, is hope. Those who have a relation-ship with Christ can have real hope for they have life and beyond tomorrow is the hope of the resurrection and life everlasting.176
The final day of creation week saw the creation of the Sabbath. Christ made the Sabbath and, therefore, it is the Lord's day.177 As Christ is the only manifestation of God it must have been Christ who in the act of creation blessed and sanctified the Sabbath. That which celebrates creation also celebrates redemption and thus the Sabbath points us to Christ as Creator and Redeemer.178The works of creation show the power and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the Sabbath is a sign of the divinity of Christ.179
Moreover, true Sabbath rest can only be found for one who trusts in Christ. The Sabbath is a memorial of a perfect creation and also looks forward to a perfected world where Christ Himself will lead His people into eternal rest.180
In this manner Waggoner endeavored to tie Christ and the gospel into the very fabric of creation week. By 1897, when at the General Conference Session Waggoner presented eighteen studies on the book of Hebrews, his move towards a more pronounced blurring of grace and nature becomes apparent as we look back objectively from our vantage point.181 At the fourth lecture Waggoner was suggesting that "God's power is in everything," and that the gospel is found in the elements of nature.182 During the sixth lecture he again spoke of God's power in man and appeared to mingle grace and nature as he spoke of Christ in fallen man.183 We note Waggoner's interest in the close affinity between divinity and the natural world: "Look at the trees; we see the power and the divinity of God in the trees and grass, and in everything that God has made, and see it clearly, too."184 During the seventh lecture Waggoner again mingled the power of God and the natural world as he spoke of God's life in the grass. He said: "But what was that power? - God's own life, his own personal presence there, doing in the grass just what he designed for the grass; it was God that was working in it, both to will and to do of his own good pleasure."185
We continue to observe this tendency on the part of Waggoner to mingle grace and nature as he speaks of Christ and His presence in all of nature. Speaking during the eighth lecture on the nearness of Christ, he said: "Why? - Because the Lord Jesus is in everything that he has made. He upholds all things, because he is in them. He is cohesion even to inanimate nature."186 In the ninth lecture we find Waggoner again mingling Christ and nature as He identified Christ with light. He says that we should "simply drink in the light, and that is the life of Christ."187 In the closing lecture on the book of Hebrews, Waggoner again identified natural and moral law188 and spoke of God and Christ as a force manifest in all matter: "God himself is personally present in all his works. He himself is the energy that is manifest in all creation. God himself is force, the force that is manifest in all matter."189 After speaking of God as force and power Waggoner pointed out that Jesus Christ is the wisdom and the power of God. Was he here also implying that
Jesus Christ is a force which fills all sinners and all nature? We have now completed our brief review of Waggoner's presentations at the 1897 General Conference Session.190
At the General Conference Session of 1899 Waggoner spoke on the gospel of health and the mingling of nature and grace is apparent as he spoke of Christ and literal bread as well as natural air and the Holy Spirit. Speaking of removing from our tables everything that is corrupted he said: "Whoever really recognizes Christ in the bread, ought to cut off every-thing from his table that which is not purely of Christ, and that does not have the pure life of Christ in it."191 In Waggoner's message on the water of life at the same session we find that Waggoner continued with the blurring of the distinction between the natural and the spiritual worlds as he spoke of water and righteousness.192
In The Everlasting Covenant (1900) we continue to see evidences of this mingling of grace and nature. Waggoner discovers the life of Christ in all creation including our water and our daily bread. Christ is our life and apart from Him there is no life "so that wherever there is any life there is evidence of the presence of God in Christ."193 After referring to Romans 1:20 where God's power and divinity are seen in the things that are made, Waggoner declares that here again we are brought face to face with the actual presence of Christ in all creation.194 In commenting on the experience at Horeb where the Lord gave the Israelites water, Waggoner indicates that if they had accepted Him by faith in this incident "His Real Presence would have been in them by means of the water which they drank, as well as by the food that they ate. "195
In this work under consideration, Waggoner sees the communion bread, not as a representation or symbol of the body of Christ, but the actual body of Christ. Although the bread of the Lord's supper was the ordinary bread eaten in every Jewish home, it was nothing else than the body of Christ. Waggoner finds this unequivocal in the words, "This is my body." He says: "So in the Lord's supper we partake of the body of Christ, and not a mere representation of His body."196
Finally, we mention that at the1901 General Conference Session Waggoner again showed his deep interest in his conviction that nature and grace should not be separated. In discussing the Biblical statement, "God is light," Waggoner stated that he believed this just as it read. He did not trouble his mind to differentiate between 'spiritual' or 'literal' or 'figurative' language, but accepted the Biblical statement at face value.197 In this same message he indicated that light, food, drink and air are all manifestations of the life of God.198 Thus we have seen Waggoner's growing interest in the relationship between redemption and creation commencing imperceptibly in 1893 and having become pronounced and all-absorbing in 1901.
We have now given consideration to Waggoner's Christology during the first half of the third period, namely, 1892-1903. Waggoner continued to give prominence to the divinity of Christ as he had done throughout the first two periods. In this respect there was no fundamental change. He likewise maintained his convictions on Christ as the only means of salvation. His usual clarity regarding the unity of Christ's work in Old and New Testament times is evident. Regarding Christ and sin, Waggoner proceeded along former
lines that Jesus Christ was sinless although coming in sinful flesh. Here we have some tension in a Christ in sinful flesh subject to evil tendencies and yet sinless because of His miraculous birth. Whatever the intricacies of the humanity of Christ might be, these are overshadowed by the implications of Waggoner's emphasis on Christ's divinity. During this period we found a growing interest and concern for the internal and immanent Christ. This naturally led Waggoner to the belief that an indwelling Christ would produce sinless living in man, even if it called for the overshadowing of man's personality. We finally discovered that Waggoner's interest in the immanent Christ was a part of his larger concern for the blending and mingling of all aspects of deity with nature.
8. The Christology of the Declining Years199
During this second sub-division of the last period we will look at two sources as we continue our investigation of Waggoner's Christology. The first will be periodical articles during 1903-1905 and secondly, a document entitled the "Confession of Faith" written by Waggoner shortly before his death in 1916.200
a. Periodical Articles, 1903-1905
In perusing these articles we discover that Waggoner's Christology was basically the same now as during the latter part of the 19th century and the early 1900's. The transitional period was roughly from 1893-1897201 and beyond the latter date there was no marked change in his Christology.
The articles in the periodicals from 1903-1905 reveal at least five aspects of the nature of the person and work of Christ in Waggoner's thinking. Firstly, Waggoner presents Christ as sinless at least in action, and in fact has little to say regarding the sinful nature of Christ. He indicates that our sinful natures make it impossible for us to judge others. Yet despite this we may work for the salvation of sinners. The work of the gospel has been committed to sinners, so much so that even He "who knew no sin had to be made sin for us, in order that He might save us from sin," therefore, Waggoner says that "we have no divine warrant for judging, for Christ, the sinless One, did not cast stones."202 Here we have Waggoner's balance between a Christ who "knew no sin," called "the sinless One," and yet "made sin" for us.
Secondly, Waggoner presents Christ as the power of God and the One who is equal with the Father, claiming the attributes and appellations of the Godhead. Waggoner speaks of the life-giving power that flowed from Christ when He healed the sick. In describing the healing of the woman with the blood affliction (Mark 5:24-34), he writes: "The power, the life that went out from Jesus, went into the woman."203 Waggoner indicates that the fullness of the power of the universe was manifested in Christ bodily while He was on earth.204 He also refers to the divine nature of Christ being infinite.205
In this same connection we find that Waggoner ascribes the names of deity to Christ. He
discusses the significance of the "I AM" appellation for Christ's person.206 He also refers to Christ as the 'Word of God,’207 the 'Creator' and the 'Amen,' 208 the ‘Lifegiver’209 and the 'Power of God.' 210When Waggoner discusses the Lord's prayer one senses his conviction on the equality of the Father and the Son in his treatment of the phrase 'Hallowed be Thy name.'
Thirdly, Waggoner continues to reveal a lack of sharp distinction between the life of Christ and the life manifest in the natural world. We have already given evidence for this in his Christology of the latter part of the 19th century.211This merging of deity and nature on the part of Waggoner continued to be a feature of his Christology. For example, he indicates that the light that shines is but the shining forth of God's glory and that when Christ said He was the light of the world He meant it literally. In describing Christ's healing of the blind man, Waggoner states that when Christ said, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12) He meant "that He is the light that shines from the sun; that He is the light that shines in the daylight, in the starlight."212
Furthermore, Waggoner mingles the life of Christ with the plants and the vines of the natural world. In speaking of Christ as the vine he could say: "He [Christ] is the parent stock whence all vines on earth spring; and therefore when that same night He took the cup containing the fruit of the vine, He could say, 'This is my blood.'"213 From his treatment of the communion bread and the body of Christ214 we would assume that Waggoner is likewise stressing the identity between the fruit of the vine and the blood of Christ.
Fourthly, Waggoner shows continued emphasis on the existential nature of the cross and resurrection experience in his treatment of the work of Christ. Not that he would reject the reality of the cross and its significance, but it would appear that his interest was primarily in the existential application of the cross experience in the heart of the believer.215 Lastly, we note that Waggoner continued to lay stress on the internal and immanent Christ as he did in the period from 1893-1903,216 which appears to harmonize with his views concerning the identity of deity and nature and the existential nature of the cross.217
b. The "Confession of Faith"
This brief document found on Waggoner's desk after his death in 1916 does reflect the basic issues of his Christology at the close of his life.
Waggoner set forth the fundamental truth that Christ is the Word of God and is the revelation of God to this world. This revelation must be seen as central to the Scriptures and a failure to find Christ thus revealed indicates a faulty hermeneutic.218
According to Waggoner God is first revealed to us in Scripture as the Creator in Christ. Christ as the living Word spoke everything into existence and the truth of Christ's creative power is foundational for Christ as Redeemer.219 Whether speaking of creation or the
power of re-creation in redemption, Christ is the Mediator - the medium through whom the work is accomplished.220
Very clear is Waggoner's expression of the uniformity of the work of Christ and the gospel throughout all times. He takes a very strong anti-dispensational stance and finds the same Christ operative in the lives of the patriarchs of the Old Testament as in the saints of New Testament times.221
In this last testament of Waggoner he appears to present the paradox of Christ taking the nature "of sinful man”222 and yet offering a “perfect life - a life free from sin,...”
Waggoner presents Jesus Christ as occupying the triple office of Prophet, Priest and King simultaneously and concurrently from eternity rather than consecutively. Christ has always been Prophet in that He is the Living Word who has always spoken for God. Waggoner sees Christ as the mouthpiece of Divinity. He sees Christ as Heir and King long before Bethlehem for He was born to the throne from His "goings forth." He likewise sees Christ's Priesthood reaching back at least from the foundation of the earth and bases this on the experiences of Abraham, David and Isaiah.223
In this final statement of Waggoner the existential nature of the cross relative to the work of Christ stands out very strongly. He repeats his conviction that the cross of Calvary profits us nothing unless it is erected in our own hearts and we are thus crucified with Him. Waggoner understands Paul to indicate that "we do not find Christ in heaven or in the grave, but only within, crucified and risen again in our own hearts."224
Waggoner sees the gift of God's life which since the fall comes by the way of the cross of Christ as the great fact of eternity and not simply the event of a day.225 God is always giving and the cross is the method of giving during the time of sin. Thus, Waggoner sees the cross as an ever-present reality for all men and not as something confined to Palestine nineteen hundred years ago. He believed that no one ever had to look either backward or forward, but only upward and within, to find the cross.226
Thus ends Waggoner's contribution to the Christology of Adventism. It has been an important and controversial one and it now awaits our evaluation and critique.
