Seventh-day Adventists Were Antitrinitarian

James and Ellen White
James and Ellen White


James and Ellen White established the Seventh-day Adventist church.  What many modern SDAs do not seem to realize is that they were not trinitarian then. The SDAs held what is sometimes called a binitarian or Semi-Arian view of the Godhead.

As the SDAs were temporarily in some type of confederation with the old Church of God, it makes sense that both groups held similar ideas on the Godhead.

Notice, for an example, something Ellen White and SDA pioneer J. Waggoner wrote about Jesus:

Jesus Christ laid off His royal robe, His kingly crown, and clothed His divinity with humanity, in order to become a substitute and surety for humanity, that dying in humanity, He might by His death destroy him who had the power of death. He could not have done this as God, but by coming as man, Christ could die. (Ellen G. White, Letter 97, page 5. To “My Brethren in North Fitzroy,” November 18, 1898, Manuscript No. 10, MR No. 812)

Of course we cannot believe what men say about his being equal with God in every respect, and that the Divine Son of God could not suffer nor die.” These are mere human words. (J. H. Waggoner, Review and Herald, November 10th 1863, ‘The Atonement part II’)

The above is consistent with the Semi-Arian/binitarian view that we in the Living Church of God hold.

Additionally, originally Ellen White had positions on the Holy Spirit that were quite close to those held by the late Herbert W. Armstrong. Notice what Ellen White’s statements about the Holy Spirit suggest (note one from an SDA background provided me the following statements including the source cited):

The Spirit is freely given us of God if we will appreciate and accept it. And what is it? The representative of Jesus Christ. It is to be our constant helper. It is through the Spirit that Christ fulfills the promise, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life”. (The bell is sounding for morning worship, I must stop here) (1888 Materials, pp. 1538, 1539, Letter to S. N. Haskell, May 30, 1896).

The church members need to know from experience what the Holy Spirit will do for them. It will bless the receiver, and make him a blessing. It is sad that every soul is not praying for the vital breath of the Spirit, for we are ready to die if it breath not on us.

We are to pray for the impartation of the Spirit as the remedy for sin-sick souls. The church needs to be converted, and why should we not prostrate ourselves at the throne of grace, as representatives of the church, and from a broken heart and contrite spirit make earnest supplication that the Holy Spirit shall be poured out upon us from on high? Let us pray that when it shall be graciously bestowed, our cold hearts may be revived, and we may have discernment to understand that it is from God, and receive it with joy. Some have treated the Spirit as an unwelcome guest, refusing to receive the rich gift, refusing to acknowledge it, turning from it, and condemning it as fanaticism. When the Holy Spirit works the human agent, it does not ask us in what way it shall operate. Often it moves in unexpected ways. Christ did not come as the Jews expected. He did not come in a manner to glorify them as a nation. His forerunner came to prepare the way for him by calling upon the people to repent of their sins and be converted, and be baptized. Christ’s message was, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent ye and believe the gospel.” The Jews refused to receive Christ, because he did not come in accordance with their expectations (Ibid., p. 1540).

And Jesus said He would give us the Comforter. What is the Comforter? It is the Holy Spirit of God. What is the Holy Spirit? It is the representative of Jesus Christ, it is our Advocate that stands by our side and places our petitions before the Father all fragrant with His merits (Reflecting Christ, p. 285).

The Lord would have every one of His children rich in faith, and this faith is the fruit of the working of the Holy Spirit upon the mind. It dwells with each soul who will receive it, speaking to the impenitent in words of warning, and pointing them to Jesus, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. It causes light to shine into the minds of those who are seeking to co-operate with God, giving them efficiency and wisdom to do His work (Signs of the Times, September 27, 1899).

Like, Herbert W. Armstrong, Mrs. White realized that the Holy Spirit was not a person. They both referred to the Holy Spirit as “it”.

