LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES
by Elder M. L. Andreasen, 1957
Early in the summer of 1957 I had placed in my hands, providentially, I believe, a copy of the minutes of the White Board of Trustees for May of that year. For those who are not familiar with this Board, I may state that it is a small committee appointed to have in trust the large volume of letters, manuscripts, and books left by the late Mrs. E. G. White. In counsel with the officers of the denomination, the board decides who is to have access to the material, and to what extent and for what purpose; what is to be published and what is not; and what material is not to be made available at all.
Much of the work of the committee consists in examining and editing these writings and recommending for publication such matter as appears to be of permanent value. This work is of great importance to the church, for only that which is released by the board sees the light of day. During her lifetime Mrs. White herself did much of the work of selecting and editing, and in all cases she had the oversight of what was done. All knew that whatever was published was under her supervision and that it had her approval. The board now has taken over this work.
Two Men and the Committee
According to the White minutes, it was on the first day of May, 1957, that two men, members of the committee which had been appointed to write the book that came to be known as Questions on Doctrine, were invited by the board to meet with them to discuss a question that had received some consideration at a meeting the previous January. It concerned statements made by Mrs. White in regard to the atonement now in progress in the sanctuary above. This conception did not agree with the conclusions reached by the leaders of the denomination in counsel with the evangelicals. To understand this fully, and its importance, it is necessary to review some history.
The Adventist leaders had for some time been in contact with two ministers of another faith, evangelicals, Dr. Barnhouse and Mr. Martin, respectively editor and an assistant editor of the religious journal Eternity, published in Philadelphia, and had discussed with them various of our doctrines. In these conversations, as in the numerous letters that passed between them, the evangelicals had raised serious objections to some of our beliefs. The question of greatest importance was whether Adventists could be considered Christians while holding such views as the doctrine of the sanctuary; the 2300 days; the date 1844; the investigative judgment; and Christ's atoning work in the sanctuary in heaven since 1844. Our men expressed the desire that the Adventist church be reckoned as one of the regular Protestant churches, a Christian church, not a sect.
The two groups spent "hundreds of hours" studying, and wrote many hundreds of pages. The evangelicals visited our headquarters in Takoma Park, and our men visited Philadelphia and were guests of Dr. Barnhouse in his comfortable home. From time to time other men were called into consultation on such matters as the Voice of Prophecy, and our periodicals, all with a view of ascertaining what stood in the way of our being recognized as a Christian denomination.
After long and protracted discussions, the two parties came at last to a working agreement, and though the evangelicals still objected to a number of our doctrines, they were willing to recognize us as Christians. We would need to make some changes in some of our books in regard to the "mark of the beast" and also "regarding the nature of Christ while in the flesh." Eternity, September, 1956. This was brought to the "attention of the General Conference officers, that the situation might be remedied and such publications might be corrected." The corrections were made, and "this action of the Seventh-day Adventists was indicative of similar steps that were taken subsequently." Ibid. We are not informed what other books were "remedied and corrected." The evangelicals published a report of their conferences with the Adventists in Eternity from which the above quotations are taken. Dr. Barnhouse states that they took the precaution to submit their manuscript to the Adventists so that no misstatement or error might occur.
The Adventists published no report. Even at the General Conference session last year (1958), the matter was not discussed. Only a few knew that there had been any conferences with the evangelicals. There were rumors that the Adventist leaders had been in conference with the evangelicals, but that was considered by some only as hearsay. The few who did know, kept their counsel. There seemed to be a conspiracy of secrecy.
Till this day we do not know, and are not supposed to know, who carried on the conferences with the evangelicals. We do not know, and are not supposed to know, who wrote Questions on Doctrine. Diligent inquiry produced no result. We do not know, and are not supposed to know, just what changes were made, and in what books, concerning the mark of the beast and the nature of Christ while in the flesh. We do not know who authorized the omission of the thirteenth chapter of Revelation in our Sabbath school lessons for the second quarter of 1958, which deals with the mark of the beast. Dr. Barnhouse reports that to "avoid charges brought against them by the evangelicals," the Adventists "worked out arrangements" that concerned the Voice of Prophecy, and the Signs of the Times.