111 In England Waggoner and his family lived in London. While editor of The Present Truth, he also had charge of the church work in North London, and was also engaged in conducting Sunday night evangelistic services and general evangelism in many parts of England. Throughout his stay in England he was busy with editorial, ministerial and evangelistic work. His daughter reports that her father was a member of a male quartet which often sang at general meetings. About 1895, Waggoner, along with A T Jones, made a trip through Turkey. In 1897 he spent a summer leading out as a Bible Instructor at the new and large school at Frederickshaven, Denmark. In 1899 Waggoner helped out at the Lausanne campmeeting in Switzerland. In 1901 he co-operated with Professor Homer Salisbury and his wife in starting the first Adventist school in England. School
was held in Duncombe Hall, North London, and Waggoner taught Bible. This school was later transferred and built up at Watford. In 1902 he spent two or three months teaching Bible at Skodsborg Sanitarium, Denmark, Just before returning to the U.S.A., Waggoner again spent a short time in 1903 teaching in Denmark. See Pearl Waggoner Howard, "Dr Ellet Joseph Waggoner, Biographical Sketch and Background." [back]
112 We have observed that in 1905 Waggoner was divorced from his wife and the following year was married to Miss Edith Adams. These events resulted in Waggoner's severance from church employment and hence we have spoken of his declining years of influence in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. [back]
113 E. J. Waggoner, "The Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ," The Present Truth, January 9, 1896. For Waggoner's application of the 'I AM' passages to Christ see the following: "True Education," The Daily Bulletin of the General Conference, Vol. 8, No. 7, February 23, 1899, pp.70-72; "The Wondrous Name," The Present Truth, Vol. 15, No. 18, May 4, 1899; General Conference Bulletin, Vol. 1V, Extra No. 10, April 14, 1901, pp. 220-224. See also "Studies in the book of Hebrews No. 1,2," The Daily Bulletin, 1897, pp.6-9; 23-26. [back]
114 For the above thoughts see Waggoner, "The Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ," The Present Truth, Vol. 12, No. 2, January 9, 1896, pp.17-19. We observe the similarity in Waggoner's basic views on the divinity of Christ running right through from 1884 (see footnotes 16-21; 57-74 of this chapter). [back]
115 E. J. Waggoner, "How to Get Knowledge," Apples of Gold Library, No. 4, Oakland, California: Pacific Press Publishing Co., September, 1893. [back]
116 E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, Oakland, California: Pacific Press Publishing Co., 1900. From the earliest years of his editorial work the epistle to the Galatians had been a fruitful source for Waggoner. Even before Minneapolis (1888) while editor of The Signs of the Times many of his editorials touched on the themes of Galatians. During July and August, 1886, he wrote a series of nine editorials on Galatians 3. Then we have his reply to Butler dated February 10, 1887, entitled The Gospel in the Book of Galatians, a 71-page pamphlet which was distributed almost two years later. This pamphlet is not as comprehensive as his 1900 The Glad Tidings. The pamphlet confines itself to certain themes in the epistle such as the relationship between circumcision and righteousness, justification by faith in Christ alone, salvation through Christ alone in all dispensations, the centrality of the moral law in the epistle, the seed that should come, the phrase 'under the law' and Christ's position in the Incarnation relative to that term. From November 1898 to May 1899 Waggoner placed a series of twenty-one articles on Galatians in The Signs of the Times. These messages became the basis of The Glad Tidings. [back] 117 Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p.13. [back]
118 Ibid. [back]
119 Note Waggoner's words: "Now Christ is the truth (John 14:6-, and He is the power of
God (1 Cor. 1:24), and the Divinity of God (John 1:1)" (Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p.35). [back]
120 Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p.52. [back]
121 We note Waggoner's thought: "Truth for Christ, who is the shining of His glory, very impress of His substance (Heb. 1:3), is (John 14:6)" (Ibid., p.67). [back]
122 Waggoner writes as follows: "Jesus of Nazareth was 'the manifestation of Christ in the flesh;' but the flesh was not Christ, for 'the flesh profitteth nothing.' It is the Word which was in the beginning, and whose power upholds all things, that is the Christ of God... While Christ was going about doing good in Judea and Galilee, He was in the bosom of the Father making reconciliation for the sins of the world" (Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp.90.91). [back] >
123 We found this same thought in Waggoner's Christ and His Righteousness of 1890 (see footnote 72 of this chapter). In 1900 Waggoner appears to be even more outspoken in this regard. [back]
124 See Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p.66. [back]
125 See Ibid., p.95. [back]
126 Waggoner comments: "But remember this one thing, when you seek to turn a man away from Christ to some substitute for Christ, you cannot tell where he will end...If a converted drunkard loses faith in Christ, he will take up his drinking habits as surely as he lives, even though the Lord may have taken the appetite away from him" (Ibid., p.176). [back] >
127 See Waggoner, "Judaism and Christianity," in The Signs of the Times, August 1, 1895. Waggoner sees 'Judaism' as it developed by New Testament times as a perversion of the intent of the Old Testament. He writes: "The religion of the Old Testament is the religion of Jesus Christ" (The Glad Tidings, p.39). [back]
128 Waggoner, "They Can Not Be Separated," The Signs of the Times, September 19, 1895. [back]
129 Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp.28,29. Note also: "The Gospel differs in no particular now from what it was in Abraham's day: for his day was the day of Christ. John 8:56" (Ibid., p.106). Further: "The Gospel was as full and complete in the days of Abraham as it has ever been or ever will be" (Ibid., p.136). [back]
130 Ibid., p.141. [back]
131 See footnotes 73 and 74 of this chapter. In 1889 and 1890 Waggoner presented the Father as first in point of time. In other words, Christ had a beginning even though in the
distant past. [back]
132 See Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp.151,152. [back]
133 See Ibid., pp.157,161. Here we are reminded of his same view presented in 1887 when he wrote to G. I. Butler on the gospel in Galatians. See footnotes 25, 26 in this chapter. [back]
134 Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p.168. [back] >
135 For details see footnote 1 of this chapter. [back]
136 Note Waggoner's words: "But the Scriptures teach us that 'The gospel dispensation' or 'gospel age' is from Eden lost to Eden restored" (The Everlasting Covenant, p.341). [back]
137 Waggoner states that from the days of Adam and Eve to the present there "has been no more change in the plan of salvation, nor in God's requirements for salvation, nor in the number to whom salvation was offered, than there has been in God Himself..." (Ibid., p.353). [back]
138 Waggoner sees in the transaction between Abraham and Melchizedek evidence that Abraham saw Christ's day (see Ibid., p.64); when Abraham believed the Lord and it was counted unto him as righteousness, he must have believed in Christ, for righteousness is only found in Jesus Christ (see Ibid., pp.68,69); Waggoner believed that in the experience of Abraham and Isaac it was Abraham's faith in Jesus Christ as the resurrection that gave him strength for the ordeal (see Ibid., p.100,101);see also Ibid., pp.302,341. [back]
139 See Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, p.138. [back]
140 See Ibid., p.166. [back]
141 Waggoner says: "Christ was as really present with them as He is with us. They could endure as seeing Him who is invisible, and we can do no more" (The Everlasting Covenant, p.200). Waggoner sees all the benefits of Christ's death and resurrection as operative from the foundation of the world. [back]
142 Waggoner sees Jesus Christ as revealing the holiness of the law of God at both Calvary and at Sinai. At Calvary this was seen in His death and at Sinai in His proclamation of the precepts (see The Everlasting Covenant, p.311). [back]
143 In a sermon given on April 16, 1901, at the General Conference Session, Waggoner discusses the question of the birth of Christ from the Virgin Mary. He states that the flesh of Christ must have been the same as all other men and must have been sinful flesh. (See General Conference Bulletin, Vol. IV, Extra, No. 17, April 22, 1901, pp.403-408). In a sermon at the same session on April 6, 1901, Waggoner reiterates that Christ came in
sinful flesh so that God could demonstrate what His eternal power could do for any man. (See Ibid., Vol. IV, Extra, No. 6, April 9, 1901, pp.145-150). [back]
144 See Waggoner, "The Miraculous Birth," The Present Truth, December 20, 1900. One does wonder whether it is possible to hold together a Christ with sinful flesh possessing evil tendencies from an evil ancestry, and at the same time, a spotless Christ as a result of a 'miraculous birth'? When Waggoner goes on to state that godly parents could also, through the power of the Holy Spirit, give birth to a similar child, one wonders if the unique distinction between the birth of Christ and all other children is not destroyed. [back]
145 Waggoner states: "Sin had spent all its force on Him, and had not marred Him in the least. It had not made a single blot upon His character. His was a sinless life, and therefore the grave could have no power over Him" ("Life in Christ," The Signs of the Times, Vol. 19, No. 19, March 13, 1893, p.292). For a similar thought see also "The Unconquerable Life," The Signs of the Times, March 27, 1893, p.323. See also Waggoner's position on the sinlessness of Christ in 1900; "Christ alone is righteous; He has overcome the world, and He alone has power to do it; in Him dwelleth all the fullness of God, because the law - God Himself - was in His heart;" (The Glad Tidings, 1900, p.80). While the law is an expression of the nature of God we would question Waggoner's extreme equation of the law with God Himself. [back]
146 Waggoner does not see this as a superficial work. The sins were 'in His body' and Christ was made a curse for us. While He "knew no sin" He was actually made to be sin for us and yet was personally untainted by it. (See The Glad Tidings, pp.117,11.) See also Ibid., p.238. [back]
147 Waggoner has Christ continually bearing sin in an existential relation with the sinner: "Christ is crucified in the sinner, for wherever there is sin and the curse, there is Christ bearing it" (The Glad Tidings, p.89). [back]
148 In 1893 there was a legitimate emphasis on the Christ of the heart. Note: "When Christ is abiding in us, we are justified by faith, and we have His life abiding in us" ("Life in Christ," The Signs of the Times, March 13, 1893); see also "The New Life in Christ," The Bible Echo, March 1, 1893. However, as early as 1893 there are some seed thoughts which indicate Waggoner's possible predilection towards an over-emphasis on the immanent Christ. He was speaking of the mystery of the Incarnation being manifested again today in the lives of men. (See "Good Works," The Signs of the Times, March 20, 1893.) See this same idea in 1891 under footnote 101. He spoke of the internal Christ taking over the personality "so that the one person is not us but Christ" ("Baptism-Its Significance," The Bible Echo, February 15, 1893). At the 1897 General Conference Session E. J. Waggoner gave a series of 18 studies on the epistle to the Hebrews, recorded in the General Conference Bulletin (1897). This emphasis on the immanent Christ becomes quite apparent. Note, for example, in the study given on Monday afternoon, February 15, 1897, Waggoner discusses Romans 10:6-10 and says: "Christ has come in the flesh, my flesh. Why? Is it because I am so good? - 0, no; for there is no good flesh
for Christ to come into. Christ has come in the flesh, in every man's flesh" ("Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 6," The Daily Bulletin, pp.70,71). Also: "What life therefore is manifested everywhere in the universe? - The life of Christ...that very same life is in me, and confess it and believe it, everything that that life can do is mine" ("Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 7," The Daily Bulletin, p.88). See also The Daily Bulletin, pp.103,104 (study No. 8); also "Studies in Hebrews - No. 18," General Conference Bulletin, 1897, p.11. [back]
149 For example, when Waggoner says: "In that Christ is given to every man, each person gets the whole of Him...So the life of Christ lights every man that comes into the world, and in every believing heart Christ dwells in all His fullness" (The Glad Tidings, pp.16,17). [back]
