For a Biblical breakdown on the Deity of Christ please click here. Below I am going to present a few troubling quotes in proper context and attempt to get a better understanding of Ellen White’s view on the doctrine.
“The Eternal Father, the unchangeable one, gave his only begotten Son, tore from his bosom Him who was made in the express image of his person, and sent him down to earth to reveal how greatly he loved mankind.” EGW, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 07-09-1895, “The Duty of the Minister and the People,” Par. 14.
The quote above is troubling, she is plainly stating that Jesus Christ was “made”. Those who have studied scripture know that Jesus is uncreated, thus it would not be accurate to refer to him as “made”.
Below we see another troubling quote of Ellen White, where she is directly stating that Jesus wasn’t God.
“The man Christ Jesus was not the Lord God Almighty” (Letter 32, 1899, quoted in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1129).
I’ve passed this around and many will complain that the context clarifies her statement though. The problem is that there is no clarification that changes “not” into “is”. One must engage in sophistry to twist her words around another way. No matter how you shake it out she is confessing a heresy. Either she is dividing the two natures of Christ into two persons entirely and confessing Nestorianism or she is abrogating the divine nature with the human and confessing some form of Arianism.
I think it is the latter as that plays in well with her comments in Patriarchs and Prophets.
“The exaltation of the Son of God as equal with the Father was represented as an injustice to Lucifer, who, it was claimed, was also entitled to reverence and honor.” EGW, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 37
It is common knowledge that Arianism and Anti-Trinitarianism were widely held views in the early Seventh Day Adventist Church. Since I do not believe Ellen White was a prophet I have no trouble whatsoever accepting that she was catering to her audience by teaching views in line with those heresies.
Over time these heresies in the SDA Church have watered down a great deal. The problem is that the teachings of Ellen White are still commonly used in the SDA Church and despite their formal rejection of Arianism the themes and images conveyed in her writings taint their views. Just to give a personal example, when I was an SDA I pictured the Trinity as a Tri-unity of three beings united in a common purpose. Though their fundamental beliefs don’t read as such since the local teachers of the Church read her books, when the topic of the Trinity comes up it is taught using the themes and imagery that she uses.
My goal in this post is to prove this claim by analyzing Patriarchs and Prophets pages 34-37. Every so often I will drop in a verse or two which should clarify the Biblical doctrine being maligned by Ellen White.
“The Sovereign of the universe was not alone in His work of beneficence. He had an associate–a co-worker who could appreciate His purposes, and could share His joy in giving happiness to created beings. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” John 1:1, 2. 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.” Patriarchs and Prophets pg 34
Though there are many problems in the above statement what is most glaring is that she qualifies “one in nature” with character and purpose and then states Jesus as being the “only being that could enter”.
Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity not the second being. The doctrine of the Trinity is ONE BEING expressed in three persons. Ellen White is teaching a tri-unity of three beings in purpose rather than the Holy Trinity that the Bible teaches.
“The Father wrought by His Son in the creation of all heavenly beings” Patriarchs and Prophets pg 34
The problem with this is the Bible doesn’t say that the Father created through the Son in these verses (John 1:1-5, Col 1:16). Rather they attribute creation entirely to the Son. The only way of harmonizing this with other passages that also ascribe creation to the Father and to the Holy Spirit is the doctrine of the Trinity. God is one being in three persons. Here in this above quote Ellen is separating the persons of the Trinity into different beings acting through each other.
“So long as all created beings acknowledged the allegiance of love, there was perfect harmony throughout the universe of God. It was the joy of the heavenly host to fulfill the purpose of their Creator.” Patriarchs and Prophets pg 35
Though it is not entirely clear in this passage what Ellen means by “all created beings” and “the universe of God” we know from other writings that she taught there are beings on other planets, like Jupiter for example. Nowhere in scripture does it clearly state that beings live on Jupiter or any other planets except for earth.
“Little by little Lucifer came to indulge the desire for self-exaltation” Patriarchs and Prophets pg 35
This is important because we see the first mention of Satan desiring exaltation in Ellen’s writings. I want to point this out because I think it is key in defining her use of the word exaltation. Simply notice for now that the Devil wishes to be exalted. Right after stating this EGW quotes Isaiah 14:13 “Thou has said in thine heart, …. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…” Isaiah 14:13, 14. So we can see that in using the word “exaltation” with regards to the Devils desires she is referencing a passage in Isaiah where the one being spoken of desires to be exalted to a place not only equal to but above God. For one to be exalted to a level higher than God they would logically have to start at a level that is lower than God in one fashion or another.
