Then and Now
A comparative study by Mark Hornbeck
This is a simple comparative of Seventh-day Adventist Church doctrines that existed prior to 1905 and the doctrines that exist today. Presented here is a statement of Fundamental Principles by the General Conference President THEN and a look at some of the Fundamental Beliefs NOW. After reviewing these, please read what Ellen White had to say concerning the beliefs then. Judge whether the current statement of beliefs “undermine” these truths or “reinforce” them. I will say no more. Let the words speak for themselves.
FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS.
As given by the late SDA Pioneer Uriah Smith.
Seventh-day Adventists have no creed but the Bible; but they hold to certain well-defined points of faith, for which they feel prepared to give a reason “to every man that asketh” them. The following propositions may be taken as a summary of the principal features of their religious faith, upon which there is, so far as is known, entire unanimity throughout the body. They believe:
1. That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the Creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal; infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth and mercy; unchangeable and every-where present by his representative, the Holy Spirit. Ps. 139:7.
2. That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the eternal Father, the one by whom he created all things, and by whom they do consist; that he took on him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race; that he dwelt among men, full of grace and truth, lived our example, died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only mediator in the sanctuary in heaven, where through the merits of his shed blood, he secures the pardon and forgiveness of the sins of all those who persistently come to him; and as the closing portion of work as priest, before he takes his throne as king, he will make the great atonement for the sins of all such, and their sins will then be blotted out (Acts 3:19) and born away from the sanctuary, as shown in the service of the Levitical priesthood, which foreshadowed and prefigured the ministry of our Lord in heaven. See Lev. 16; Heb. 8:4, 5; 9:6, 7.
The current beliefs of the SDA Church and the creed by which their members are judged and disfellowshiped by.
#2 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. Support is found in these Bible passages: Deuteronomy 6:4: Matthew 28:19: 2Corinthians 13:14: Ephesians 4:4-6: 1Peter 1:2: 1Timothy 1:17: Revelation 14:7
#3 The Father
God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all creation. He is just and holy, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also revelations of the Father. Support is found in these Bible passages: Genesis 1:1: Revelation 4:11: 1Corinthians 15:28: John 3:16: 1John 4:8: 1Timothy 1:17: Exodus 34:6,7: John 14:9
#4 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 behalf. He will come again in glory for the final deliverance of His people and the restoration of all things. Support is found in these Bible passages: John 1:1-3 and John 1:14: Col. 1:15-19: John 10:30: John 14:9: Romans 6:23: 2Corinthians 5:17-19: John 5:22: Luke 1:35: Phil. 2:5-11: Hebrews 2:9-18: 1Corinthians 15:3,4: Hebrews 8:1,2: John 14:1-3
#5 The Holy Spirit
God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in creation, incarnation, and redemption. He inspired the writers of Scripture. He filled Christ’s life with power. He draws and convicts human beings; and those who respond He renews and transforms into the image of God. Sent by the Father and the Son to be always with His children, He extends spiritual gifts to the church, empowers it to bear witness to Christ, and in harmony with the Scriptures leads it into all truth. Support is found in these Bible passages: Genesis 1:1,2: Luke 1:35: Luke 4:18: Acts 10:38: 2Peter 1:21: 2Corintians 3:18: Ephesians 4:11,12: Acts 1:8: John 14:16-18 and John 14:26: John 15:26,27: John 16:7-13
Who is the Comforter according to Ellen White?
“Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and the Comforter is the Holy Ghost, “the Spirit of truth, which the Father shall send in My name.” “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” [John 14:16, 17]. This refers to the omnipresence of the Spirit of Christ, called the Comforter. Again Jesus says, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth” [John 16:12, 13]. There are many mysteries which I do not seek to understand or to explain; they are too high for me, and too high for you. On some of these points, silence is golden. Piety, devotion, sanctification of soul, body, and spirit–this is essential for us all. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” 14 MR 179
“I urge our people to cease their criticism and evil speaking, and go to God in earnest prayer, asking him to help them to help the erring. Let them link up with one another and with Christ. Let them study the seventeenth of John, and learn how to pray and how to live the prayer of Christ. He is the Comforter. He will abide in their hearts, making their joy full.” Review and Herald Jan 27 1903
The SDA Church holds to the position that our pioneers were in error concerning their beliefs on God and the trinity. Should the Position of the Pioneers be Accounted as Error by SDAs today?
