The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian Views Presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G. White Answer

by Erwin Roy Gane

The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian Views Presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G. White Answer

by Erwin Roy Gane



On October 14, 1939, W. W. Prescott preached a sermon in the Takoma Park Church on the subject, "The Coming One." He took the position that Jehovah of the Old Testament is Jesus of the New Testament. He urged that the three persons of the Godhead cannot be regarded as separate personalities in the same sense as human beings, because there is a mysterious union between them which is dissoluble.1


J. S. Washburn took exception to the Prescott sermon, and produced twenty typed pages in answer to the Trinitarian position. The first section consists of a polemical attempt to refute Trinitarianism, particularly as represented by Prescott's sermon, and the second section comprises a personal attack on Prescott. Washburn exposes himself throughout as a testy supporter of a dying cause. He describes the doctrine of the Trinity as "a cruel heathen monstrosity removing Jesus from the true position of Divine Saviour and Mediator."2 Trinitarianism is of pagan origin and it is characteristic of Roman theology. In fact it is "Satan's crowning masterpiece of apostate counterfeit Christianity."3


Washburn's depiction of Christ was identical to that of the older Adventist writers. Christ was brought into being, begotten of the Father. The Father is Jehovah and the Son Adoni.4 He accuses Prescott of teaching that the Father and the Son are one person. His illustrations of the absurdity of that view are practically identical to those used by the early Adventist writers. The unity between the Father and Christ Washburn sees as entirely analogous to that between Christ and His disciples. If Prescott is correct then, says Washburn, the Father was born of the Virgin, and He hung on the cross and died. Obviously the basis of his anxiety is the old problem of J. H. Waggoner and others that the divine in Christ died, but he says the Trinitarian teaching renders this impossible. Then the sacrifice was not an adequate atonement.5


Washburn attempts to explain the Ellen G. White statement, "Deity did not sink and die, that would have been impossible."6 He quotes Job 34:12, 14, 15 and Ps. 36:9 as evidence that when a man dies God simply takes back the life He has previously given. Just so:

When Christ was begotten of the Father, He received the life of God, His Father. When Jesus died on the cross, he said, "Father into thy hands I commend my spirit," (or life), and the life of God was given back to the Father, and for a time, three days and nights, that life was with the Father from whence it had come. In the resurrection that life of God is restored to the one who died. Ps. 104:30. But between his death on Friday afternoon, till Sunday morning, the Son of God was dead.7

Thus Washburn reduces the life of Christ, the pre-existent, divine Christ, to the level of human existence, derived from the Father in the same sense, re-called at death and re-bestowed in the resurrection, in the same sense. Then Washburn proceeds to quote a Spirit of Prophecy statement which contradicts the argument he has just presented. The statement he quotes is as follows:

When he closed his eyes in death upon the cross, the soul of Jesus did not go at once to Heaven.... All that comprised the life and intelligence of Jesus remained with his body in the sepulchre. And when he came forth it was as a whole being. He did not have to summon his spirit from heaven.8

Washburn confidently affirmed, "This squarely contradicts the teaching of Elder Prescott."9 But what he had overlooked was that it squarely contradicted J. S. Washburn. He had just announced that "the life of God was given back to the Father..." But the Ellen G. White statement, which he quoted as supporting evidence, has the life of Jesus remaining in the sepulchre.

The remainder of Washburn's attack on Trinitarianism in general, and Prescott's sermon in particular, consists of a piling up of reasons as to why the Godhead could not be one person. As were the early Adventist Arians, Washburn is opposing Monarchianism. Thus he exposes his misunderstanding of what Trinitarians teach. He concludes, "The whole Trinity doctrine is utterly foreign to all the Bible and the teachings of the Spirit of Prophecy. Revelation gives not the slightest hint of it."10

So dies the fading splendour of Seventh-day Adventist anti-Trinitarianism!

(See Ron Beaulieu's comments below endnotes)


1J. S. Washburn, "The Trinity." (Paper filed in Office of the Dean, Andrews University, Theological Seminary. [n.p., n.d.]), p. 2. (Mimeographed)

2Ibid., p. 1.


4Ibid., p.2.