However, it is claimed that Ellen White changed her position in later years (some SDAs dispute that and say she did not change).    Interestingly that last statement from Mrs. White was edited by someone and reprinted as follows (according to my same source):

The Lord would have every one of His children rich in faith, and this faith is the fruit of the working of the Holy Spirit upon the mind. He dwells with each soul who will receive Him, speaking to the impenitent in words of warning, and pointing them to Jesus, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. He causes light to shine into the minds of those who are seeking to cooperate with God, giving them efficiency and wisdom to do His work (Ye Shall Receive Power, p. 59, 1995).

Hence, those who believe that they are relying on her original writings need to be very careful.

Notice what James White (the husband of Ellen White) wrote:

The Father is the greatest…The Son is next in authority…The inexplicable Trinity that makes the godhead three in one and one in three, is bad enough…(Quoted in Wiebe E. Who Is the Adventist Jesus? Published by Xulon Press, 2005, p. 167).

…the Trinity does away with the personality of God…(ibid, p. 88).

The greatest fault we can find in the Reformers is, the Reformers stopped reforming. Had they gone on, and onward, till they had left the last vestige of the Papacy behind such as the natural immortality, sprinkling, the trinity, and Sundaykeeping, the church would now be free her unscriptural errors (Ibid, p. 89).

So James White considered the trinity to be in the same category as Sundaykeeping–do SDAs realize this?

Old time SDA literature was clearly anti-trinitarian.  Notice the following  from J. Waggoner

The inconsistencies of Trinitarians, which must be pointed out to free the Scripture doctrine of the Atonement from reproaches under which it has too long lain, are the necessary outgrowth of their system of theology. No matter how able are the writers to whom we shall refer, they could never free themselves from inconsistencies without correcting their theology…“To the contrary, the advocates of that doctrine really fall into the difficulty which they seem anxious to avoid. Their difficulty consists in this: They take the denial of a trinity to be equivalent to a denial of the divinity of Christ. Were that the case, we should cling to the doctrine of a trinity as tenaciously as any can; but it is not the case. They who have read our remarks on the death of the Son of God know that we firmly believe in the divinity of Christ; but we cannot accept the idea of a trinity, as it is held by Trinitarians, without giving up our claim on the dignity of the sacrifice made for our redemption. (J. H. Waggoner, ‘The Atonement in Light of Nature and Revelation’, 1884 Edition, chapter ‘Doctrine of a Trinity Subversive of the Atonement’)

SDA scholar, G. Pfandl, wrote this about the Semi-Arians and the trinity in SDA teachings:

A number of Adventist authors today who are opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity are trying to resurrect the views of our early pioneers on these issues. They are urging the church to forsake the “Roman doctrine” of the Trinity and to accept again the semi-Arian position of our pioneers

J. N. Loughborough, in response to the question “What serious objection is there to the doctrine of the Trinity?” wrote, “There are many objections which we might urge, but on account of our limited space we shall reduce them to the three following: 1. It is contrary to common sense. 2. It is contrary to scripture. 3. Its origin is Pagan and fabulous”…

The rise of the Trinity doctrine in our church was the outworking of a slow process that occurred over many years. It was not imposed on the church arbitrarily; it evolved slowly from within. The first positive reference to the Trinity in Adventist literature appeared in the Bible Students’ Library series in 1892…

Most early Adventist pioneers were anti-Trinitarians… In 1931 the Adventist Yearbook contained a statement of twenty-two fundamental beliefs, one of which was the Trinity (Pfandl G. The Doctrine of the Trinity Among Seventh-day Adventists. Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 17/1 (Spring 2006): 160–179).

Thus, those who are SDAs might wish to ask since their church changed so much in its view of the Godhead, if it truly was part of the original church, or if it is (as I have long contended) a breakaway group that lost many of its original faithful teachings.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

SDA/LCG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666 The Living Church of God is NOT part of the Seventh-day Adventists. This article explains a few prophetic differences, the trinity, differences in approaching doctrine, including Ellen White.
Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning Is binitarianism the correct position? What about unitarianism or trinitarianism?
Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? Or did they have a different view?
Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity? Most act like this is so, but is it?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

Get news like the above sent to you on a daily basis

Your email will not be shared. You may unsubscribe at anytime.