Who Is In Apostasy--The Church--The Intra-Church Independent Ministries, or Both?
Nearly twenty years ago when I was first exposed to the independent movement within Adventism, one prominent name among the independents was that of Willard Santee. Santee had made a set of tapes entitled, "Circle of Apostasy," which documented a damning departure from biblical and Spirit of Prophecy principles in several facets of Seventh-day Adventism. For several years Willard Santee made the rounds of the camp meetings as a popular speaker who relentlessly exposed this "apostasy" within Adventism.
I was as surprised as anybody else when the news came that brother Santee had done an abrupt about face, recanted of all he had been teaching, and had penitently returned to the fold of the mainstream Adventist Church, thus completing his circle. It was evident that at some point brother Santee had been in apostasy. The only question was, was it when he had originally left the SDA church, or was it now that he had returned to it?
Over the years there have been several other turnabouts similar to Santee's. Most noteworthy in fairly recent times have been those of David Mould and John Osborne. John Osborne arrived on the scene like Jehu, and almost overnight became the biggest name and ministry within independent Seventh-day Adventism. His charges of apostasy against the church were unsparing and a high percentage of his ministry's time and finances went into documenting the fact that the SDA Church was in deep apostasy.
When Osborne's financial misdealings brought his ministry to a crisis, things took a dramatic and unexpected turn. Osborne's loyal supporters watched in disbelief one day as on live satellite broadcast, Osborne's invited guest speaker, Willard Santee, preached on the importance of remaining within God's "true church," the organized SDA church. What followed the sermon was almost an anticlimax and those who had the stomach for soap operas watched as a "weeping" John Osborne asked Willard Santee to help to guide him back to "God's true church" (which he had unsparingly denounced as Babylon a few months earlier).
David Mould also spent much of his time exposing "apostasy" within Adventism. That is, until indiscretions in his personal life became public knowledge which brought his ministry to its knees. Mould was subsequently rebaptized into the SDA church, and ever since then his voice has been mute on the subject of denominational apostasy.
All of these cases bring one thing strikingly home: These men either did not believe the charges of apostasy which they made, or else they later revised their opinion of what apostasy really means. This is the only way one can account for the fact that they now find themselves comfortable in an organization which they previously denounced as being guilty of the greatest apostasy.
The Webster's New World Dictionary, defines apostasy as being, "an abandoning of what one has believed in, as a faith, cause, or principles." This definition bears thinking about. All those who charge the SDA church with "Apostasy" should carefully consider this definition before making such a charge. Has the SDA church denied what it once believed?
The failings of Santee, Osborne and Mould compelled them all to recognize something. They were forced to the realization that you can't charge a whole church with apostasy merely on the basis of the failings of individual church members, even if those members are prominent leaders. Men, and even groups of people will do wrong things, and even people in high places, but this is not a valid reason for making the charge that the church, as a system, is in apostasy.
In order to determine if the church is in apostasy we must have access to two bits of information. One is, a definitive statement of what the church now holds as its religious faith, and the other, a definitive statement of what the church held as its religious faith in the past. Comparison of both these things will help us to determine whether or not there has been a change and whether or not this has been significant. This is the factor which we must examine in concluding whether or not there has been apostasy.
Is there any place where the SDA church has plainly declared what its teachings are? Is there any place where these teachings have been clearly defined in such a way that it can be plainly understood what the church believes and teaches as a body?
There is such a place. In its statement of fundamental beliefs the SDA church has declared the doctrines which it considers fundamental to its existence. The doctrines which identify and set it apart as a unique entity and which give it a reason for a separate identity from all other denominations. It is by this document and this document alone that we can fairly judge whether or not the SDA church on the whole has gone into corporate apostasy.
A Startling Change
As early as 1872 Seventh-day Adventists published a statement outlining carefully the doctrines which were held by them "with great unanimity." This statement was re-published without any significant alterations in 1889 1905, and 1907-1914.. However by 1931 when the statement was once again published, a sudden and dramatic change had taken place in the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. The statement dealing with the doctrine of God had undergone a "most startling change."