What was "worked out" we do not know and are not told. Should we not have a detailed report? We, of course, also wonder how it came to pass that ministers of another denomination had any voice or any say whatsoever in how we conduct our work. Have our leaders abdicated? How is it that they consult the evangelicals and keep our own people in the dark?
What was Done at the Conferences?
For a report of this we are confined almost entirely to the published account in Eternity. The subject that took up much of the time at the conferences was that of the sanctuary. Dr. Barnhouse was frank in his estimate of this doctrine. In particular did he object to our teaching on the investigative judgment which he characterized as "the most colossal, psychological, face-saving phenomenon in religious history." Later he called it "the unimportant and almost naive doctrine of the 'investigative judgment"' and said that "any effort to establish it is stale, flat, and unprofitable." Eternity, September, 1956.
Dr. Barnhouse, in discussing Hiram Edson's explanation of the disappointment in 1844, says that the assumption that Christ "had a work to perform in the most holy before coming to this earth, is a human, face-saving idea (which) some uninformed Adventists. . . carried to fantastic, literalistic extremes. Mr. Martin and I heard the Adventist leaders say, flatly, that they repudiated all such extremes. This they said in no uncertain terms. Further, they do not believe, as some of their earlier teachers taught that Jesus' atoning work was not completed on Calvary, but instead that He was still carrying on a second ministerial work since 1844. This idea is also totally repudiated." Ibid.
Note these statements: The idea that Christ "had a work to perform in the most holy place before coming to this earth. . . is a human, face-saving idea," "Mr. Martin and I heard the Adventist leaders say flatly that they repudiated such extremes. This they said in no uncertain terms."
I think it is due the denomination to have a clear-cut statement from our leaders if Dr. Barnhouse and Mr. Martin told the truth when they heard our leaders say that they repudiated the idea that Christ had a work to do in the second apartment before coming to this earth. This question demands a clear-cut answer.
Before reporting further what was done at the conferences, let us come back to the two men who on that first day of May, 1957, met with the White Board of Trustees to seek their counsel and, also, to make a suggestion. The men were well acquainted with the statements made by Dr. Barnhouse and Mr. Martin, that the idea of Christ's ministry in the second apartment in the sanctuary had been totally repudiated. This had been in print several months at that time, and had not been protested. The men, however, did not need the printed statement, for both of them had had a part in the discussions with the evangelicals. One of them in particular had taken a prominent part in the conferences, had visited Dr. Barnhouse in his home, had spoken in Dr. Barnhouse's churches at his invitation. He was one of the four men who really carried the load, and the one chosen to accompany Mr. Martin on his tour of the west coast to speak in our churches. He was held in high esteem by Dr. Barnhouse. This feeling was mutual.
About the time when the two men first visited the vault, a series of articles appeared in the Ministry which claimed to be "the Adventist understanding of the atonement, confirmed and illuminated and clarified by the Spirit of Prophecy." In the February issue, 1957, the statement occurs that the "sacrificial act on the cross (is) a complete, perfect, and final atonement for man's sin." This pronouncement is in harmony with the belief of our leaders, as Dr. Barnhouse quoted them. It is also in harmony with a statement signed by a chief officer in a personal letter: "You cannot, Brother Andreasen, take away from us this precious teaching that Jesus made a complete and all-sufficient atoning sacrifice on the cross. . . . This we shall ever hold fast, and continue to proclaim it, even as our dear venerated forefathers in the faith."
