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A Response to the Video:
Seventh-day Adventism, the Spirit Behind the Church

by Bob Pickle

Answers to Questions Raised by:
Mark Martin, Sydney Cleveland
Dale Ratzlaff, The White Lie
. . . and
Others

Discern Fact from Fiction


Other Doctrines; the Jehovah's Witnesses

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#94: "Early prominent Adventists, including James White and Uriah Smith, denied the deity of Jesus Christ, as do the Jehovah's Witnesses."—Leslie Martin.

#94: Uriah Smith and James White denied the deity of Christ. This is simply not true. The documentation package under "Point 48" and "Point 48a" gives no evidence to support such a claim. To the contrary, it cites James White as writing in 1877 that "ultra Unitarianism that makes Christ inferior to the Father is worse. Did God say to an inferior, 'Let us make man in our image?' "

James White repeatedly called Jesus "the divine Son of God" (Bible Hygiene, pp. 192, 203; The Law and the Gospel, p. 14; Life Incidents, p. 357; The Redeemer and Redeemed, p. 46). Uriah Smith called him "God's divine Son" (The Biblical Institute, p. 140). Smith emphatically stated that Christ is not a created being, and opposed such a teaching (Daniel and the Revelation, pp. 400, 430; Looking Unto Jesus, pp. 3-4, 10, 12, 18, 20-21).

White, Smith, and others reacted against certain speculations of their time regarding the Godhead. Their reactions are assumed to be a denial of belief in what the Bible teaches about the Trinity, making this charge in the video all too common. But such an assumption is unwarranted in light of three popular speculations about the Godhead that they reacted against.

  1. A catechism from one church and a book from another taught the following: God is composed of three persons and is "without body or parts," but the second person definitely has a body! This view was criticized in the March 7, 1854, issue of the Review and Herald, page 50.

    Early Seventh-day Adventists advocated taking the Bible literally unless there was an obvious symbol used. They saw such views of the Godhead as not doing this, since the Bible describes God as having a [p. 68] form and sitting on His throne in Heaven (e.g. Rev. 4:2, 3).

    Just as they rejected views that spiritualized away the literalness of the second coming, so also they rejected views that spiritualized away the personality of God.

  2. Some views of the Trinity did not make the Father and Christ to be separate persons. This can readily be concluded from the documentation package's "Point 48." Joseph Bates is quoted as writing: "Respecting the trinity, I concluded that it was an impossibility for me to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, was also the Almighty God, the Father, one and the same being."
  3. The orthodox view of the Trinity includes an aspect that speculates regarding when Christ was begotten. Most believers are unaware of this aspect called the "processions." It teaches that the Son proceeded forth from the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeded forth from both the Father and the Son. Yet, since God is outside of time, there never was a time when one of the three did not exist. So Jesus was begotten and proceeded forth, but that's not to say that He hasn't always been.

    Pope John Paul II's views, found in Hogan and LeVoir's Faith for Today (complete with Imprimatur), describes this position pretty well. John Paul believes that the Father's self-concept, unlike our self-concept, is real. In God's "consciousness" was "an identical image of Himself," and that is how the Son was begotten. "The consciousness of the Father and the Son contains an inner reflection and image of Their act of Love," and that is how the Holy Spirit proceeded forth (pp. 12-14).

    A 1933 English translation of a standard Dutch catechism, published in India, describes the processions in essentially the same way (J. F. De Groot, Catholic Teaching, pp. 99, 100).

    A priest this writer heard lecture on the right to life included material in his talk about the Trinity. He said that when the Father and Son looked at each other, they had love for each other, and they sighed, and that was "the Holy Sigh."

    And yet, though the Son and the Spirit came forth, They always have been, since God and the processions are outside of time (Hogan and Levoir, p. 14). Sounds a bit contradictory? These early Seventh-day Adventists thought so.

    They apparently had no problem with the general idea of the processions, judging from what little they wrote on that topic, but they just couldn't be dogmatic about both God and the processions being outside of time. So can we with a clear conscience call men cultists and non-Christians who wanted to take the Bible just as it reads and not speculate like this?

A Response to the Video

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