150 Waggoner, Salvation in Jesus Christ, Apples of Gold Library, No. 64, October 1899, p.4. See also General Conference Bulletin, Vol. IV, Extra No. 3, April 5, 1901, p.81, where he speaks of Christ "taking on Himself sinful flesh, coming into your flesh and mine, abiding there, standing there, enduring all the shame that we heap upon him" waiting for the sinner to turn on the connection. [back]
151 See Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p.35.Further to the thought that Christ dwells personally in all flesh, Waggoner says: "We do not make it so by believing it; it is so, whether we believe it or not, we simply accept the fact, which all nature reveals to us" (Ibid., p.81). The only difference is that in the sinner Christ is unrecognized in the life while the Christian accepts His presence by faith (Ibid., p.89). In The Everlasting Covenant (1900) Waggoner asks what is the difference between a sinner and a Christian if Christ is in all men. He says the difference is only one of faith. "It makes all the difference in the world, whether Christ is in a man simply as His life is in the brutes, or whether He dwells in the heart by faith" (See pp.248,249). [back]
152 Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p.88. See also Salvation in Jesus Christ, Apples of Gold Library, No. 64, October 1899, p.4. Waggoner says that the cross cannot be separated from us. No one was ever saved simply by looking forward or backward to a cross where Christ was erected. The cross must be internalized. For the same thought in 1891 see footnote 108. See also The Glad Tidings, p.84; Salvation in Jesus Christ, October 1899, p.3. While it is legitimate to internalize the cross existentially, one must guard against neglecting the importance of the historical events of Christ's life and death. [back]
153 Illustrative of this emphasis on the power of the indwelling Christ are Waggoner's two articles in The Bible Echo, entitled, "The Power of the Resurrection" (August 1, 1893) and "The Power of Forgiveness" (November 1, 1893). In the first article Waggoner states that we are to know the resurrection of Christ, not as a historical event eighteen hundred years ago, but as a present reality which gives us forgiveness and victory over sin. In the second article Waggoner equates the forgiveness of sins with an effective justification where the sinner receives actual power in forgiveness. Furthermore, the life of Christ in the believer will demonstrate the same power as in His life. His life in us will
be as strong to resist sin as when He lived in Judea (see "The New Life in Christ," The Bible Echo, March 1, 1893; compare a similar thought in 1891, "Letter to the Romans - No. 10," p.19). See also "Christ the Life-Giver," The Signs of the Times, June 5, 1893. Waggoner sees the gospel as "the revelation of the power of God to work righteousness in men" ("What is the Gospel?" The Bible Echo, May 1,1893). He accepts that the perfect life of Jesus will be reproduced in all the true church ("The Spirit of Prophecy," The Daily Bulletin, Vol. 8, No. 2, February 17, 1899, pp.13,14). [back]
154 Waggoner writes: "Before the end comes, and at the time of the coming of Christ, there must be a people on earth, not necessarily large in proportion to the number of inhabitants of earth, but large enough to be known in all the earth, in whom 'all the fullness of God' will be manifest even as it was in Jesus of Nazareth. God will demonstrate to the world that what He did with Jesus of Nazareth He can do with anyone who will yield to Him" (The Everlasting Covenant, 1900, p.366). For similar thoughts see also, sermon, April 6, 1901, General Conference Bulletin, Vol. IV, Extra No. 61, April 9, 1901, p.147; "The Gospel of the Kingdom," European Conference Bulletin, 1902, pp.62-64.[back]
155 See Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, pp.26,27. See also "The Work of the Gospel," The Bible Echo, June 15, 1893; "The Power given to God's People," The Bible Echo, July 1, 1893. [back]
156 Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, p.346. See also Ibid., p.367. Waggoner further says that with Christ dwelling in our bodies "we have the instant and continual victory over every lust of the flesh" ("Suffering in the Flesh," The Present Truth, Vol. 17, No. 7, February 17, 1901). [back]
157 Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p.92. Notice further: "He redeems us by coming into our place literally, and taking our load off our shoulders...We drop out entirely, so that it is 'not I, but Christ'" (Ibid., pp.168.169). He sees Christ dwelling in us "exercising His own faith" (Ibid., p.81). Waggoner continues: "He lives in us also the fullness of His life, so that it is no more we but Christ living in us, and then His obedience in us makes us righteous" (Ibid., p.113). Is there not a danger here that the mystical Christ will make the human personality dormant and expendable? [back]
158 Waggoner wrote: "Redemption is the same power that was put forth in the beginning to create the world and all that is in it, now put forth to save men and the earth from the curse of sin" ("Creative Powers," The Bible Echo, December 8, 1893).[back]
159 Speaking of the growth of the grass and the flowers and the reception of God's gifts resulting in the returning of the fruits, Waggoner says: "That is the Gospel" ("God's Glory His Gospel," The Signs of the Times, July 25, 1895). [back]
160 Waggoner, The Gospel in Creation, London: International Tract Society, 1895.
161 0n the back cover of the facsimile reproduction of Waggoner's book, Christ and His Righteousness (1890), printed in 1972 by the Southern Publishing Association, Nashville, Tennessee, appears this statement: "Following this conference , Dr Waggoner edited the messages he had presented, and published them in three books: Christ and His Righteousness (1890);.. The Gospel in Creation (1894); and The Glad Tidings (1900)." Incidentally, our original copy of The Gospel in Creation carries the date 1895, but regardless of the date, there is no substantial evidence that The Gospel in Creation forms the basis of the 1888 conference messages. See footnote 56 of this chapter. [back]
162 Waggoner, The Gospel in Creation, pp.7-12. [back]
163 Ibid., pp.13-15. [back]
164 Ibid., p.15. [back]
165 Ibid., p.16. [back]
166 Ibid., pp.18.19. [back]
167 Ibid., p.27. [back]
168 Ibid., pp.30-42. [back]
169 Ibid., pp.43,44. [back]
170 Waggoner, The Gospel in Creation, pp.46-52. [back]
171 Ibid., pp.55-61. [back]
172 Ibid., pp.62-76. [back]
173 Ibid., pp.77-104. [back]
174 Ibid., pp.105-124. [back]
175 Waggoner, The Gospel in Creation, pp.125-133. [back]
176 Ibid., pp.134-144. [back]
177 Ibid., p.147. [back]
178 Ibid., p.150. [back]
179 Ibid., p.151. [back]
180 Ibid., pp.154-169. [back]
181 Ellen White was in Australia at the time and was not present at the session. It is known that Dr. John Harvey Kellogg shared some of the same sentiments with Dr. E. J. Waggoner. To what extent other ministers and leaders were conscious of any problem in Waggoner's presentations at this time is not clear. According to David McMahon, Robert Haddock is the first scholar to have detected Waggoner's so-called pantheism at the 1897 General Conference Session (McMahon, E. J. Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, p.148). See Robert Haddock, "A History of the Doctrine of the Sanctuary in the Advent Movement: 1800-1905," B. D. thesis, Andrews University, 1970. The general understanding has been that it was Dr. J. H. Kellogg who introduced pantheistic ideas during his talks at the 1897 General Conference Session which then influenced Waggoner to move in that direction later. Arthur White has written: "Dr. Kellogg was also at this session and spoke frequently and then introduced his pantheistic views - views which were to have a far-reaching influence on Elder Waggoner" (Arthur White, "Compilation on E. J. Waggoner," p.9, available from White Estate). Evidence from Waggoner's own presentations of his 18 studies on Hebrews indicates that he hardly needed any introduction to pantheistic ideas from Dr. Kellogg! [back]
182 After stating that God's presence is in fallen humanity and that the stamp of the cross is upon everything, Waggoner said: "He simply means that everywhere we go, and everything we have to do, and everything we eat, and the air we breathe, - through these he is simply preaching the gospel to us, giving the gospel to us" ("Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 4," The Daily Bulletin, 1897, p.46). [back]
183 Waggoner wrote: "He is brought face to face with the power of God in him, keeping him alive. It is Christ in fallen man, it is Christ in cursed man, it is Christ with the curse on him, it is Christ crucified" ("Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 6," The Daily Bulletin, p.71). [back]
184 Waggoner, "Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 6," The Daily Bulletin, p.72. [back]
185 See Waggoner, "Studies in the Book of Hebrews No. 7," The Daily Bulletin, 1897, p.87. In the same lecture he spoke of natural law and moral law and asked whether there was any difference. He went on to say: "Then what are called natural laws are simply the life of God manifested in the things we see, -...It is the same life in the grass, in the vine, in the oak tree" (Ibid., p.88). [back]
186 See Waggoner, "Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 8," The Daily Bulletin, 1891, p.102. He goes on to say that it is the personal, powerful presence of God that keeps the mountains together..."because God is there with his personal power" (Ibid.). [back]
187 Waggoner, "Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 9," The Daily Bulletin, p.159. In the same lecture he had said: "Christ is the Sun of righteousness. We are to be trees of
righteousness, therefore the sun that is shining upon us is the Sun of righteousness, and that is not far removed from the sunshine that we see, because that teaches us of it" (Ibid., p.158). To draw a lesson from light and the sun regarding Christ is in order, but the general tendencies of these studies indicates a closer mingling of the elements of grace and nature than is usual. [back]
188 Waggoner, "Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 18," General Conference Bulletin, 1891, p.13. [back]
189 Ibid. [back]
190 It is significant to note that in the eighteen studies on the book of Hebrews, presented by Waggoner at the 1897 General Conference Session, he only covered certain aspects of the first four chapters of the epistle. Some have asked the question as to why Waggoner failed to get into some of the chapters such as seven to ten dealing with aspects of the sanctuary service which are so important in the thinking and the theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. David P. McMahon suggests that it was because he no longer believed in a literal sanctuary in heaven nor in its "cleansing" through the intercession of Christ. He bases this assertion, of course, on Waggoner's "Confession of Faith" found at the time of his death. See David P. McMahon, Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, p.147. For his treatment of the 1897 General Conference Session and the pantheism of Waggoner see Ibid., pp.147-159. Robert Wieland does not accept Waggoner's statement in his "Confession" of 1916, with regard to his having given up the sanctuary doctrine some twenty-five years earlier, as fully reliable. See his arguments in footnote 257. On these grounds Wieland makes a suggestion as to Waggoner's intentions: "What he should have said in 1916 was that as early as 1891 he began to be tempted to doubt the doctrine. But it is hardly fair to say that he yielded to this temptation while he was publicly teaching it" (Wieland, The 1888 Message, An Introduction, p.158). [back]
191 Waggoner, The Daily Bulletin of the General Conference, Vol. VIII, No. 7, February 23, 1899, p.58. He likewise spoke of the wonderful connection between the air we breathe and the Holy Spirit and said: "When a man knows and recognizes that every breath he draws is a direct breathing of God into his nostrils, he lives in the presence of God, and has a Spirit-filled life" (Ibid.). [back]
192 Note Waggoner's thought: "0, I delight in drinking water, as I never have before: I delight in bathing. Why, I come right to the throne of God. A man may get righteousness in bathing, when he knows where the water comes from, and recognizes the source" ("The Water of Life," The Daily Bulletin of the General Conference, Vol. 8, No. 8, February 24, 1899, p.80). For further details on Waggoner's presentations at the 1899 General Conference Session see McMahon, Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, pp.159-165. [back]
193 Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, p.247. [back]
194 Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, p.248. [back]