Let Pioneers Identify Truth.—When the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth. No after-suppositions, contrary to the light God has given are to be entertained. Men will arise with interpretations of Scripture which are to them truth, but which are not truth. The truth for this time, God has given us as a foundation for our faith. He Himself has taught us what is truth. One will arise, and still another, with new light which contradicts the light that God has given under the demonstration of His Holy Spirit.
Are the changes in adventism consistent with the Pioneers’ Teachings?
Famous author and Andrews University seminary professor George Knight made the following statement found in MINISTRY magazine, Oct/1993 p. 10.
“Most of the founders of Seventh-day Adventism would not be able to join the church today if they had to subscribe to the denomination’s Fundamental Beliefs.” “More specifically, most would not be able to agree to belief number 2, which deals with the doctrine of the Trinity. For Joseph Bates the Trinity was an unscriptural doctrine, for James White it was that ‘old Trinitarian absurdity,’ and for M.E. Cornell it was a fruit of the great apostasy, along with such false doctrines as Sunday keeping and the immortality of the soul.”
“In like manner, most of the founders of Seventh-day Adventism would have trouble with fundamental belief number 4, which holds that Jesus is both eternal and truly God. For J.N. Andrews ‘the Son of God…had God for His Father, and did, at some point in the eternity of the past, have beginning of days.’ And E.J. Waggoner, of Minneapolis 1888 fame, penned in 1890 that ‘there was a time when Christ proceeded forth and came from God…but that time was so far back in the days of eternity that to finite comprehension it is practically without beginning.”
“Neither could most of the leading Adventists have agreed with fundamental belief number 5, which implies the personhood of the Holy Spirit. Uriah Smith, for example, not only was anti-Trinitarian and semi-Arian, like so many of his colleagues, but also like them pictured the Holy Spirit as ‘that divine mysterious emanation through which They [the Father and the Son] carry forward their great and infinite work.’ On another occasion, Smith pictured the Holy Spirit as a ‘divine influence’ and not a ‘person like the Father and the Son.”
What would sister White Say?
A few are still alive who passed through the experience gained in the establishment of this truth. God has graciously spared their lives to repeat and repeat till the close of their lives, the experience through which they passed even as did John the apostle till the very close of his life. And the standard-bearers who have fallen in death, are to speak through the reprinting of their writings. I am instructed that thus their voices are to be heard. They are to bear their testimony as to what constitutes the truth for this time. Preach the Word, p. 5. (Ellen White, 1905, Counsels to Writers and Editors, pages 31, 32)
Ellen White’s Protest Against Removing Landmarks and Her Support of Pioneers’ Doctrinal Positions
When men come in who would move one pin or pillar from the foundation which God has established by His Holy Spirit, let the aged men who were pioneers in our work speak plainly, and let those who are dead speak also, by the reprinting of their articles in our periodicals. Gather up the rays of divine light that God has given as He has led His people on step by step in the way of truth. This truth will stand the test of time and trial. Ms 62, 1905, p. 6. (A Warning against False Theories, May 24, 1905.) (Ellen White, 1905, Manuscript Releases Volume One, page 55)
The Testimony of Pioneer Workers.—I have had presentations regarding the deceptions that Satan is bringing in at this time. I have been instructed that we should make prominent the testimony of some of the old workers who are now dead. Let them continue to speak through their articles as found in the early numbers of our papers. These articles should now be reprinted, that there may be a living voice from the Lord’s witnesses. The history of the early experiences in the message will be a power to withstand the masterly ingenuity of Satan’s deceptions. This instruction has been repeated recently. I must present before the people the testimonies of Bible truth, and repeat the decided messages given years ago. I desire that my sermons given at camp meetings and in churches may live and do their appointed work.—Letter 99, 1905. (Ellen White, 1905, Counsels to Writers and Editors, page 26)