It would be interesting if the writer would produce proof of his assertion. The truth is, our forefathers believed and proclaimed no such thing. They did not believe that the work on the cross was complete and all-sufficient. They did believe that a ransom was there paid and that this was all-sufficient; but the final, atonement awaited Christ's entrance into the most holy in 1844. This the Adventists have always taught and believed, and this is the old and established doctrine which our venerated forefathers believed and proclaimed. They could not teach that the atonement on the cross was final, complete and all sufficient, and yet believe that another atonement, also final occurred in 1844. Such would be absurd and meaningless. Paying the penalty for our sin was, indeed, a vital and necessary part of God's plan for our salvation, but it was by no means all. It was, as it were, placing in the bank of heaven a sum sufficient and in every way adequate for any contingency, and which could be drawn on by and for each individual as needed. This payment was "the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb, without blemish and without spot." 1 Peter 1:19. In His death on the cross Jesus "paid it all;" but the precious treasure becomes efficacious for us only as Christ draws upon it for us, and this must await the coming into the world of each individual; hence, the atonement must continue as long as people are born. Hear this:
"There is an inexhaustible fund of perfect obedience accruing from His obedience, How is it, that such an infinite treasure is not appropriated? In heaven, the merits of Christ, His self-denial, and self-sacrifice, are treasured up as incense, to be offered up with the prayers of His people."--General Conference Bulletin, Vol. 3, pp. 101, 102, Fourth Quarter, 1899.
Note the phrases: "inexhaustible fund," "infinite treasure," "merits of Christ." This fund was deposited at the cross, but not "used up" there. It is "treasured up" and offered up with the prayers of God's people.. And especially since 1844 is this fund drawn on heavily as God's people advance to holiness; but it is not exhausted, there is sufficient and to spare. Hear again:
"He who through His own atonement provided for them as infinite fund of moral power will not fail to employ this power in their behalf. He will impute to them His own righteousness. . . There is an inexhaustible fund of perfect obedience accruing from His obedience. . . as sincere, humble prayers ascend to the throne of God, Christ mingles with them the merits of His own life of perfect obedience. Our prayers are made fragrant by this incense. Christ has pledged Himself to intercede in our behalf, and the Father hears His Son."-Ibid.
When we pray, in this very year of 1959, Christ intercedes for us and mingles with our prayers "the merits of His own life of perfect obedience. Our prayers are made fragrant by this incense. . . and the Father always hears His Son."
Contrast this with the statement in Questions on Doctrine, page 381: "(Jesus) appeared in the presence of God for us. . . But it was not with the hope of obtaining something for us at that time or at some future time. No! He had already obtained it for us on the cross." (Emphasis his.) Note the picture: Christ appears in the presence of God for us. He pleads, but He gets nothing. For 1800 years He pleads, and gets nothing. Does He not know that He already has it? Will no one inform Him that it is useless to plead? He Himself has "no hope" of getting anything now or at any future time. And yet He pleads, and keeps on pleading. What a sight for the angels! And this is represented to be Adventist teaching! This is the book that has the approval of Adventist leaders and is sent out to the world to show what we believe. May God forgive us. How can we stand before the world and convince any one that we believe in a Savior who is mighty to save, when we present Him as pleading in vain before the Father?
But thank God, this is not Adventist doctrine. Hear this from Sister White, as quoted above: "Christ has pledged Himself to intercede in our behalf, and the Father always hears His Son." This is Christianity, and the other is not.
Shall we remain silent under such conditions? Says Sister White:
"For the past fifty years every phase of heresy has been brought to bear upon us. . . especially concerning the ministration of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. . . Do you wonder that when I see the beginning of a work that would remove some of the pillars of our faith, I have something to say? I must obey the command, 'Meet it!'"--Series B, No. 2, p. 58.
Again: "The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. The fundamental truths that have sustained the work for the last fifty years, would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. . . Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement."--Ibid., pp. 54,55.