195 Ibid., p.271. He goes on to say that if we do not see God's own life and His Spirit in the water He gives us now we would fail to see anything wonderful in the river of life if we get to heaven. See Ibid., p.275. [back]
196 Ibid., p.254. It is interesting to note that Waggoner rejects the Roman Catholic conception of transubstantiation on the grounds that the priest does not change the bread into the body of Christ as it is that already (see Ibid., p.255). He also sees no substantial difference between the communion bread and our daily bread except that the Lord's supper is a public profession of faith that we only have life in Christ and that we receive His life in the food He gives us to eat (Ibid., 256). [back]
197 See Waggoner, General Conference Bulletin, Vol. IV, Extra No. 10, April 14, 1901, p.221. [back]
198 Note his words: "The wind that blows, the air that surrounds the earth, is the breath of God, and He is breathing it upon us day by day and month by month" (Ibid., p.222). For more details on Waggoner's participation in the 1901 General Conference Session see McMahon, Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, pp.165-171. [back]
199 The term 'declining years' does not refer to age or lack of mental ability. It has reference to Waggoner's relationship to the church and its leadership largely as a result of his developing theological ideas. Here we have in mind not only the merging of the natural and the spiritual realms but particularly the teaching of 'spiritual affinity' - that is, that one not rightfully a marriage partner here might be one in the life to come, and that this allows a present spiritual union. Evidently, in the years after the General Conference Session of 1897, where Waggoner had presented his lectures on Hebrews, he began to promulgate his ideas of 'spiritual affinity' in England. He came to the 1901 General Conference Session "enthused with what" he "supposed to be precious spiritual light" (E. G. White Letter 224, 1908).In this same letter, Ellen White in speaking of Waggoner's experience in 1901 said: "Dr Waggoner was then departing from the faith in the doctrine he held regarding spiritual affinities" (Ibid.). It would appear that while in England, Waggoner had been spreading these ideas abroad. Ellen White wrote in 1906: "In the European field for a long time he has sown seeds that have borne and will bear evil fruit, leading some to depart from the faith, and to give heed to seducing spirits, doctrines of satanic origin" (E. G. White Letter 121, 1906). Ellen White had warned Waggoner of becoming infatuated with another woman back in 1903 (see E. G. White Letter 231, 1903, cited in Medical Ministry, pp.100,101). As we have noted, Waggoner's wife divorced her husband in 1905 and in 1906 Waggoner married Miss Edith Adams. [back]
200 This manuscript was the last thing written by Dr. E. J. Waggoner, and was found on his desk after his death which took place suddenly, May 28, 1916. See footnote 5 of this chapter. [back]
201 It is interesting to note that McMahon speaks of Waggoner being in theological transition much earlier, in fact, between 1889 -1891 (see Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The
Myth and the Man, pp.93 -116). We prefer to place this later and see the transition time in his theology as from 1893 -1897. [back]
202 See Waggoner, "Saving, Not Stoning, Sinners," Medical Missionary, January 1905, pp. 2,3. Speaking of the one sacrifice on the cross for sin, Waggoner refers to the atonement which Christ made when He took the sins of the world upon Himself: "The sin of all the world was upon him who upholds the worlds; and so, in giving himself, he atoned for the sins of the world" ("Daily Bread," Medical Missionary, May 1904, p.162). It is good to hear Waggoner speaking of what sounds like an objective atonement on the cross rather than a mystical atonement in the heart. [back]
203 Waggoner, "He Bore our Sicknesses," Medical Missionary, Vol. 14, No. 4, April 1905, p.100. He says that in healing the woman and other sick persons Christ laid down His life just as surely as when He hung upon the cross of Calvary (Ibid., October 1903, p.254). Is Waggoner not here in danger of losing the uniqueness of the death of Christ upon the cross of Calvary or at least of mystifying it? He speaks of Christ demonstrating resurrection and overcoming power in His person (see Ibid., November 1904, p. 352). This power was manifested whether Jesus healed or saved (see Ibid., September 1903, p.222). [back]
204 See Waggoner, "The Gospel of the Kingdom," General Conference Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 5, April 3, 1903, p.69. [back]
205 Ibid. [back]
206 See Waggoner, "Co-workers with God," Medical Missionary, April 1903, pp.93,94. He further equates the names 'Lord,' 'Jehovah,' 'Living One,' and 'I AM' in discussing Psalm 23:1 (see "Daily Bread for Christian Workers," Medical Missionary, June 1904, p.194). [back]
207 Waggoner, Medical Missionary, September 1904, p.285. [back]
208 Ibid., p.283. [back]
209 Ibid., November 1904, p.349. [back]
210 Waggoner, Review and Herald, January 6, 1903, [back]
211 Notice especially footnotes 184-189 in this chapter which deal with Waggoner's concept of Christ and the natural world. [back]
212 See Waggoner, The Medical Missionary, September 1933, p.222. Notice further: "This was not a theoretical thing, a mere figment of the mind, which some people would call 'spiritual light,' or 'mental light,' but real light that is visible to the natural eye" (Ibid.). See also Ibid., June 1904, p.196; September 1904, p.284; May 1905, p.130. [back]
213 Waggoner, Medical Missionary, December 1904, p.391. For further examples of this mingling of deity and creation life note the following: Waggoner says that the glory of God may be seen in every wayside plant as truly as at Cana of Galilee or at the grave of Lazarus (The Medical Missionary, May 1904, p.161); He sees the rain and water as the flowing forth of the stream of God's own life and as therefore literally God's righteousness (Ibid., December 1904, p.382); further examples of this tendency are when Waggoner says: "Christianity is pure science" (Medical Missionary, September 1903, p.222), and "Redemption is creation" (Ibid., May 1904, p.162). Sensing the charge of pantheism around 1903 Waggoner defended himself by stating that unless one accepted that God's personal life was manifest in all persons and all plant life one would have no alternative but to state the heathen idea that God's life is one thing and the life in plants and the natural world is another form of life, namely, creature life. (The Medical Missionary, September 1903, p.223). See also Ibid., November 1903, p.300. [back]
214 See footnote 196 of this chapter. [back]
215 We note Waggoner's treatment of the cross of Christ and its importance for salvation. See General Conference Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 11, April 1903, pp. 175-190; also "The Manger and the Cross," Review and Herald, January 6, 1903, p.91. Rightly warning against simply regarding the cross of Christ as a piece of wood set up nineteen hundred years ago, Waggoner points out that the "cross of Christ is everywhere, always giving life" (Medical Missionary, October 1903, p.253); furthermore, "Christ crucified, buried, and risen again, with His eternal power, is with every person, in order that he may do the things that are right" (The Medical Missionary, October 1903, p.252). One could raise the question as to whether salvation is to be accepted by faith in the historical death and resurrection of Christ or whether one can only accept its reality upon the mystical application of the real crucifixion of Christ re-enacted in the heart. [back]
216 See footnotes 148-152 in this chapter regarding this emphasis during 1893-1903. [back]
217 Waggoner says: "Christ dwells among us, only because He dwells in us - in humanity. He dwells in every man" (The Medical Missionary, September 1904, p.283). After speaking of God's presence being particularly with His children Waggoner says this does not mean that God is not everywhere, "even in the heart and the mouth of the sinner, but that with such He is present as a stranger - a transient lodger" (Ibid., April 1904, p.125). [back]
218 Christ is primarily the Word of God, the expression of God's thought; and the Scriptures are the Word of God simply because they reveal Christ" (Waggoner, "Confession of Faith," p.5). Speaking of the revelation of Christ which came to him thirty-four years before at a campmeeting in Healdsburg one Sabbath afternoon, he wrote: "I have always believed that every part of the Bible must set forth with more or less vividness, that glorious revelation" (see Ibid., pp. 5,6,). Speaking further of the centrality of Christ to all Scripture Waggoner wrote: "Christ must be the beginning and end of all Scripture, as He is the Author and Perfecter of faith. It was the Spirit of Christ that
testified in the ancient prophets; and so the Scriptures are the 'testimony of Jesus,' - the 'testimonies' to which the Psalmist so frequently refers" (Ibid., p.6). [back]
219 We know God first of all as the Creator in Christ" (Waggoner, "Confession of Faith," p.6). [back]
220 Ibid., p.14. [back]
221 Jesus Christ is 'the same yesterday, and today, and forever.' He cannot change, because He is the revelation, the out-shining of the unchangeable God... Therefore, the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, must be always the same, with no shadow of change" (Waggoner, "Confession of Faith," p.7). Again he writes: "The unchangeable God has but one way of saving men. Any change would make either for perfection or for imperfection...the Gospel was the same and as complete in the beginning as it is now; for it is but the revelation of the life of God to and in men dead in sin" (Ibid., p.10). Understanding the cross and its significance and God's power to re-create men, Waggoner stated that twenty-five years ago it was evident to him that there could never be any changes or differences in God's work of saving men, and that Christ crucified was as much a reality and available in the days of Moses, Isaiah or Paul as today. See Ibid., p.14. Quite clearly, Waggoner would never subscribe to a law-gospel dispensational scheme or to some supergospel today over against Paul's day. We remind the reader of his clear statement in 1891 in this connection. See footnote 109 of this chapter. [back]
222 Ibid., p.8. He says that sin can only be met by "the gift of a perfect life - a life free from sin, a life victorious over death. So God in Christ gave His life for and to sinful men. That is the sum of the gospel" (Ibid., p.10). Waggoner says that "sin is a condition, not an entity" (Ibid.), and therefore it cannot be removed and deposited somewhere else. Again he says: "Sin is not an entity, neither is it a debt... but sin is part of the sinner; it is, indeed, his whole life" (Ibid., p,11). This would imply that Waggoner sees the solution to sin not as the payment of a debt but the new life of Christ applied to the heart of the sinner which destroys the sin like leprosy or consumption is cured. Does this not point to Waggoner's thought of an internal atonement in the heart of the sinner where the power of the indwelling Christ will heal the condition of sin? On pages 14,15 Waggoner repeats the thought that "sin is not an entity but a condition that can exist only in a person." Again on page 18 he affirms that "sin is not an entity, a commodity, that can be taken away from a person and deposited intact somewhere else, awaiting its final destruction." [back]
223 For Waggoner's discussion of this three-fold office of Christ see his "Confession of Faith," pp. 8-10. Waggoner's treatment of these three offices of Christ is new. Usually, Christ is seen as Prophet, Priest and King in relation to this world of sin. He could be God's Prophet or mouthpiece during Old Testament times and during the Incarnation. Then Christ is seen as Priest in the offering of Himself at Calvary and in His priestly ministry in heaven. Thirdly, Christ is accepted as King of the throne of grace at His ascension and, finally, King of glory at His second advent. Waggoner's presentation is new and different. [back]
224 Waggoner, "Confession of Faith," P.11. [back]
225 Note his words: "It may be said, therefore, that the cross exists from eternity to eternity, and that sin causes it, during the period of sin's duration, to be connected with pain and shame; or we may say that the one thing which exists from eternity to eternity is the gift of God's life, for the creating and re-creating of men, and that sin makes the cross the only way of entrance for that gift" ("Confession of Faith," p.13). [back]
226 Ibid., p.12. [back]
At Issue Index Webster Index Previous Next
III. Evaluation and Critique
We will now approach the evaluation and critique of Waggoner in two sections. Firstly, we will reflect on him as thinker, writer and theologian. Secondly, we will present a critique of his Christology, focusing on three important issues.