The original Statement, published in 1872,1889, 1905, and 1907-1914 (while Ellen White was still alive), read as follows:
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 everywhere present by His representative, the Holy Spirit. Psalm 139:7
2. That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, and Son of the Eternal Father, the One by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist....
The 1931 revised statement was much different. It now referred to God as a Trinity, rather than as an individual. It stated:
"That the Godhead, or Trinity, consists of the Eternal Father, a personal, spiritual Being, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite in wisdom and love; the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, through whom all things were created ... the third person of the Godhead, the great regenerating power in the work of redemption. Matt 28:19. That Jesus Christ is very God, being of the same nature and essence as the Eternal Father. While retaining His divine nature, He took upon Himself the nature of the human family ...."
What is most interesting about this change is the fact that it was not made by the same generation of people. In other words it was not made as a result of people who believed one thing studying and revising their opinions. It was a change which was implemented by a new generation of Seventh-day Adventists in total contradiction to the beliefs of the previous generation, and against the wishes of many of those who were still alive from that previous generation. Russell Holt, former associate editor of the Signs of The Times, describes the change in this way:
1900-1930. This period saw the death of most of those pioneers who had championed and held the anti-Trinitarian position. Their places were being taken by men who were changing their thinking, or had never opposed the doctrine. The trinity began to be published, until by 1931 it had triumphed and become the standard denominational position. Isolated stalwarts remained who refused to yield, but the outcome had been decided. (Russell Holt - The Doctrine of The Trinity in The Seventh-Day Adventist Denomination: Its Rejection and Acceptance)
Let us look again at the definition of apostasy. It is "an abandoning of what one has believed in, as a faith, cause, or principles." It would be hard to find another example which fits this definition of apostasy as perfectly as does this change in Adventism from the concept of one God and His Son, to the concept of the Trinitarian, or Triune God. This is the only definitive change in the doctrines of Seventh-day Adventism which has taken place from the time that Adventists first published a statement of beliefs in 1872 unto the present time.
Many of the Independent Ministries, referring to themselves as "historic" Seventh day Adventists, claim that the SDA church is in apostasy. They accuse the church of having changed its position on "The Nature of Christ," "The authority of Ellen White," "The timing and nature of the atonement," standards of dress, health reform etc. Interestingly, however, none of these ministries can point to a definitive statement by the SDA church in which it has officially changed its position on any of these doctrines from the time of the early Seventh-day Adventists until today. There is only one doctrine which has been changed officially and it is the doctrine concerning God. This change has been such a drastic one and of such a revolutionary nature that it led George Knight, an SDA historian to write:
"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."- Ministry, October 1993 p.10
Therefore any charge of apostasy against the SDA church can only be valid if it focuses on the issue of the change in the SDA position on the doctrine of God. All other accusations can only be aimed at individual indiscretions, or apostasy of a localized nature. It is this realization which has caused many former "reformers" to find their way back to the "mother" church. It is this realization that the charges of apostasy really cannot be substantiated unless the focus is placed on the Godhead. In the Issues, book put out by the General Conference this fact was thrown into the teeth of the "Historic Adventists."
"If one wishes, however, to claim additional content from that era [the early Adventist era] and make that content binding in our day ... the question is: Would one be willing to accept all the content from that earlier era? Are the modern defenders of so called historic Adventism really prepared to return to a non-Trinitarian position?"
Not surprisingly, none of the so-called "historic" Seventh-day Adventists responded to the challenge put out by the church in the book, Issues.
ARE THE CHICKENS COMING HOME TO ROOST?
We can expect in the future to see more and more "historic Adventists" returning to the fold of the mainstream SDA church, as they come to realize that they really have no real ground on which to accuse the SDA church of apostasy. Not unless they recognize the only real ground for the charge of apostasy, which is the departure from the church's original position on the doctrine of the godhead.