"Shall we keep silent for fear of hurting their feelings?. .Shall we keep silent for fear of injuring their influence, while souls are being beguiled. . . My message is: No longer consent to listen without protest to the perversion of truth."--Ibid., pp. 9, 15. (Emphasis ours)
The May First Meeting
I doubt that the Adventist leaders were fully aware of the many references in Mrs. White's works to the atonement now in progress in the heavenly sanctuary since 1844. If they were, how would they have dared to take the position they did in regard to the sanctuary question? This idea finds support in the apparent surprise of the two men who visited the vault and stated that in their research they had "become acutely aware of the E. G. White statements which indicate that the atoning work of Christ is now in progress in the heavenly sanctuary." - Minutes, May 1, 1957, p. .1483. Why did they become acutely aware? The discovery seemed to surprise them. In using the plural, statements, they admit of more than one reference. I do not know how many they found. I have found seventeen, and there are doubtless others. And why did they use the word "indicate"? Sister White does more than indicate. She makes definite pronouncements. Here are some of them:
"At the termination of the 2300 days, in 1844, Christ entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, to perform the closing work of atonement, preparatory to His coming."-Great Controversy, p, 422. "Christ had only completed one part of His work as our Intercessor to enter upon another portion of the work, and He still pleaded His blood before the Father in behalf of sinners." -Ibid., p. 429. At "the opening of the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, in 1844 (as) Christ entered there to perform the closing work of the atonement. They saw that He was now officiating before the ark of God, pleading His blood in behalf of sinners."-Ibid., p. 433.
"Christ is represented as continually standing at the altar, momentarily offering up the sacrifice for the sins of the world. . . A Mediator is essential because of the continual commission of sin. . . Jesus presents the oblation offered for every offence and every short-coming of the sinner."--MS. 50, 1900.
These statements are definite. It was at the end of the 2300 days in 1844, that Christ entered the moat holy "to perform the closing work of the atonement." "Be had ONLY COMPLETED ONE PART OF HIS WORK as our intercessor," in the first apartment. Now He "enters upon another portion of the work." He pleads "His blood before the Father." He is "continually standing at the altar." This is necessary "because of the continual commission of sin." "Jesus presents the oblation for every offence and every shortcoming of the sinner. This argues a continuing, present atonement. He offers up "momentarily". "Jesus presents the oblation offered for every offence." "He ever liveth to make intercession for them." Hebrews 7:25.
It is presumed that when the two men stated that they had "become acutely aware of the E. G. White statements which indicate that the atoning work of Christ is now in progress in the heavenly sanctuary," they had read the quotations here given and perhaps others. In view of this knowledge, what did they suggest should be done? Would they change their former erroneous opinions and harmonize with the plain words of the Spirit of Prophecy? No, on the contrary, they "suggested to the trustees that some footnotes or Appendix notes might appear in certain of the E. G. White books clarifying very largely in the words of Ellen G. White our understanding of the various phases of the atoning work of Christ." Minutes, p. 1483.
Ponder this amazing statement. They admit that Sister White says that "the atoning work of Christ is now in progress in the heavenly sanctuary," and then they propose that insertions be made in some of Sister White's books that will give our understanding of the atonement! They were, however, only acting in harmony with the official statement in Questions on Doctrine that when one reads "in the writings of Ellen G. White that Christ is making atonement now, it should be understood that we simply mean that Christ is now making application" etc., pp. 354,355.
If Sister White were now living and should read this, she would most certainly deal with presumptions writers and in words that could be understood. She would not concede the right of anyone, whoever he might be, to change what she has written or interpret it so as to vitiate its clear meaning. The claim which Questions on Doctrine makes that she means what she does not say, effectively destroys the force of all she has ever written. If we have to consult an inspired interpreter from Washington before knowing what she means, we might better discard the Testimonies altogether. May God save His people.
Early in this century when the fate of the denomination hung in the balance, Sister White wrote: "Satan has laid his plans to undermine our faith in the history of the cause and work of God. I am deeply in earnest as I write this: Satan is working with men in prominent positions to sweep away the foundations of our faith. Shall we allow this to be done, brethren?"--Review and Herald, Nov. 12, 1903.
Answering her question, "shall we allow this to be done?" she says:
"My message is: No longer consent without protest to the perversion of truth. . . I have been instructed to warn our people; for many are in danger of receiving theories and sophistries that undermine the foundation pillars of the faith."-Letters to Physicians and Ministers, Series B, No. 2, p. 15.