“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.” Patriarchs and Prophets pg 35
This is an interesting statement as she states that the Devil is “coveting the glory with which the infinite father had invested”. How is it that the father “invested” glory in an uncreated one? By definition the glory of an uncreated Deity is intrinsic unto themselves. The Bible teaches that Christ already had the Glory of God before he humbled himself, and he doesn’t ascribe the pre-incarnate Glory he possessed as something given to him, but rather as something he simply had.
“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” John 17:5 KJV
Above we see the Son speaking of his Glory, the glory “which [he] had”. It does not say ‘glorify me with the glory you once invested in me’. The later would work with Ellen Whites statement but the former does not.
Instead we see later on page 36 the following:
“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” Patriarchs and Prophets pg 36
Here we see the “King” setting “forth the true position of His Son”. This makes no sense for anyone who believes what the Bible because as Christ did not humble himself before creation, but after. What we are seeing here on page 36 is an event that Lucifer later looks back to as an injustice. Putting it bluntly, Ellen White is saying that Lucifer and the other angels were actual eye witnesses to an event in which Christ is exalted to the level of God. It’s not enough that she has to teach Arian heresy but she is going to accuse the angels in heaven of being witnesses to and praising such a thing.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8 KJV
The reason you can Biblically assert that the Father exalted the Son (Php 2:9) without lessening the deity of the Son is that before he was exalted by the Father he humbled himself. Instead with EGW we saw above that the Son was exalted before creation, before the incarnation. That means she is teaching that Christ was in a humbled state in heaven. Since the manner in which he humbled himself in the incarnation is defined as taking the form of a man what possible “lower” state was Christ exalted from in heaven according to Ellen White? Fair question, and it is one she seems to explore later on the same page.
“Before the assembled inhabitants of heaven the King declared that none but Christ, the Only Begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will. The Son of God had wrought the Father’s will in the creation of all the hosts of heaven” Patriarchs and Prophets pg 36
Notice she connects a defining line between “Only Begotten of God” and “wrought the Father’s will in the creation of all the hosts of heaven”. Tying this in with the fact that she is teaching a lesser state of Christ prior to a heavenly exaltation I can only conclude that her meaning by Begotten here is that she is saying Christ is the first creation of the Father that created everything else.
The problem is that this would imply that Christ is a created being. The Bible removes that as a possibility in the following verses:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3 KJV
In the above verse we see Jesus being ascribed with the following creative works “and without him was not any thing made that was made”. Logically, if Jesus was created then nothing was created because one would have to assert that Christ created himself.
“ His desire for supremacy returned, and envy of Christ was once more indulged.” Patriarchs and Prophets pg 37
Notice we see the theme of the jealousy of the Devil re-appear. Keeping everything in context, he is jealous of Christ. The Devil desires to be exalted from a lower place in created order to a higher place. And in the narrative of this heavenly story he is jealous of that which he just witnessed, the Son who was in a lower place of created order and was just exalted to a higher one. This is a full blown denial of the Deity of Christ in the writings of Ellen White.
“Yet the Son of God was exalted above him , as one in power and authority with the Father…..
The exaltation of the Son of God as equal with the Father was represented as an injustice to Lucifer, who, it was claimed, was also entitled to reverence and honor” Patriarchs and Prophets pg 37
Above we see that the exaltation of Christ is again cited, a recent event that Lucifer just witnessed in the previous page, and he is jealous of it. The obvious problem of a pre-incarnate exaltation is that to exalt one must be lower in some fashion than they were before they were exalted otherwise the word has no meaning. So in effect, Ellen White is teaching that Jesus Christ was a created being and less than God before he was exalted to the level God, and that this exaltation was what the Devil had desired for himself. There is no getting around this, Ellen White functionally denies the Deity of Christ in her writings.
What does the reader feel about this? Do you want to follow the teachings of a false prophet that denies Jesus? Is she not promoting one of the false Christ’s that Jesus warned us about when he was on Earth?