A. General Evaluation of Waggoner as Thinker, Writer and Theologian
In order to understand and evaluate Waggoner's contribution in Christology it is essential to first see this in the context of his general theological ability. After our survey of his Christological thought one comes to the conclusion that here was a man of no mean ability as a thinker, writer and theologian.
1. Waggoner, the 'thinker'
As a ‘thinker’ Waggoner occupies an important place in early Adventism. His scientific training and his logical approach to Biblical truth combined to produce an effective advocate of the Christian message. However, like all thought leaders he must be seen against the background of his time. Waggoner was both the product of Adventism as well as the innovator of a new era within the movement. Illustrative of the former role, we find him in the 1880's grappling with the problems regarding the relationship between the law, the gospel and righteousness. Due to its eschatological emphasis Adventism had tended to concentrate on the urgency of restoring the law and the Sabbath to their rightful place in theology, often to the neglect of a proper emphasis on Christ and the gift of God's righteousness.227 As a son of Adventism Waggoner, too, found his area of concern to be the question of the sinner's relationship to the righteousness of God revealed in the law of God.
In early Adventism the stress fell on the holiness and absolute authority of God, which had been compromised by the popular theological thinking of the day but which was to be restored before the coming of Christ.228 This was behind the emphasis on law and
obedience and the idea of the Sabbath as the test of loyalty to ultimate authority. The only way to be ready for the coming of Christ was to live the life of total obedience to God and to make Him the final authority in one's life, above human opinion, reason, tradition or creed. It is against this backdrop that Waggoner's thinking must continually be seen. He never renounced these concerns even after leaving the employ of the denomination.229
'How can the sinner live the obedient life?' is the question that must always be seen in the background of everything Waggoner ever wrote if we are to evaluate him correctly. In this way Waggoner was a product of Adventism.
And yet this very preoccupation in pre-1888 Adventism was to result in the blazing of new trails as Waggoner adopted the role of innovator and champion of new ideas. Waggoner was an innovator, not in the sense that he rejected the emphasis on holiness and righteousness, but in his teaching of how it was to be found. Waggoner must be given the credit for recognizing that the tendency in some of the pioneers' thinking was to move in the direction of legalism and semi-pelagianism.230 He called a halt to this tendency precisely because he saw that it failed to achieve the very objective it was aimed at - holy living and righteous conduct. In the place of all this Waggoner emphasized that Christ and His merits was the only way to find righteousness in this life. Grace, justification by faith, and later the indwelling Christ were seen to be the way to obedience and holiness. See him don the mantle of adventurous warrior as he presented his editorials on the moral law in Galatians in contradiction to the views of Smith and Butler. 231 The resultant contest between the young scholar and the church administrator was to ripen into the challenging theological presentations at the 1888 Minneapolis Session.
Waggoner's decisive theological contribution was to re-emphasize that we are saved by grace through faith and not of works. Concretely this meant we are saved by Jesus Christ alone. Christology inevitably was Waggoner's innovation central to Waggoner's thought. was to make Christ central.
2. Waggoner, the 'writer'
In this general evaluation we must also see Waggoner as a 'writer.' During the early days of Adventism, writing was a very important means of communication. Those believing 'the message' were a scattered people and initially there were no schools or seminaries. The ability write and disseminate one's viewpoint was vital for anyone wishing to make an impression on the public. Waggoner had ample opportunity to develop his skill as a writer in his capacity as editor of church periodicals both in America and England.232 We have also observed number of important books which came his pen.233 There is no doubt that Waggoner's style of writing developed and showed many signs of logic, persuasion, clarity and depth.234
It should be noted that Waggoner's ability as a writer is a primary contributing factor in the impact of his Christological views and in turn in shaping Adventism's Christology. Significantly, some current Seventh-day Adventist theologians of various shades of
thought endeavor to find support in Waggoner.235
3. Waggoner, the 'theologian'
We now take opportunity to briefly look at Waggoner in the specific role as theologian.' In the early days of Adventism there were no actual trained theologians in the sense of Seminary-trained men with degrees. Despite this, men like J. N. Andrews and E. J. Waggoner developed into theologians of ability. Waggoner had received a medical training at Bellevue Medical School and a brief theological course at Emmanuel Missionary College. With a certain natural ability and application he developed into a theologian of stature.
Here was a man who was able to make use of the tool of the original languages of Scripture in his task as theologian.236 We have an illustration of his hermeneutical method at its best as he sought to interpret the Biblical message of the gospel in the book of Galatians as he dialogued with Butler in his pamphlet, The Gospel in the Book of Galatians (1888). Evidence of his systematic grasp of truth is clear in his work, The Everlasting Covenant (1900) as he saw the unified plan of God as expressed through the work of Christ, the Mediator. There are many examples of Waggoner's logical thought and the consistency of his themes. For example, running like a silver thread through all his writings is the presentation of God's unified and consistent plan of salvation throughout all time.
Another hallmark of Waggoner's theology was his totally Christocentric approach to dogma.237 Waggoner also had a good grasp of church history as we see from his Fathers of the Catholic Church (1888) in which he extracted evidence from the church fathers illustrative of their departure from Biblical truth.238
His accent on the doctrine of justification by faith as exhibited in his The Gospel in the Book of Galatians likewise showed evidence of familiarity with In this same pamphlet showed that he was able to grasp the signified issues and had the ability to see consequences or presuppositions in particular arguments.
Finally, it must be stated that Waggoner's ability as a theologian gave his Christology its power and thrust.
B. A Detailed Evaluation of Waggoner's Christology
It was in the area of Christology that Waggoner was to make a significant contribution as a theologian within the ranks of Adventism. In his "Confessions" he traces his deep interest in Christology from that remarkable revelation which he experienced early in his ministerial career.239With growing conviction Christ became pivotal to his developing theological scheme.
In order to evaluate Waggoner's Christology we must do it against some norm. That norm
could be the Scriptures, the historical Christian creeds, or his own Christological convictions at the time of the 1888-1890 era. The first two would require more space than is available and we have thus chosen the third alternative.240
By 1890 Waggoner's Christology had the following clear marks of identity. The first was a strong conviction regarding the essential deity of Christ; the second referred to the actuality of the humanity of Christ in that He took upon Himself man's sinful nature and was actually made sin on account of the sinful human race; the third accepted the sinlessness of Christ in every aspect of His life of action, thought and deed; the fourth mark is his emphasis on the consistency of the plan of salvation throughout history. The work of Christ is seen to be uniform and consistent and his soteriology is thus essentially anti-dispensational.
One must also bear in mind Waggoner's whole theological burden at this time of his career. He recognized the sinfulness of man and his inability to achieve righteousness. Righteousness was equated with the moral law and sinful man was not able to render obedience. The gospel of Jesus Christ was the answer to man's dilemma. This gospel was based on the reality of the divinity of Christ which gave significance to the atonement. In the Incarnation Christ was made sin for man and did bear the sins of the whole world. Through His death Christ has paid the penalty of the broken law and can offer the gift of righteousness to all. Justification by faith is the all-embracing power that offers the sinner a right-standing with God and brings the power of Christ into the life. Through faith righteousness is obtained and the believer is made righteous and through the indwelling Christ can render complete obedience to the law of God.
There are three chief problem areas to be considered in the evaluation of Waggoner's Christology: Firstly, the development of his thought poses a problem for the question of what constituted the essential heart of his Christology. Secondly, what role did Waggoner's view that Christ took man's sinful nature in the Incarnation play in his overall Christology? Thirdly, was Waggoner's 'demonstration group' at the end of time consistent with his idea of the anti-dispensational nature of Christ's work?
1. The essential heart of Waggoner's Christology as a key to his later deviation
In seeking to evaluate Waggoner's developing Christology against the norm of his own 1890 position the question must be raised as to whether it remained consistent throughout or whether any metamorphosis took place contributing toward his later pantheistic outlook. Waggoner himself maintains in his "Confessions" that his 1916 theological position was but the natural development of his 1888 presentations.241
During the 1890's Waggoner moved steadily from an emphasis on the historical events of Christ and the cross to an emphasis on the existential event of the cross in a believer's heart. The internal and immanent Christ appeared to gather greater importance than the Christ of history.242 As this emphasis continued it was only logical that the internal Christ would take on greater importance in living the life of righteousness. This theological stance would also be favorable to a growing stress on the doctrine of perfection. And with
the merging of the existential and internal Christ with the human will, the distinction between Deity and human nature became blurred. This loss of distinction between Deity and nature in general is a hallmark of pantheism.243
Why was it that Waggoner's Christology became blurred in the mists of pantheism? Was it simply an accident that the parasite of pantheism grew out of Waggoner's theology as Wieland affirms?244 Or was it as a result of the loss of distinction in theology as McMahon indicates?245 While it is true that this blurring of distinction did take place and finally resulted in the identification of Deity with nature, we would like to suggest that there is an underlying contributing cause to this whole progression. One cannot simply say that everyone who maintains that 'righteousness by faith' implies the internal work of sanctification as well as the puntiliar declarative work of justification by faith will end up in the quagmire of pantheism as McMahon would seem to indicate.246
I would like to suggest that while Waggoner was greatly used of God in the 1888-90 era of Adventism by bringing to his church a startling message of man's inadequacy, God's holiness, heaven's provision of justification by faith, Christ's authority in His divinity and the free gift of Christ's righteousness, Waggoner did not go far enough in cutting himself free from a preoccupation with man and his righteousness. Perhaps without his realization, Waggoner was still a child of the 19th century which lived under the shadow of Schleiermacher with his anthropocentric emphasis.247 Waggoner, likewise, had been interested in man and how he could keep the law. He made the great discovery that man could keep the law by faith in Christ instead of his own works. But his Christology still remained man-centered. Like an eagle bursting into the heavens his Christology appeared to soar into the firmament of God's free grace immediately after 1888 only to plunge into an anthropocentric plummet as the 1890's proceeded.