"For the past fifty years every phase of heresy has been brought to bear upon us, to becloud our minds regarding the teaching of the Word--especially concerning the ministration of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. . . . But the waymarks which have made us what we are, are to be preserved, and they will be preserved, as God has signified, through His Word and the testimony of His Spirit. He calls upon us to hold firmly, with the grip of faith to the fundamental principles that are based upon unquestionable authority,"--Ibid., p. 59. "Do you wonder that when I see the beginning of a work that would remove some of the pillars of our faith, I have something to say? I must obe the command, 'Meet it!"'-Ibid., p. 58. (Emphasis supplied.)
Come Prominently to the Front
After the two men had suggested the insertion of notes and explanations in some of the E. G. White books that would give the reader the impression that she was not opposed to their new interpretation, they had another suggestion to make. "This is a matter," they said, "which will come prominently to the front in the near future, and (that) we would do well to move forward with the preparation and inclusion of such notes in future printings of the E. G. White books."-Minutes, p. 1483.
I leave to the reader to decide why the men were in haste to get the notes and explanations into the Ellen White books. Could it be that doing this would constitute a "fait accompli," an accomplished fact, a thing that had already been done and which would be difficult or impossible to change? This is an important consideration, for there is reason to believe that things are happening to other of our books, and there is a definite movement to change our doctrine in other matters. This should be further explored, before it is too late.
May 2 this is recorded in the Minutes: E. G. White Statements on the Atoning Work of Christ - "The meeting of the Trustees held May 1 closed with no action taken on the question which was discussed at length--suitable footnotes or explanations regarding the E. G. White statements on the atoning work of Christ, which indicate a continuing work at the present time in heaven. Inasmuch as the chairman of our board will be away from Washington for the next four months, and the involvements in this question are such that it must have the most careful consideration and counsel, it was
"VOTED, That we defer consideration until a later time of the matters that were brought to our attention by Elders "x" and "y" involving the E. G. White statements concerning the continuing atoning work of Christ." Minutes of the White Board, p. 1488.
It was presumably four months later when Elder Olson had returned that a vote was taken not to grant the request. This was eight months after their first January meeting, by which time the matter had been exposed.
Correspondence with Washington
After this situation came to my knowledge, I did a deal of praying. What was my responsibility in this matter, or did I have any? I confided to no one. I decided my first responsibility would be to the officials in Washington, so I wrote to headquarters. I was there informed that I had no right to the information I had. That was supposed to be secret, and I had no right even to read the documents.
After four letters were passed, I was told that they did not care to discuss the matter further. The matter was settled. 'When I inquired if this meant that the door was closed, I received the reply: "I have considered the matter to which you have referred as closed." As to the scurrilous and untrue article in the Ministry, "I have discussed this with the brethren concerned and would like to leave the matter there." So the door was closed.
Here are some of the official pronouncements: "The minutes are confidential and not intended for public use." If wrong is committed, is it forbidden to expose it merely because some want to keep it confidential?
"You are doing this upon hearsay and upon confidential minutes which you had no right even to read." No one ever talked to me of this or informed me. I read the minutes and acted upon them. The minutes are not hearsay. They are officially documented and signed.
" . you have no right even to read." When I have evidence that to me seems destructive of the faith, am I to close my eyes to what I consider premeditated attempts to mislead the people by the insertions of notes, explanations, and appendix notes in the books of Mrs. White? Is this officially approved?
"I wish to repeat what I wrote before, that men have a perfect right to go to boards, including the White Estate group, and make their suggestions without fear of being disciplined or dealt with as heretics."
This was re-emphasized: "I re-affirm my former statement that I believe these brethren were entirely in order in going to the, properly delegated and responsible individuals with any suggestion they had for study."
This makes it clear that the act of the two brethren is officially approved; that they did not do anything for which they should be reproved, but that they did what they had a perfect right to do. I do not think our people will welcome this new principle.