5Ibid., p.5.

6Ellen G. White, Letter 280, 1904, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, ed. Francis D. Nichol, V (1956), 1113.

7Washburn, op. cit., p. 6.

8Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. III (Battle Creek, Mich.: Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1878), pp. 203, 204.

9Washburn, loc. cit.

10Ibid., p. 8.

Did Washburn Contradict Himself?

by Ron Beaulieu


Christ had two natures. J.S. Washburn was merely correctly saying that the humanity of Christ died on the cross and that the Holy Spirit (Divine) life of Christ returned to the Father from whence it had come by His being sired by the ONE ETERNAL SPIRIT, the shared essence and substance of God the Father. That ONE SPIRIT had also descended upon Him at His baptism.

Even though Christ was sired by the ONE ETERNAL HOLY SPIRIT, He did not sire Himself. That Spirit was also the essence and substance of the Father. However, even though Christ was sired by the ONE ETERNAL SPIRIT (God is Spirit) and there is but ONE ETERNAL SPIRIT), there were still aspects of His pre-Incarnated life and soul that He laid aside at His Incarnation as gifts bequeathed to man for his regeneration. It was His Divine Spirit that He commended to His Father before dying as a human on the cross. But no human sacrifice could atone for our sins because the Testator of the Everlasting Covenant was not human and that Covenant demanded the death of the Testator. Notice:

Hbr 9:16 For where a testament [is], there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

Hbr 9:17 For a testament [is] of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Christ was fully Divine and fully human, but He commended His Divinity Spirit to the Father before dying on the cross. No human had any part as Testator of the Everlasting Testament or Covenant. That fact and the fact that three days of death of a human, or any number of days for that matter, could ever atone for our penalty for sin, which is eternal death, is why these facts could not constitute any atonement for sin. The laying aside FOREVER of His one eternal Spirit life and soul at His Incarnation met the prescribed limit of the terms of the Everlasting Covenant as far as death of the Testator is concerned. It was a form of death to lay aside that life FOREVER, for us as a regenerating agency. For additional details on the Incarnation and its implications, see other documents on this Website on the subject of the Godhead versus the Trinity doctrine.

Ellen White said that the Holy Spirit is the life and soul of Christ. That would have to refer to Christ's life BEFORE His Incarnation. That life was laid aside (the life He divested) at His Incarnation. However, the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ at His baptism and remained with Him until He commended that Spirit to the Father for the last time just before He bowed His head and died as a human. Up to the point of commending His Divine Spirit to His Father just before dying on the cross, Christ could still have retained His former Holy Spirit life's existence which He had prior to His Incarnation, but had He done that, the plan of salvation for sinful man would have failed. It was a FOREVER death to that pre-Incarnated life by the Son that met the prescribed limit of the Everlasting Covenant, not Christ's death on the cross. This is a point that is totally not understood by mainline Christianity and most SDA's, but Ellen White made the point that the Incarnation met the prescribed limit of sacrifice and I have elucidated on how it did so.

Ellen White's definition of the Holy Spirit as being the life and soul of Christ, is in total contradiction to the Trinity Doctrine. The Trinity Doctrine makes no allowance for the Holy Spirit life of Christ, prior to His Incarnation, being laid aside or sacrificed at His Incarnation. The Trinity Doctrine teaches that there were three persons from eternity. That would preclude the INCARNATION SACRIFICE which consisted of the Son of Man laying aside His first estate Holy Spirit life and soul at His Incarnation, to become a third person at that time. So how were the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the three persons of the Godhead present at the plan of salvation?

 "Christ declared that after his ascension, he would send to his church, as his crowning gift, the Comforter, who was to take his place. This Comforter is the Holy Spirit,--the soul of his life, the efficacy of his church, the light and life of the world. With his Spirit Christ sends a reconciling influence and a power that takes away sin.

In the gift of the Spirit [HIS LIFE--THE SOUL OF HIS LIFE], Jesus gave to man the highest good that heaven could bestow....The Spirit was given as a regenerating agency, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail....It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given his Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress his own character upon the church." E.G. White, Review and Herald Articles, May 19, 1904, vol. 5, p. 42.