While sanctification and man's keeping the law is an important and necessary fruit of salvation it must never become the end purpose of our Christology. Christology must be to God's honor and glory and for the vindication of His plan and purpose. While Waggoner started with God's grace in the gift of justification by faith he ended in an existential, internal, immanent, inherent and mystical Christ of the inner life in which the focus of attention became increasingly anthropocentric.248
Could it be that Waggoner was so concerned with the dichotomy Law-Gospel that he failed to perceive the lore fundamental dichotomy between God-Man? Does not his loss of all distinction between God and man in the later stages of his development point in this direction? Would it not have been better if Waggoner had seen in Christ the climax and fulfillment of God's great plan of restoration in the bridging of the gulf of sin in the person of Christ - God with us? Did he not, instead, see Christ only as a means to a greater end - the righteous living of the saints? And does this not wallow Christology up in Anthropology? These questions re an integral part of Waggoner's Christology.
If Waggoner had continued with his Christocentric emphasis of 1890 and not slipped into an anthropocentric stance he would have avoided the pitfalls of pantheism.
For those who live in the 1980's and look back to Waggoner the choice still remains. One can find in Waggoner the Christocentric emphasis on God's holiness, man's inadequacy, the blessings of justification by faith and the resultant growth in sanctification. Or one can discover in Waggoner the anthropocentric emphasis on the internal and immanent Christ in the heart of man with its strong leaning toward the primacy of sanctification, obedience and perfection.
2. The role of Christ and sinful human nature in Waggoner's Christology
We have already observed that while Waggoner upheld the sinlessness of Christ in act he did believe that Christ took man's sinful nature upon Himself. Whether by this Waggoner meant that Christ came into the world a sinner by nature like all other men is not clear.249
Adventist scholars and theologians have reacted differently to Waggoner's concepts on the sinful nature of Christ. This reaction has depended very often on their own Christological and soteriological leanings. Froom has avoided the issue of Waggoner's position on the sinful human nature of Christ; Wieland has accepted it into his soteriological scheme; McMahon rejects Waggoner's purported view; while Fred Wright has accepted and embellished it.250
We wish now to maintain that whatever the exact nature of Waggoner's view on the humanity of Christ might be, his concept on the 'sinful nature' of Christ is not an essential element for his total Christology and soteriology. By this we mean that much of the impact of an 'example theology' is lost for two reasons.
Firstly, in 1889 Waggoner was teaching that Christ could not sin because of His divinity. We have given clear evidence for this.251 In other words, if sin is not possible for Christ because of His divine nature, then the degree of the actuality of His 'sinful' human nature loses its relevance.
Secondly, in his unfolding Christology and soteriology during the 1890's, Waggoner began to lay greater and greater stress on the internal and immanent Christ within the heart of the believer. We have given much evidence for this in the present chapter. The existential Christ is the one who lives in the believer's heart and takes over the actual obedience. It is the faith of Christ operative in the believer that produces the law-abiding life. In this view we submit that the human Christ who lived in Palestine and the actual nature of His humanity is not an essential element. In fact, we have even seen that Waggoner believed that the Christ was far more important than the flesh in which He appeared.252
In this connection we must mention that by 1900 it would appear that Waggoner had developed a speculative philosophy in regard to Christ. This was all part of his pantheistic tendencies and his emphasis on the immanent Christ. It seems that there was an identification of the infinite and the finite as Waggoner enlarged on Christ's presence in all men, saints and sinners. We have also noticed his tendency to identify Christ's
presence in the natural world. Was there a clear distinction in Waggoner's mind at this time between the humanity and the divinity of Christ or were these merged? Did he not lose the uniqueness of the historical Jesus as he insisted on the divine Christ merging so closely with all men and even nature? It appears probable that by this time Christ had become a universal principle for Waggoner rather than a historical person.
Waggoner's soteriology was, therefore, not really based on the concept that what Jesus Christ did in His humanity on earth man can do today by following His example and relying upon the power of God as Christ did. Rather than this 'example theology' Waggoner taught the power of the internal and existential Christ within the heart. We repeat that this concept makes the debate on the actuality or the degree of the 'sinful nature' of Christ irrelevant, at least to some extent.
3. The 'demonstration' model and Waggoner's anti-dispensational stance
Why does Waggoner bring forward the concept of a special 'demonstration' group in the end-time in whom "all the fullness of God" will be manifest253 when he has been so consistently anti-dispensational in his entire treatment of the work of Christ?254
For Wieland the sanctuary message calls for a unique and special work of Christ and a 'demonstration' model would fit this theology. Writing about sinless living and asking the right questions at the right time Wieland writes: "And the right time is this time of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, while our great High Priest is completing His work of final atonement. Christ is to accomplish a work unique in human history, since sin began."255 For Wieland the work of Christ in the most holy apartment of the heavenly sanctuary since 1844 calls for this special unique work of Christ. Wieland believed that Waggoner and Jones derived their concepts from 'the great controversy' motif, the idea of the cleansing of the sanctuary and from the three angels' messages.256
It must be stated that Waggoner could hardly have based his 'demonstration' model upon the Adventist sanctuary doctrine for in his "Confession of Faith" (1916), he states that he had abandoned this teaching earlier.257Wieland finds it difficult to accept that Ellen White would have given her blessing to the work and teachings of Waggoner up to at least 1896 if the latter had either deviated from the 'truth' or entertained faulty theological concepts.258 Speaking of the time from 1888-1896 Wieland says on this issue: "The only way to charge apostasy on Waggoner during this period is to discredit Ellen G White by assuming that she was either naive and misinformed or derelict in her duty."259 We submit that Ellen White's endorsement of Waggoner's message does not necessarily mean that she was in agreement with every aspect of his theology.260
It could well be that Waggoner was led to express his 'demonstration' model on the basis of other concepts such as the 'great controversy' motif or the teaching of the three angels' messages of Revelation 14 with their call to obedience. We, nevertheless, state that in view of Waggoner's abandonment of the Adventist Sanctuary doctrine and in the light of his anti-dispensational stance relative to the work of Christ, that in the end Waggoner was
not consistent in postulating a unique 'demonstration' model in the light of his consistent Christology.
Let it be clearly understood that Waggoner made a definite contribution to the life of the Adventist community in 1888 and subsequent years. His Christology and soteriology proved to be a distinct advance in Adventism causing severe opposition in some quarters. There is no doubt that he was used of God to give heaven's message at Minneapolis and in subsequent years. Ellen White joined heart and hand in supporting his ministry.
To be used of God and to give heaven's approved message does not require infallibility in the message. God still works through human, fallible instruments and while the message can carry God's blessing and approval, it is not handed to man on a silver platter. It is still given in human words and concepts. Furthermore, even if Waggoner's developing theology subsequent to 1888 showed signs of deficiency or even if he abandoned certain teachings which he formerly upheld, God's blessing is not automatically removed. God works through fallible, dedicated human instruments to bring His message to the world.
We all should face the task of proclaiming Christ with humility. Even though one has been called of God and truth has taken possession of the soul it is well to remember that our grasp of God's infallible truth may well be fallible. God is prepared to use humble instruments who continually seek for truth as a light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,
While Waggoner showed clear signs of an ontological approach to Christology in his earlier years he appeared to move imperceptibly towards a speculative and existential application of this aspect of dogma in his later years.
227 See Ellen White in "Christ Prayed for Unity Among His Disciples," Review and Herald, March 11, 1890: "As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God. We must not trust in our own merits at all, but in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth." [back]
228 Mention should be made of the Methodist roots of Adventism as quite a group of the Millerite founding leaders were Methodists. See Froom, Movement of Destiny, p.146, where he lists 11 names including that of Ellen Harmon. The Methodist emphasis on sanctification and holiness is well known. [back]
229 We know that Waggoner returned to the U.S.A. from England in 1903. There is divided opinion as to whether he taught for a short time at Emmanuel Missionary College. (See Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, p.1385; Richard W. Schwarz, Letter
to E. C. Webster, June 23, 1982). He then worked at the Battle Creek Sanitarium during the years 1904, 1905. Schwarz says one can consider this denominational employment if one takes the Sanitarium as a church institution at the time. He says this may be open to question. When Waggoner's wife divorced him in the winter of 1905-6, this effectively ended any kind of denominational service he might have had at the time. (See Schwarz, Letter June 23, 1982).[back]
230 While evidence can be found for a firm belief in Jesus Christ and the gospel (see A. V. Olson, Through Crisis to Victory, pp.16-24), it was the very emphasis on the law and the Sabbath which made Adventism vulnerable to these dangers. Olson says: "It was because many early Seventh-day Adventist preachers in their public ministry placed their principal emphasis on the law and the Sabbath instead of on Christ" (Ibid., p.24). See also Ibid., pp. 9-15, the chapter entitled "Preachers of the Law;" also Arthur Spalding says that while the fathers of the Second Advent cause believed in the atoning grace of Christ as the sole means of salvation "the trend was to legalism" (Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, Vol. 2, p.286).[back]
231 We have already referred to this incident. See footnote 25 of this chapter. [back]
232 Principally, The Signs of the Times (1884-1891) in the U.S.A. and The Present Truth (1892-1903) in England. On his return to the U.S.A. he was associate editor of The Medical Missionary periodical from 1903-1905.[back]
233 We refer the reader to footnote 1 of this chapter. [back]
234 As an example of logic and persuasion we point to Waggoner's, The Gospel in the Book of Galatians (1888), in which he addressed himself to the arguments of G. I. Butler's The Law in the Book of Galatians (1886). See also Waggoner's series entitled, "The Divinity of Christ," in The Signs of the Times of March 25, April 1, 8,15,22; May 6, 1889. To illustrate clarity of thought see his series of 16 studies on Romans given at the 1891 General Conference Session, "Letter to the Romans - Nos. 1-16," General Conference Bulletin, 1891. While we might not agree with all of the theology in The Glad Tidings (1900), we do refer to this book as an example of Waggoner's depth of thought and expression. Leroy Froom, no mean writer himself, has high praise for Waggoner's Christ and His Righteousness (1890). He is especially impressed with Waggoner's presentation of the Deity of Christ. Froom believes that this book was the basis of Waggoner's presentation at Minneapolis (1888) and while there are others who deny the certainty of this, we note Froom's approval of Waggoner's style. He speaks of his "marvelous studies;" of "his truly historic presentation;" of "his pedagogical principle of repetition for emphasis;" of "Waggoner's epochal message;" how that he "phrased his thoughts with exactness, and in full understanding of their import." For Froom's commendation see Movement of Destiny, pp. 269-280. In commenting on the one section where Waggoner implies a beginning for Christ, Froom writes: "As we have said, Waggoner's presentation was marred by this deviation from strict Biblical exegesis and sound theology. But it must be judged as a whole and not by a single unfortunate slip" (Ibid., p.293).[back]
235 Note, for example, particularly L. E. Froom in Movement of Destiny, pp.269-299, as he approvingly discusses Waggoner's presentation of the deity of Christ in Christ and His Righteousness (1890). R. J. Wieland has practically total endorsement for Waggoner's view on the divinity and humanity of Christ in his book The 1888 Message; An Introduction (1980).[back]