I long daily to be able to do double duty. I have been pleading with the Lord for strength and wisdom to reproduce the writings of the witnesses who were confirmed in the faith in the early history of the message. After the passing of the time in 1844, they received the light and walked in the light, and when the men claiming to have new light would come in with their wonderful messages regarding various points of Scripture, we had, through the moving of the Holy Spirit, testimonies right to the point, which cut off the influence of such messages as Elder A. F. has been devoting his time to presenting. This poor man has been working decidedly against the truth that the Holy Spirit has confirmed. When the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth. No after-suppositions contrary to the light God has given are to be entertained. …
We are not to receive the words of those who come with a message that contradicts the special points of our faith. They gather together a mass of Scripture and pile it as proof around their asserted theories. This has been done over and over again during the past fifty years. And while the Scriptures are God’s Word, and are to be respected, the application of them, if such application moves one pillar of the foundation that God has sustained these fifty years, is a great mistake. He who makes such an application knows not the wonderful demonstration of the Holy Spirit that gave power and force to the past messages that have come to the people of God.
Elder proofs are not reliable. If received, they would destroy the faith of God’s people in the truth that has made us what we are. We must be decided on this subject, for the points that he is trying to prove by Scripture are not sound. They do not prove that the past experience of God’s people was a fallacy. We had the truth: we were directed by the angels of God. It was under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that the presentation of the sanctuary question was given. It is eloquence for everyone to keep silent in regard to the features of our faith in which they acted no part.
God never contradicts Himself. Scripture proofs are misapplied if forced to testify to that which is not true. Another and still another will arise and bring in supposedly great light, and make their assertions. But we stand by the old landmarks. [1 John 1:1-10 quoted.]
I am instructed to say that these words we may use as appropriate for this time, for the time has come when sin must be called by its right name. We are hindered in our work by men who are not converted, who seek their own glory. They wish to be thought originators of new theories, which they present, claiming that they are truth. But if these theories are received, they will lead to a denial of the truth that for the past fifty years God has been giving to His people, substantiating it by the demonstration of the Holy Spirit.
Let all men beware what is the character of their work. They would better be falling into line for their own souls’ sake and for the sake of the souls of others. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ His Son us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). It is nothing to the credit of any man to start on a new track, using Scripture to substantiate theories of error, leading minds into confusion, away from the truths that are to be indelibly impressed on the minds of God’s people, that they may hold fast to the faith.—Letter 329, 1905. (To J. A. Burden, December 11, 1905). (Ellen White, 1905, Manuscript Release No. 760: The Integrity of the Sanctuary Truth, pages 18-20)
The Prophet’s Stand on SDA Doctrines Prior to 1905 and Her Counsel on Standing Against Incoming Error.
The leading points of our faith as we hold them today were firmly established. Point after point was clearly defined, and all the brethren came into harmony. The whole company of believers were united in the truth. There were those who came in with strange doctrines, but we were never afraid to meet them. Our experience was wonderfully established by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.—MS 135, 1903. (Ellen G. White, The Early Years Volume 1 – 1827-1862, page 145)
Safety Found in Pre-1905 Doctrines
“In the future, deception of every kind is to arise, and we want solid ground for our feet. We want solid pillars for the building. Not one pin is to be removed from that which the Lord has established. The enemy will bring in false theories, such as the doctrine that there is no sanctuary. This is one of the points on which there will be a departing from the faith. Where shall we find safety unless it be in the truths that the Lord has been giving for the last fifty years?” (Ellen White, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 5, 1905)
Now you decide — Is the Trinity Doctrine New Light? or New Error!?
Will you serve the true God that brought our SDA pioneers out of the spiritual land of Egypt and Babylon or will you return to Trinity Gods of Rome and Apostate Protestantism. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
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