"Cumbered with humanity Christ could not be in every place personally, therefore it was altogether for their advantage that He should leave them to go to His Father and send the Holy Spirit to be His successor on earth. The Holy Spirit is Himself divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof. He would represent Himself as present in all places by His Holy Spirit." E.G. White, (Manuscript Releases Volume 14 (No's 1081-1135) MR No.1084.

"The apostle would call our attention from ourselves to the Author of our salvation. He presents before us His two natures, divine and human. . . . He voluntarily assumed human nature. It was His own act, and by His own consent. He clothed His divinity with humanity. He was all the while as God, but He did not appear as God. He veiled the demonstrations of Deity which had commanded the homage, and called forth the admiration of the universe of God. He was God while upon earth, but He divested Himself of the form of God, and in its stead took the form and fashion of a man. He walked the earth as a man. For our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. He laid aside His glory and His majesty. He was God, but the glories of the form of God He for awhile relinquished. . . . He bore the sins of the world, and endured the penalty which rolled like a mountain upon His divine soul. He yielded up His life a sacrifice, that man should not eternally die. He died, not through being compelled to die, but by His own free will." E.G. White, SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 7a, p. 446.

Christ laid aside FOREVER, His former existence of ONLY Holy Spirit substance, to become combined with humanity FOREVER. His combined form of divinity with humanity constitutes another person.

Was the Incarnation of the Son of Man a SACRIFICE in and of itself, without His sacrifice on the Cross?

"The darkness rolled away from the Saviour and from the Cross. Christ bowed His head and died. In His Incarnation He had reached the prescribed limit as a SACRIFICE, but not as a redeemer." E.G. White Manuscript Releases Volume Twelve, p. 409.

 "The Incarnation of Christ was an act of self-sacrifice; His life was one of continual self-denial. The highest glory of the love of God to man was manifested in the sacrifice of His only-begotten Son, who was the express image of His person. This is the great mystery of godliness. It is the privilege and the duty of every professed follower of Christ to have the mind of Christ. Without self-denial and cross bearing we cannot be His disciples." E.G. White, Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 185.

The Trinity doctrine makes no allowance for the great sacrifice at the Incarnation which met (reached) the prescribed limit as a sacrifice. What "prescribed limit" was reached (met) at His Incarnation? He gave up or in effect "died to" His former life as a Spirit Being ONLY, to become the Son of Man in a new sense by being combined with humanity forever. That was a great sacrifice, and that FORM OF DEATH to His prior existence, His first estate of existence, met the demands of the Everlasting Covenant in its prescription that God as the Testator of the Covenant, must die to something FOREVER, because the wages of sin is DEATH FOREVER. The sacrifice must be commensurate with our penalty for unforgiven sin--namely eternal death.

The only sacrifice that achieved anything eternal was Christ's sacrifice of His former existence as ONLY Holy Spirit essence and substance FOREVER, to become combined with humanity FOREVER. Three days death of His humanity as a result of the cross would never meet the demands of the Everlasting Covenant. The Testator was God, and in some fashion, God must die and the Son laying aside His Holy Spirit ONLY existance forever, met the prescribed limit of sacrifice as far as the Everlasting Covenant is concerned. So what did the cross prove? What sacrifice did that involve? The cross proved that we as humans can be faithful even unto death as Christ was in His humanity.

Erwin Roy Gane is either ignorant of these facts as taught by Ellen White, and/or he does not agree with her. The church has returned to the iniquities of its forefathers (Jeremiah 11:9-15) by adopting the Trinity doctrine in the 1930's. That doctrine denies the greatest good sacrifice the Son made at His Incarnation--the bequeathment of His life and Soul (Holy Spirit) to us as a regenerating gift, without which His death on the cross would have been to no avail. Why? Because there would have been no remedy for sin without that Incarnation sacrifice. It was that sacrifice that made it possible for the Holy Spirit to indwell us and make us partakers of His Divine nature for the purpose of overcoming sin.

Even if Washburn had contradicted himself, he was still correct about the Trinity doctrine. It is Irwin Roy Gane who is contradicting and countermanding Ellen G. White.


God bless,

Ron Beaulieu