236 Waggoner had spent some time at the Battle Creek College during the Brownsberger era. Sydney Brownsberger had completed an M. A. Degree in the classics at the University of Michigan (1869) and was appointed principal of the Battle Creek School in 1873, a post he held until 1881. (For a history of the founding of the original school by Goodloe Harper Bell in 1868, its official adoption by the church in 1872, the dedication of the College on January 4, 1875, and the whole Brownsberger era from 1873-1881, see Emmett K. Vande Vere, The Wisdom Seekers, pp.15-41). The curriculum records show that Waggoner could have studied Latin, Greek and Hebrew. The classical course required six years each in Latin and Greek, while the three-year Theology course also offered Hebrew. We are not sure how long Waggoner was at the College but his later writings and lectures demonstrate the use of Greek. See his reference to the Greek when discussing the problem of Christ as "the beginning of the creation of God" in Rev. 3:14 in Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 20,21; also in his 18 lectures on Hebrews at the General Conference of 1897 -"Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 1," The Daily Bulletin, p.9; "Studies in the Book of Hebrews - No. 2," The Daily Bulletin, ("It is not indicated in the best Greek texts," p.24); "Lecture No. 4," The Daily Bulletin, p.44; "Lecture No. 5," ("That word 'contrite' means rubbed together until it is dust"), The Daily Bulletin, p.56; "Lecture No. 8," The Daily Bulletin, p.103; "Lecture No. 10," ("Now that word Comforter is from the very same Greek word that is used in 1 John 2:1," The Daily Bulletin, p.211); "Lecture No. 18," General Conference Bulletin, 1897, p.10. Waggoner's daughter recollects that while they were living in California in the 1880's she remembers her father studying and reading Hebrew aloud (see Pearl Waggoner Howard, "Dr. E. J. Waggoner, Biographical Sketch and Background," p.4).[back]
237 0ne example is the Christ-centered approach to creation evidenced in his The Gospel in Creation (1895). See also his long series on "The Gospel of Isaiah," which ran in the weekly, The Present Truth, for 18 months from January 5, 1899, until June 21, 1900.[back]
238 In this book of 392 pages Waggoner commences with a discussion of the heathen world and its philosophy, focusing on Plato, and then moves on through some of the early church fathers, like Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and Origen, ending with the papal apostasy. In this work Waggoner quotes liberally from sources such as Neander, Eusebius of Caesarea, Philip Schaff, Farrar, Mosheim, Joseph Bingham, Henry Milman and Adolph Harnack to mention some. [back]
239 See footnote 5 of this chapter for details. [back]
240 The early Christology of Waggoner had crystallized by the time of the appearance of his Christ and His Righteousness (1890). Its presentation of the divinity of Christ was
different from much of that offered on the current Adventist scene. This was particularly true of such aspects as the essential equality of the Son with the Father in nature and substance. Froom in his Movement of Destiny presents evidence for the Arian and semi-Arian position on Christ within Adventism prior and subsequent to Waggoner (see pp.148-180). We have already observed that Gane in his paper, "The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian views presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G. White Answer" (especially pp.5-66; 104-110), paints a more vivid picture than does Froom concerning the strength of the anti-Trinitarian stance within Adventism. (For more details on Gane's paper we refer the reader to footnote 25 in chapter two of this dissertation). We have also noted that Adventist scholars of differing theological schools can look back with common approval to the major features of Waggoner's Christology during this period. In addition, Ellen White endorses and supports Waggoner's 1888 position. (This does not mean that Ellen White was in total agreement with all of Waggoner's theology even at this date. She could say: "Some interpretations of Scripture given by Dr. Waggoner I do not regard as correct" (Manuscript 15, 1888). For a sample of her support see Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91,92; Ms. 5, 1889; Review and Herald, March 5, 1889; Ibid., September 3, 1889. For these reasons we can use the Christology of 1888-90 as a useful norm in evaluating Waggoner. [back]
241 At the beginning of his "Confession of Faith" (1916), Waggoner wishes to show that his present position is a logical development from Minneapolis (1888). He writes: "You remember Minneapolis. I am making bold to ask you, if you come to some things that you feel inclined to dissent from, to point out to me where there is a break in the logical sequence" (p.4). While Waggoner himself would not admit of his later deflection toward pantheism, both his supporters and critics admit of this aberration in his later theology. The only difference is that his supporters place the development of his pantheistic sentiments later than do his critics, and the supporters see Waggoner's pantheism as a parasite to his theological scheme while his critics see the development as a logical outgrowth of Waggoner's whole theology. Wieland sees Waggoner as basically sound throughout the decade following 1888. He writes: "And the complete balanced picture of what they [Waggoner and Jones] taught in the decade after Minneapolis must be a fair understanding of what was implicit in the message given in 1888" (R. J. Wieland, The 1888 Message: An Introduction, 1980, p.11). When preparing his revised edition of The Glad Tidings (1972), he realized that pantheistic sentiments should be removed and he editorially removed the more blatant statements. For a comparison of the two books note, for example, the 1900 edition, pp.80-81, 85, 87-88, 117, and 169; and compare with 1972 edition pp. 42, 44, 45, 62, and 91. Wieland does not make any reference to this in his foreword. In private correspondence to Tarling, Wieland admits of the pantheism of the book. He writes: "The pantheism was not inherent in his understanding of Righteousness by Faith but a parasite. Hence I wished to restore the message as nearly as I could to its original purity as he gave it in the early 1888 era" (Wieland to Tarling, July 14, 1977, quoted in Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man (1979) by D. P. McMahon, p.178). Incidentally, there is no substantial evidence for Wieland's statement regarding The Glad Tidings in the foreword to his edited version: "I discovered that the message of this book was in reality a transcript of studies that Dr Waggoner gave personally to a gathering of ministers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the fall of 1888" (p.6). If anything,
Waggoner's The Gospel in the Book of Galatians (1888) would be closer to the mark. On the other hand, McMahon sees Waggoner in decline during the years 1892-1897 (see his book, Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, chapter 8, pp.117-145). He maintains that Waggoner slowly lost the sense of distinction in his theology during these years. Amongst others he mentions such distinctions as between justification and sanctification, law and gospel, human nature of Christ and human nature of other men, Christ's work on the cross and in our hearts, the believer and unbeliever, physical and spiritual light, heaven and the believer's heart. He believed that thus Waggoner was losing the proper distinction between the Creator and the creature and so his theology became pantheistic (see Ibid., pp.118,119). While McMahon believes that Waggoner first expressed his pantheistic ideas in 1894 (see Ibid., p.147) and that Waggoner, furthermore, expressed pantheistic ideas strongly in his lectures on Hebrews at the 1897 General Conference Session (see Ibid., pp.148-159), he nevertheless sees this gradual loss of distinction in Waggoner's theology developing years earlier and preparing the ground for his pantheistic ideas. [back]
242 As evidence for this see footnotes 148-152, 215-217, 224-226 of this chapter.[ back]
243 The classical exponent of the philosophy of pantheism was Spinoza. However, there are different forms of the pantheistic theory. Some see God as immanent in the universe of finite things and others see God as a pervading presence. (For a brief discussion of pantheism see The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th edition, Vol. 17, London: The Encyclopaedia Britannica Co., 1929, pp.190,191; see also Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Vol. IV, London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1958, pp. 205-263). In connection with Waggoner, it was at the 1901 General Conference Session that he first spoke about pantheism by name. It could well have been that some were raising questions as to his position. After speaking about the life of Christ manifested in us and God's life coming through the air and light, Waggoner said: "Some people call this 'pantheism.' Perhaps they know what the word means, but they do not know what they are talking about" ("Bible Study," General Conference Bulletin, April 14, 1901, p.223). He then defines pantheism as that form of heathenism which says that everything is God. He says that this is not so, but God is above all and through all and in all. He continues to indicate that some people speak of this power manifested in all creation as the power of God, but not saving power; that there is divine power and creative power. Waggoner then says: "That is pantheism" (Ibid.). Note again his defense. He says that someone not thinking clearly has written: "There is life manifested here and there, but it is not God's life." Waggoner then states that that is pantheism, because if it is not God's life, then the life in the plant is inherent in the creature. If you have another supply of life beside God then you have another god. Then one would believe that the creature is God. (see "Present Truth," The Medical Missionary, September 1903, p.223). Thus Waggoner denied that his line of thought was pantheistic. Despite this denial we must admit that if Waggoner had not subscribed to pantheism, then he certainly showed evidence of pantheism. It is of interest to ask whether it was actually John Harvey Kellogg or Ellet Joseph Waggoner who was responsible for leading the Adventist Church to the brink of its pantheism crisis in 1903. With Kellogg's Living Temple as the tip of the iceberg it is assumed by most that Kellogg was the culprit. There are others, however, who view Waggoner's developing
immanent Christology of the 1890's as an important underlying motive factor. 0. A. Olsen, president of the British Union Conference, wrote in 1903 to A. G. Daniells, General Conference president, and referred to the long-term roots of the theology found in the Living Temple and, indeed, looked beyond Kellogg, a non-theologian, to the theology of E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones during the 1890's. Olsen noted Waggoner's claim that Waggoner himself had been the source of the theology in Kellogg's book. See Bert Haloviak, "Ellen White and A. T. Jones at Ottawa, 1889: Diverging Paths from Minneapolis," 1981, p.1, obtainable from the General Conference Archives. [back]
244 Evidence for Wieland's assertion has been given in footnote 241 of this chapter. [back]
245 See also footnote 241 for reference to McMahon. [back]
246 McMahon says: "Confounding righteousness by faith and sanctification was fatal for Waggoner's theory of sanctification" (Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man, p.112). He believes that when it is taught that sanctification is by faith alone, and especially that Christ takes over completely in the life, there is danger of perfectionism and eventually pantheism (see Ibid., p.113). While we must acknowledge a distinction in justification and sanctification, and that in the gift of righteousness by faith in the Pauline sense one is accounted totally righteous, is it not true that Christ is our justification and sanctification and that when we truly accept Christ by faith we are accounted all that justification or sanctification demands? There is also then an on-going impartation in sanctification which never ends in this life. [back]
247 It would be interesting and important to discover what factors had an influence on Waggoner's theological thought. Usually one does not develop in isolation to other thinkers. Would Waggoner have discovered all his concepts simply by individual Bible study? We have sought to find out what commentaries and which theologians Waggoner read in order to answer some of these questions. Future research could investigate his use of sources and reading habits. We have already mentioned Waggoner's use of Luther in his Signs articles (see footnote 72) and we also looked at Waggoner's Fathers of the Catholic Church (1888). In producing this work he did wide reading as we have already mentioned in footnote 238. This included many encyclopaedias and also a host of church historians. Mention of some of these has already been made in the footnote just referred to. One could well ask whether Waggoner was not influenced by some aspects of Hegelian thought, possibly not by reading Hegel himself, but writers in English who had imbibed his philosophy. [back]
248 In our study of Waggoner's theology we do not find a clear and forthright doctrine of the Holy Spirit. At least the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit as a part of the Godhead is not emphasized. The prevailing attitude towards the Holy Spirit in Adventist circles at the time of Waggoner's work was anti-Trinitarian, accepting the Holy Spirit as a divine influence from God. (For example, Uriah Smith, leading editor of the Review and Herald said in a sermon at the 1891 General Conference Session: "The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God; it is also the Spirit of Christ. It is that divine, mysterious emanation