Already there are significant indications that some of the bigger names around in Independent Adventism may be retracing their steps back to the mother church in the very near future.
The General Conference administrative committee (ADCOM), in early 1998, established an ad hoc committee to interview the leadership of Hope International, publishers of Our Firm Foundation, and two other private groups, Hartland Institute, headquartered in the United States, and Remnant Ministries, based in Australia.
The committee developed a 20-question instrument that was the basis of their inquiry and appraisal. The leaders of Hope International and its associated groups accepted the committee's invitation to answer the questions. They met with the General Conference-appointed group on two occasions for a total of three and one-half days. Below are some of the problems which the GC Committee found with the position of these ministries.
Excerpts from GC Committee Report
"... the emphasis on revival and reformation we found in the message of Hope International, Hartland Institute, and Remnant Ministries (hereafter referred to as Hope International and associates) is welcomed. Further, we observed in conversations with Hope International and associates that they affirmed agreement on many of the major elements of the Seventh-day Adventist faith.
However, the method they have used to express their concern has resulted in what is perceived by many to be a spirit of constant criticism directed against the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is the body of Christ, the remnant church. The effect of this methodology is the discouraging portrayal of the church as steeped in a state of apostasy. After studying their materials and meeting with their leaders, we have some serious concerns with respect to the nature and purpose of Hope International and associates.
Areas of Serious Concern
1. Charge of Apostasy Against the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
2c. Rewriting of the Baptismal Vow. A baptismal vow was put together by Colin Standish using the 1932 Church Manual and other sources. An examination of this baptismal vow reveals that it is significantly different from what is found in the current Church Manual as approved by the world church. Among the differences are the following:
(1) A new fundamental belief added as a requirement for joining the church: that "Jesus took upon Himself our fallen nature." Such a statement has never been part of the Seventh-day Adventist baptismal vow or of official statements of fundamental beliefs...
(2) The vow dealing with tithing does not identify the church as the repository of tithe, as does the official baptismal vow.
3. Supporting Dissident Movements Hope International and associates have supported, and continue to support, dissident movements who turn against the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its organization.
4. Selectively Using Ellen G. White Writings
The accumulative effect of the above information results in the perception of many church members that Hope International and associates are offshoot organizations. They have not taken the decisive step of officially separating themselves from the Seventh-day Adventist organization, and they claim that they never will. However, by rejecting the authority of the world church in session when their interpretation of Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy differs from that of the church, they have set their authority above that of the world church and operate in a manner that is consistent with offshoot movements.
We appeal, in all sincerity and Christian love, to Hope International and associates to hear the counsel of the church they claim to love. It is time for the spirit of condemnation and rebellion to be set aside, allowing the reconciling blood of Christ to bring unity among His people.
If Hope International and associates cannot bring themselves into harmony with the body of the world church, clearly evidenced within 12 months, the Seventh-day Adventist Church may need to consider whether there exists a "persistent refusal to recognize properly constituted church authority or to submit to the order and discipline of the church" (Church Manual, p. 169)."
There is evidence that the not so subtle threat by the General Conference has had its effect. Most of us have heard of the GC lawsuit brought against Pastor Rafael Perez and the Eternal Gospel church in Miami, for using the name "Seventh-day Adventist." Before and during the trial, Pastor Perez received strong support from the Standish brothers and most of the independent ministries which expressed deep shock and grief at the continuing "apostasy" of the church in calling upon the arm of the state to enforce its institutions. This trial was no secret event, but received widespread coverage both in the public media as well as in the publications of the various ministries.
Since that time however, some events have occurred which seem to be highly significant in light of the veiled threat issued to "Hope International and associates," by the General Conference.
Evidently Pastor Perez and his group put an ad in the Toronto Tribune and had a small group handing out pamphlets in Toronto during the recently held General Conference session. The advertisements were apparently openly critical of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Hope International have responded to Pastor Perez's actions by canceling Pastor Perez's speaking appointments at their campmeetings as the following letter from Hope reveals.
