And the Spirit & the bride say, come.... Reveaaltion 22:17

And the Spirit & the bride say, come.... Reveaaltion 22:17
And the Spirit & the bride say, come...Revelation 22:17 - May We One Day Bow Down In The DUST At HIS FEET ...... {click on blog TITLE at top to refresh page}

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

SDA History - The Trinitarian Battle

"The Christian Connexion began in 1801 as a reaction to the Reformed Calvinist doctrines of predestination and unconditional election. Over time, they absorbed beliefs that were outside of traditional Protestantism at the time, and they identified closely with the anti-trinitarian Unitarians of New England.
The primary founders of the Connexion movement were Abner Jones and Elias Smith, from
Massachusetts and Connecticut respectively. They emphasized a rejection of Calvinism, and after they were invited by the Freewill Baptists to preach among their congregations, a new movement formed.

At the start, the Connexion wasn’t concerned about conceptions of the Godhead one way or the other. However, by 1806, Elias Smith rejected the Trinity doctrine, writing “As for three persons being one, and one three, it never was, nor never will be”. (Smith, Christian’s Magazine, No. V, 1806, p.166.) By 1811, the Connexion had fully rejected Trinitarianism in all its forms. Because of this, they became estranged from their Freewill Baptist brethren and began to ally with the formerly Methodist Unitarians, who were themselves fierce critics of the Trinity doctrine.
During this time, anti-trinitarianism was considered a very liberal and radical idea. Because the Christian Connexion was more influential, an alliance was proposed, and by 1826 the Christian Connexion was distributing Unitarian-authored literature. (Gospel Luminary, 1826, p. 48) Universalism started gaining ground, and several Connexion leaders, including Elias Smith, wavered back and forth between Connexionism and Universalism.

It was in this historical context that William Miller came on the scene. The Millerite movement was primarily a New England phenomenon, and as the influential Connexioners became a part of it, this boosted Miller’s efforts considerably. But while the Connexion served as a vehicle for Unitarian beliefs, the same wasn’t true for Millerism. With its focus primarily on the Second Coming of Jesus in just a few years, there was simply no time to argue over the nature of the Godhead.
Thanks to the work of Joshua Himes and the preaching of the Trinitarian Miller (who seems to have diplomatically kept his trinitarianism under wraps), over a hundred churches left the Connexion and flocked to the Millerite movement. (Milo True Morrill, A History of the Christian Denomination in America, Dayton: The Christian Publishing Association, 1912, pg. 175) With them they carried their theological baggage, which was a fixture of previous theological biases and not an awakening discovered in the wake of the Second Advent message.

 William Miller himself, as a Baptist, was a Trinitarian. He wrote in 1822, "I believe in one living and
true God, and that there are three persons in the Godhead—as there is in man, the body, soul, and spirit. And if anyone will tell me how these exist, I will tell him how the three persons of the Triune God are connected." - William Miller, quoted by James White, Sketches of the Christian Life and Public Labors of William Miller (Battle Creek, Mich.: Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1875), p. 59.

Other prominent former Connexioners included Joseph Bates, who helped influence Adventists on the Sabbath. It is no surprise that the immediate post-Disappointment Adventist consensus on the Godhead contained no favorable views towards the Trinity. But because anti-trinitarianism isn’t the immovable doctrinal fixture of the Adventist movement some suggest it is, this outlook would change near the turn of the century, under the direction of God’s inspired messenger.

The Old Guard showed its unwillingness to budge on certain issues. Stern rebuke from God’s messenger, Ellen G. White, was a sobering reminder that not even hardened veterans of the Advent movement were free from error, and the 1888 Minneapolis Conference incident served as the epitome of this theme.
It was in the wake of this groundbreaking event that we see a gradual change of mind regarding the Trinity issue. By 1892, the use of the word “Trinity” was no longer a taboo. In the Church’s publication, Bible Students’ Library, was published a tract titled, “The Bible Doctrine of the Trinity” written by Presbyterian minister Samuel Spear. It signifies perhaps the first time any of our major denominational publications were positively referencing the Trinity.
Spear writes,
Our Savior, in prescribing the formula to be observed in baptism, directed that converts to Christianity should be baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matt. 28:19. Here we have the distinct element of threeness in three personal titles of the Godhead; and while this implies some kind of distinction between the persons thus designated, the language places them all on the same level of divinity.”
This represented a significant warming on the part of Adventists toward association with the term “Trinity.”  It also suggested that the Holy Spirit was a distinct divine Person.

A question was posed to the Review in 1896 on whether the Holy Spirit was owed worship. Here was the response:
Do the Scriptures warrant the praise or worship of the Holy Spirit? If not, does not the last line of the doxology contain an unscriptural sentiment?" - D. H.

“Answer.--- We know of no place in the Bible where we are commanded to worship the Holy Spirit, as was commanded in the case of Christ (Heb. 1:6), or where we find an example of the worship of the Holy Spirit, as in the case of Christ. Luke 21:52. Yet in the formula for baptism, the name ‘Holy Ghost,’ or ‘Holy Spirit,’ is associated with that of the Father and the Son. And if the name can be thus used, why could it not properly stand as a part of the same trinity in the hymn of praise, ‘Praise God from Whom all Blessing Flow?’”
- Uriah Smith, Review and Herald, 1896 Vol. 73, No. 43
It wasn’t just a mere isolated opinion, but a denominational coup. That edition of the Review was edited by Uriah Smith and A. T. Jones, two of several influential individuals whom many anti-trinitarians appeal to. It didn’t stop there.
We fear that many have tried to receive the Holy Ghost as an emotion or an influence, when according to His name and position, given Him by Jesus in introducing Him to the disciples, He should be received as a person.”
- G. B. Starr, Union Conference Record, December 31, 1906, Vol. 10, No. 26
All these statements were written while Ellen White was alive and still publishing. Through all this she not only didn’t rebuke these sentiments, she continued to write statements that unequivocally support the Personhood and divinity of the Holy Spirit.

 “We have been brought together as a school, and we need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds, that the Lord God is our keeper, and helper. He hears every word we utter and knows every thought of the mind.”
— Manuscript 66, 1899
"Now a little point. As the saints in the kingdom of God are accepted in the beloved, they hear: ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ And then the golden harps are touched, and the music flows all through the heavenly host, and they fall down and worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
- Manuscript 139, 1906
As can be seen in the historical exhibits posted above, the modern anti-trinitarian narrative that Trinitarianism only made inroads into Adventism after the death of Mrs. White, is forever shattered."

For there are three that bear record in heaven,
 the Father,
the Word,
and the Holy Ghost:
and these three are one.
1 John 5:7