"To suggest that good and faithful Seventh-day Adventist men sat down to tamper with the pillars of our faith is as far from fact as the poles are apart: tampering with the Testimonies, when no such thing ever took place, nor was there any attempt ever made to do this."
I leave to the reader's decision just why the men went to the committee: did they not come to have insertions, notes, Appendix notes, explanations made in "some of the E. G. White-books?" While the committee eventually decided not to do this, the guilt of the men is not changed by that fact. To assert that as for "tampering with the Testimonies (when) no such thing ever took place nor was there any attempt ever made to do this," the Minutes speak for themselves.
A Serious Situation
This vault episode brings into focus a serious situation. It is not merely a matter of two men attempting to have insertions made in some of Mrs. White's books. A much more serious thing is that this act had the approval of the administration, who stated that the men had a "perfect right" to do what they did. This pronouncement opens the way for others to follow, and as the matter is kept secret, great abuse could readily result. Undoubtedly, if the matter is left to a vote of the people, there will be no permission for any to tamper, or attempt to tamper, with the writings of Ellen G. White.
The men who visited the vault May 1, as related, stated clearly that they had discovered that Mrs. White taught plainly "that the atoning work of Christ is now in progress in the heavenly sanctuary." On the other hand, the Ministry of February, 1957, stated the very opposite. It said that the "sacrificial act on the cross (is) a complete, perfect and final atonement for men's sins." Questions on Doctrine attempts to reconcile these opposing views by stating that whether one "hears an Adventist say or reads in Adventist literature--even in the writings of Ellen G. White-that Christ is making atonement now, it should be understood that we mean simply that Christ is now making application," etc. pp. 354,355. It is clear that if the atonement on the cross was final, there cannot be a later atonement also final. When we therefore for a hundred years have preached that the day of atonement began in 1844, we were wrong. It ended 1800 years before. The hundreds of books we have published; the more than a million copies of Bible Readings we have sold; the millions of hand bills we have distributed saying that it is "court week in heaven," were all false doctrine; the Bible instruction we have given the children and the young ministry and which they have imbibed as Bible truth, is a fable. Uriah Smith, Loughborough, Andrews, Andross, Watson, Danielle, Branson, Johnson, Lacey, Spicer, Haskell, Gilbert, and a host of others stand convicted of having taught false doctrine; and the whole denomination whose chief contribution to Christianity is the sanctuary doctrine and Christ's ministry, must now confess that we were all wrong, and that we have no message to the world for these last days. In other words, we are a deceived and deceiving people. The fact that we may have been honest does not alter the fact that we have given a false message. Take away from us the sanctuary question, the investigative judgment, the message of the 2300 days, Christ's work in the most holy, and we have no right to exist as a denominated people, as God's messengers to a doomed world. If the Spirit of Prophecy has led us astray these many years, let us throw it away.
But no! Halt! God has not led us astray. We have not told cunningly devised fables. We have a message that will stand the test and confound the undermining theories that are finding their way in among us. In this instance it is not the people that have gone astray except as they have followed the leaders. It is time that there be a turn-about.
It is now more than four years ago that the apostasy began to be plainly evident. Since that time there has been a deliberate attempt to weaken the faith in the Spirit of Prophecy, as it is clear that as long as the people revere the gift given us, they cannot be led far astray. Of this we shall speak shortly. The time for action has come. The time to open up the dark corners has arrived. There must no longer be any secret agreements, no compact with other denominations who hate the law and the Sabbath, who ridicule our most holy faith. We must no longer hobnob with enemies of the truth, no more promise that we will not proselytize. We must not tolerate leadership which condones tampering with the writings entrusted to us, and stigmatizes as belonging to the lunatic fringe those who dare disagree with them. We must no longer remain silent. To thy tents, O Israel!
Be of good courage, brethren. The Lord still lives. We have a work to do. Let us all work together. And let us not forget that our greatest strength lies in close union with God, in prayer. Let us all dedicate ourselves anew to Him.