Email from Hope International:
Dear Brother Rafael,
This is just to let you know that the withdrawal of the invitation to the Angelus Oaks and Angwin camp meetings remains. There are some of the board members who are feeling uncomfortable about the Toronto ad also and so until we all have time to evaluate and digest the situation with prayer and guidance from above I feel it would be better to avoid any possible conflict it could cause for Hope's ministry.
Please know that you have my love and prayers. It is my desire that the pain of this court process will not cloud your message or your vision of a finished 3 Angels message to the world.
I am sorry my brother to send you this news but I pray that you will understand.
God Be With You,
The following quotation, taken from a recent issue of the Remnant Herald, the paper published by Dr. Russell Standish also reveals the displeasure of "Hope International and associates" at the activities of Pastor Perez in Toronto.
"In fairness we must report that in Toronto during the General Conference Session one self-supporting worker took the opportunity to place an advertisement in a newspaper which exposed some of the distressing matters within our church. Colin and I, without our knowledge, were accurately quoted in that article. Our words, as quoted, were from material presented only within the church and that is where we intended it to be confined. Colin, on behalf of himself and myself, did personally express his disappointment that this material was spread to the world, for we dare not despoil the one object of Christ's regard, even if the organizational leaders do denigrate us.
Let us in self-supporting work never move outside the bounds of inspiration and let us ever present an example of the highest level of conformity to divine counsel. Only thus can God bless us, whether we are privileged to serve Him in self-supporting work or in the organized work."
The truth is that, as we have stated before, neither Hope International nor any of the Independent Ministries really have any ground for accusing the Church of apostasy, as long as they continue to be in agreement with the Church in the act of rejecting the position of the pioneers on the question of the Godhead. They are all in the same boat in apostasy and the other issues being agitated by the independent ministries are quibbles compared to this issue. Those other issues may be reason for concern and agitation, but are not enough of a reason for reasonable people to separate from the mother church. This is why we would not be surprised if Hope International and company make their way back home to "mother" in the near future.
Addendum by Ron Beaulieu
The above observations made by David Clayton are right on target. It will be the Omega Heresy involving the Godhead, "...speculation in regard to the personality of God and where His presence is, and "...spiritualistic theories regarding the personality of God, followed to their logical conclusion, sweep away the whole Christian economy."
It is pure speculation when the Trinity doctrine ASSUMES that the Holy Spirit existed as a third, distinct person from eternity, rather than becoming a third person in becoming the Son's successor at the time of His Incarnation. There is not one Scripture reference that proves that the Holy Spirit existed as a separate person from eternity. The Holy Spirit was and is the one eternal Spirit of God and His Son, but it was not a third person until Christ laid aside His first life at His first death (Incarnation) as a regenerating gift for us. It was then that the Holy Spirit, His essence, became His successor:
“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 Impartation of the Holy Spirit is the Impartation of the Life of Christ
"The Holy Spirit is the breath of spiritual life in the soul. The impartation of the Spirit is the impartation of the life of Christ. It imbues the receiver with the attributes of Christ. Only those who are thus taught of God, those who possess the inward working of the Spirit, and in whose life the Christ-life is manifested, are to stand as representative men, to minister in behalf of the church." Desire of Ages, 805. In the Alpha of Apostasy, Kellogg dealt in "...that which is nought bu speculation in regard to the personality of God and where His presence is. No one on this earth has a right to speculate on this question. The more fanciful theories are discussed, the less men will know of God and of the truth that sanctifies the soul." E.G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 1, 202.
"The spiritualistic theories regarding the personality of God, followed to their logical conclusion, sweep away the whole Christian economy. They estimate as nothing the light that Chris came from heaven to give John to give to His people. They teach that the scenes just before us are not of sufficient importance to be given special attention. They make of no effect the truth of heavenly origin [The Everlasting Covenant and thereby The Everlasting Gospel], and rob the people of God of their past experience, giving them instead a false science." E.G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 1, 204.