through which they carry forward their great and infinite work." See General Conference Bulletin, IV, arch 18, 1891, p.146. See also Froom's evidence in Movement of Destiny, 1971, pp.151-180. Also E. R. Gane, "The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian views presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G. White Answer," pp. 20-24). In the light of the above it is not surprising that Waggoner was influenced by his contemporaries in regard to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. In his developing Christology, Waggoner gave greater emphasis to the abiding presence of Christ in the heart and could it be that without a clear teaching on the Deity or personality of the Holy Spirit, Christ took over the work of the Holy Spirit in Waggoner's thinking? In time this led to a lessening of the emphasis on the historical work of Christ in His earthly life and death. The historical Christ was almost lost in the form of the existential Christ who usurped the work and role of the Holy Spirit in the heart. [back]
249 In his The Gospel in the Book of Galatians (1888) Waggoner states that Christ was born under the condemnation of the law and carried this condemnation in His life and death on the cross. While he indicates that Christ was made like unto His brethren in order that His sinless life could be an encouragement to man he also indicates that Christ was made sin not on His own account but on the account of sinners (see footnotes 40-44). Waggoner was perhaps the most outspoken on the equality of Christ with sinners in his January 21, 1889, Signs of the Times article, "God Manifest in the Flesh" (see footnotes 75-80). We have also noted the emphasis in his Christ and His Righteousness (1890). In an article in The Present Truth, December 20, 1900, Waggoner discusses the fact that Christ had a whole line of sinners in His ancestry and then writes: "How could He be spotless with such a godless ancestry? - It was all due to His miraculous birth" ("The Miraculous Birth"). Of course, once we grant the 'miraculous birth' of Christ we are admitting a distinct difference between Christ and all other men. [back]
250 When Froom discusses Waggoner's work Christ and His Righteousness in his Movement of Destiny he devotes a short section to Waggoner's handling of the humanity of Christ (see pp.197,198). Froom interprets Waggoner as meaning that Christ was 'made' sin for us only vicariously. Froom only stresses those features of Waggoner which agree with his own strong views on the essential sinlessness of the nature of Christ. Wieland accentuates the idea that Waggoner believed that Christ came in sinful flesh (see the chapter "Christ Tempted as We Are," The 1888 Message: An Introduction, pp.41-51). This is important to Wieland's soteriology as he believes that sinless living by God's last-day saints will be a reproduction of what Christ did and will vindicate God (see the chapter "Sinless Living: Possible or Not?" Ibid., pp.92-118). McMahon is quite outspoken in ascribing to Waggoner a firm belief in Christ possessing a sinful human nature. He writes: "We have already seen how he taught that Christ came in a sinful human nature possessing all the sinful passions and evil tendencies common to all men" (Ellet Joseph Waggoner, pp. 139-140). McMahon might have expressed Waggoner's views too strongly, but after stating it thus he rejects the concept totally. Fred Wright, a former Seventh-day Adventist (and yet, no doubt, claiming to be of the traditional line and having views very similar to the early Brinsmead), has strongly supported Waggoner and ascribed to him the concept of the sinful human nature of Christ. (See his book The
Destiny of a Movement, Palmwoods, Queensland: The Judgment Hour Publishing Co., 1976).[back]
251 See footnote 87 as we discussed this issue. [back]
252 See footnote 122 where we noted that Waggoner in 1900 stated that the flesh was not Christ. [back]
253 See footnote 154 where we quoted from The Everlasting Covenant, p.366.[back]
254 We have given much evidence in this chapter on the clear concept of the uniformity of the work of Christ and the identity of the gospel to Abraham, Paul and the modern world. Note, for example, footnotes 129 and 136.[back]
255 Wieland, The 1888 Message: An Introduction, p.93.[back]
256 See Ibid., p.11.[back]
257 Note his words: "Also, twenty-five years ago, these truths, coupled with the self-evident truth that sin is not an entity but a condition that can exist only in a person, made it clear to me that it is impossible that there could be any such thing as the transferring of sins to the sanctuary in heaven, thus defiling that place; and that there could consequently, be no such thing, either in 1844, A.D., or at any other time, as the 'cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary'" (pp.14,15). This would mean, according to Waggoner, that he had abandoned the distinctive Adventist sanctuary teaching by 1891. Some have felt that this might be an exaggeration on the part of Waggoner (see Letter A. 0. Coetzee, Andrews University, to E. C. Webster, July 27, 1982. Coetzee is, no doubt, reflecting the opinions of some at Andrews, but no evidence is given for this assertion. It could even be a subjective appraisal). Wieland believes that when Waggoner wrote this 'Confession' in 1916 he was an embittered, defeated and confused man, having suffered opposition from his brethren, and that he had overstated his case. He does not accept at face value Waggoner's probably unedited statement. He rejects it on the grounds of silence (he says there is not a line in Waggoner's writings between 1891 and 1902 to indicate that he had abandoned the sanctuary teaching); on the grounds of Ellen White's endorsement of his message between 1891 and 1896 (see footnote 258); on the grounds that he believes Waggoner did teach the distinctive Adventist Sanctuary doctrine during the period from 1891 to 1902 and cites one evidence, namely, Present Truth, May 23, 1901.See Wieland, The 1888 Message: An Introduction, pp.157,158.[back]
258 Note this sentiment in his The 1888 Message: An Introduction, pp.11,40.[back]
259 Ibid., p.40.[back]
260 While it is true that Ellen White gave approval and support to the general thrust of Waggoner's 1888 message it does not mean that she was in total agreement with that message or with Waggoner's unfolding theology during the 1890's. Even at Minneapolis
Ellen White could say: "Some interpretations of Scripture given by Dr. Waggoner I do not regard as correct" (Manuscript 15, 1888). She also said that some things presented by Waggoner in Galatians were not clear to her and did not harmonize with her previous understanding. Further: "I know it would be dangerous to denounce Dr Waggoner's position as wholly erroneous. This would please the enemy. I see the beauty of truth in the presentation of the righteousness of Christ in relation to the law as the doctor has placed it before us" (Ibid.). Her subsequent approval of Waggoner's 1888 message and her labors together with Waggoner during 1889-1891 must not be seen as a blanket approval of every item of his theology. Did she support Waggoner's concept expressed in The Signs of the Times (1889) that Jesus Christ could not sin because of His divinity? (See footnote 87 of this chapter). While she spoke of Christ coming in fallen human nature and taking man's sinful nature did she agree with Waggoner when he expressed in 1889, 1890 that Christ had the same sinful tendencies and passions as all men? (See footnotes 75-80 in this chapter). Evidently she took a different line when she wrote to Baker of Australia in 1895 (see footnotes 232-236 in chapter two). And if one compares Waggoner's presentations on Hebrews at the 1897 General Conference Session with Ellen White's The Desire of Ages (1898) can one not detect a radical difference between Waggoner's treatment of Christ, where he tends to blur the distinction between the infinite and the finite, and Ellen White's historical, objective and yet spiritual treatment of Christ? Consult also the paper presented to Andrews University in partial fulfillment for a course in Development of Seventh-day Adventist Theology by Age Rendalen, "The Nature and Extent of Ellen White's Endorsement of Waggoner and Jones," 1978, pp.1-42.[back]
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THE CHRISTOLOGY OF EDWARD HEPPENSTALL
In this chapter we will attempt to accomplish four things. Firstly, we will seek to understand the historical milieu in which Heppenstall formed his theological ideas. Secondly, we will present a backdrop of three salient areas of his general theology in order to give perspective to his Christology. Thirdly, we will endeavor to present his view on Christology, concentrating on the person and work of Christ. Finally, we will attempt to evaluate Heppenstall's Christological contribution to Adventism and its total impact on the movement.
I. Historical Background
Edward Heppenstall influenced the Adventist theological scene during the 1950's and 1960's largely through his influence as seminary professor at Andrews University, Michigan, in the area of systematic theology and Christian philosophy. With his retirement from active teaching in 1970 the next decade slipped from his hands into the hands of others, although his published works appearing during the 1970's continued to remind Adventists of his impact.1 Even as the church passes through the archway of the 1980's into the present decade it cannot ignore the shadowy figure of Heppenstall
standing on the sidelines, challenging her to build her theology on the primacy of the Word.
Edward Heppenstall was born at Rotherham, Yorkshire, in England at the turn of the century.2 His parents were in business operating a china shop and were of non-Conformist persuasion, belonging to the Congregational Church. Edward lost his father when he was ten and at thirteen had to leave high school to work twelve hours a day, six days a week, in a steel factory producing steering shafts for submarines. From those early days Heppenstall learnt the importance of application to a task.
At the age of twenty-two a very important event took place in Edward Heppenstall's life. Still working in the engineering line in a machine shop, Edward was an avowed agnostic. Although his mother had become a Seventh-day Adventist some years prior to this, Edward only made intellectual contact with Christianity. Working along with Edward in the machine shop was a radiant Christian young man who introduced Edward to a living relationship with Christ. After a time of struggle Edward became a Christian, was baptized and joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This apparently insignificant act was to have a far-reaching influence on Adventism in the second half of the century.
With this turning point in his life, Edward felt the need for further education and went to Stanborough Seventh-day Adventist College where he studied for five years. Earning his way through school by selling books, he immersed himself in the arts, sciences, theology and studied Greek and Hebrew. Indicative of his caliber as a student is the fact that upon his graduation the Board of the College immediately invited him to join the faculty teaching English, Logic and Greek and, in addition, serving as dean of men. He occupied this position for three years and no doubt the teaching of Logic was a contributing factor to the sharpening of his theological thought.
With an insatiable appetite for further education Edward Heppenstall left England in 1931, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and attended Emmanuel Missionary College, Michigan, forerunner of Andrews University, for two years. Here he completed his B. A. degree, majoring in English literature and also doing work in science and theology. He was profoundly influenced by Bible teacher W. W. Prescott with his Christ-centered approach and his emphasis on righteousness by faith, Prescott having been present at the famous Minneapolis Conference of 1888. Here, again, we note an important formative influence on Heppenstall's theology.
Proceeding to Ann Arbor, Heppenstall completed an M. A. in History and Semitics at the University of Michigan. After this he was engaged in teaching and doing evangelistic and pastoral work in the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He was subsequently appointed to the post of Youth Director of his church in the same Conference. In 1938 Edward Heppenstall was married to Margit StrØm who had come to America from Norway. Margit had been a college teacher in Norway and throughout their years of married life she has been a real companion to her husband intellectually as well as in many other areas.
In 1940 Heppenstall was called from Michigan to join the faculty of the Seventh-day Adventist La Sierra College in Arlington, California. He remained there for fifteen years, much of the time as Chairman of the Department of Theology. Murdoch, writing of this period, wrote of Heppenstall: "Here he became one of the foremost Bible teachers the denomination has produced."3 During this time of teaching he also pastored the La Sierra College Church, giving him opportunity to present his theology in practical preaching from the pulpit. While at La Sierra Heppenstall also took time to continue his studies at the University of Southern California over a protracted period. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in the field of Religious Education in 1950 and received the Phi Beta Kappa award in recognition of the excellence of his work.
In 1955 Heppenstall was called to the chair of systematic theology and Christian philosophy at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary then in Takoma Park, Washington, D.C. He remained there for eleven years, serving as Chairman of the Department for the whole period except the first two years. His influence now became world-wide as he taught teachers and ministers from all parts of the world. He also extended his impact by conducting seminary extension schools in Australia, the Philippines, California and in England.4 From his pen flowed articles for denominational