The Trinity doctrine denies that the Holy Spirit is the former life of Christ that He laid aside at His Incarnation in heaven for us. This was absolutely necessary to satisfy the everlasting death signified by the Everlasting Covenant in payment (atonement) for sin. It was entirely necessary that the Son die forever, for the penalty for sin was and is everlasting death, not 3 days in the tomb. Christ died forever to His first estate of Being which He had before His Incarnation. This occurred on the Cross, when He commended His Spirit to the Father for the last time. Christ first commended His Spirit to the Father at His Incarnation in heaven, as His last will and testament. That Spirit descended upon Him again at His baptism. It was commended back to the Father for the last time just before Christ died on the cross. Before this final commending of His Spirit to the Father, Christ could have returned to His first estate of Being, His Holy Spirit state, and refused to atone for sin.
The Great Shaking Issue
The Godhead, involving the identification of the true God and what He did for us by way of the Atonement, is the great shaking issue of the Omega. It involves the worst abomination man could imbibe; that of attributing the Holy Spirit of the Son, which He sacrificed forever to atone for our sins, to another third person separate from the Son. This is what the Trinity doctrine does. All who embrace the trinity doctrine have returned to the iniquities of their forefathers, Jeremiah 11:9-15. The iniquity of all iniquities is the trinity doctrine, which misidentifies the Testator of the Everlasting Covenant, attributing it to another person other than the first life Being of Christ, which He sacrificed forever, as an Atonement for sin, and as a regenerating agency to return us to the image of God.
"The Spirit was given as a regenerating agency, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail." E.G. White, Review and Herald, May 19, 1904, The Promise of the Spirit, pr. 3.
No "third person" could fulfill the Testator Covenant between the Son and the Father. Only the Son could give His life FOREVER, in satisfaction of the Everlasting Testator Covenant. The Testator agreement demands the death of the Testator, and three days in the tomb does not meet that requirement. The Testator covenant requires that the Testator die, and the Testator was the Son in His Divinity. Since Divinity cannot die per say, the Son had to die to His first estate of Being, His first life form and take on forever the life form of a servant; a life form of divinity united with humanity.
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.
The Trinity doctrine teaches that the Holy Spirit is another eternal person eternally distinct from Christ. It teaches that the humanity of Christ died and that the humanity death made the Atonement. Both teachings preclude the Atonement. Both preclude the type manifested in the Sanctuary service. It is true that the humanity of Christ died, but it is also true that Christ died to His Holy Spirit person FOREVER at His Incarnation first death. This is the death that satisfied the Atonement, and it was finalized on the cross when He commended that Holy Spirit former life back to the Father FOREVER just before He died.
Since both the church and the Intra-church operating Independent Ministries subscribe to the Trinity heresy, they both are in the worst apostasy possible. They both imbibe and require baptismal vows affirming a doctrine that denies the Atonement and the Sanctuary Message. They both affirm a doctrine that effectualy "removes God," Selected Messages, vol. 1, 205, and Jeremiah 11:9-15.
"What hat my beloved (bride--church) to do in mine house (Sanctuary--church), seeing she (the professing church) hath wrought lewdness with many (fallen churches and Rome by adopting their iniquitous Trinity doctrine and ecumenically fraternizing with them) and the holy flesh (God) is passed from thee? when thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest [celebrates]." Jeremiah 11:15.
Verse 10 mentions how they have "... turned bqack to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words: and they went after other gods to serve them..." The professing SDA church has turned back to the iniquitous doctrine of the Trinity, a doctrine contrived by the early "church fathers" in forbidden ecumenical councils. This is serious beyond the comprehension of the dumb dog watchmen of Isaiah 56:10-12, and beyond the understanding of the ministering brethren who are looking on but do not seem to understand, The Upward Look, p. 152. The Sanctuary is GONE. The Atonement is GONE, and the ministering brethren do not seem to understand.