LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES
by Elder M. L. Andreasen, 1957
DOWNGRADING MRS. WHITE
Years ago while traveling in northern Minnesota, I stayed one weekend in a small town, and there was no train service on Sunday and buses did not exist. I did not like to remain idle so I arranged for the use of the Town Hall with the intent of holding a public service. I posted a handwritten notice that I would speak in the afternoon on the topic of "Seventh-day Adventists." I confess that I would rather not have spoken, for I needed a rest. My posted notice would certainly not draw many people.
To my surprise the hall was well filled. As the people showed interest in the subject, I decided to appoint another service for the evening. Promptly a well-dressed man arose in the audience, introduced himself as the temporary pastor of the only church in town, and invited me to come over to his church and speak in the evening. I reminded him of my topic, but he stated that this was satisfactory and I could come over and speak on Adventism. I thanked him and accepted the invitation.
After the meeting that night he told me that he was almost sorry he had invited me. "When I heard you this afternoon," he said, "I thought you were an intelligent man. Now I know you are not."
"What made you change your mind?"
"You said you believed in Genesis." "Don't you?"
"Of course not. No intelligent man believes in the Genesis creation story."
"You don't believe in the Old Testament, then?"
"No intelligent man does."
"Do you believe in the New?"
"Well, yes, there are many good things in it. But when it comes to Paul, I draw the line. He is the cause of all our troubles."
"What about Christ?"
"Good man, very good man. Of course he had his faults."
"But He was a good man."
"Are you not a minister?"
"Yes, in a way. I am president of the Seminary. I am up here on my vacation and am temporarily substituting for the pastor here in town, one of my former students."
This led to a conversation that lasted most of the night, and was very illuminating to me. I was somewhat acquainted with his institution, and one of my teachers was attending some classes there.
"Do you teach your students what you have told me tonight?"
"Yes, and much more!"
"And do your students tell their congregations?"
"Oh, my no! That would never do. The people are not ready for it. They are much more conservative than the preachers.'' We have to move slowly with them."
This episode came to mind as I have considered the situation in our denomination of late years. I have been uneasy since I first heard that our leaders were negotiating with the Evangelicals; but had hoped that the blandishment of our church's being reckoned among the established churches as being one of them would not appeal to our men. We had heard too many sermons on the text, "The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations," to be deceived. (Numbers 23:9). As the negotiations were considered top secrets it was some time before any definite news leaked out. When it did, it was disturbing. Washington furnished little news, and all others informed me they had nothing to say. It seemed apparent, however, our leaders were being influenced and steps were being taken that would be hard to retrace.
The first authentic news did not come from our leaders or through our journals but from an Evangelical publication dated September, 1956, which issued a special edition with an account of what had taken place. This account was so unbelievable that we hesitated to give it credence. We were sure that what it reported had never taken place and that our leaders would promptly issue a denial. We waited a year, we waited two. But until this date, no protest or denial has been issued. Reluctantly, we must, therefore, accept the account as true. Let us consider the situation as it has developed.
Our Leading Journals
As I read the Review from week to week, I find the articles generally helpful. The contributors quote freely from the Spirit of Prophecy, as do the editors and feature writers. There are times when I disagree with certain positions which I consider unsound, but this is not often. There are at times reports that savor of boasting, and at other times much stress is laid on statistics. But I have learned not to take too seriously some minor matters. I read the Review with confidence; I enjoy it. I can say the same for the Signs of the Times.
But not so with the Ministry, our ministerial journal. The general articles are of the same kind and quality as the Review, but this is not always so with the special features and editorials. These I must read carefully and critically. At times they contain what I consider heresy and dangerous perversions of truth. This may seem a serious charge. And it is so indeed. I can best illustrate what I have in mind by presenting a concrete example.
Of late years there has been a definite change of emphasis in the Ministry and not for the better. This change coincides with the period in which our leaders have been in close contact and rapport with the Evangelicals. The trend was in evidence before, but now has blossomed. As an example of this, I shall call attention to an article in the February, 1957, issue entitled, "The Priestly Application of the Atoning Act." It is claimed that it "is the Adventist understanding of the atonement, confirmed and illustrated and clarified by the Spirit of Prophecy." As it has not been renounced or protested, we may justly conclude that it is officially approved.
The author gives a short tribute to the "magnifying glass," the Spirit of Prophecy, then goes on to state that the atonement "
Is not, on the one hand, limited just to the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. On the other hand, neither is it confined to the ministry of our heavenly High Priest in the sanctuary above, on the antitypical day of atonement, or hour of God's judgment, as some of our forefathers first erroneously thought and wrote." Ministry, February, 1957, p. 9. The author stresses the fact that the Spirit of Prophecy clearly teaches that both these aspects are included, "one aspect being incomplete without the other, and each being the indispensable complement of the other." Ibid. That is, both the death on the cross and Christ's ministry in the second apartment are necessary to atonement. With this, we are in full agreement. The death was a necessary part of the atonement. The one is incomplete without the other.
This point should be noted, for 'a few sentences further on the author will say that the death on the cross is complete in itself; to quote: "The sacrificial act of the cross (is) a complete, perfect and final atonement for man's sin." Page 10. After having first said that the sacrificial death was incomplete, he now says it is complete, perfect, and final. He does not consider the death merely as a partial atonement, but a complete and perfect and final one. With this we disagree. The two statements are irreconcilable.
This is more than merely an unfortunate wording. While in the next paragraph the author gives lip service to the need of a ministration in the sanctuary above, he leaves out every essential feature of the atonement and omits the dates, which are essential to the Adventist concept of the atonement, which justifies our existence as a denominated people with the message for the world at this time.
In his explanation of Christ's work in the sanctuary, he does not refer to or mention Daniel 8:14: "Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." Without this text, Christ's work in the sanctuary becomes meaningless. He does not mention 457 B. C. or the 70 weeks, or the middle of the week which pinpoints the time of the sacrifice on the cross, and is ". . . as a nail in a sure place," (Isaiah 22:23 to which we fasten the whole chronological scheme in prophecy and which also justifies the date, 1844.
Remove or change these dates, and Adventists are without an anchor for the chronological system climaxing in 1844, and are unable to justify their existence as a people who are to proclaim this most important message to the world for this time: "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come." Revelation 14:7. Every one of these dates the author leaves out, and what remains, in the words of Dr. Barnhouse, "is flat, stale, and unprofitable." Eternity Extra, September, 1058, p. 4.
A Comprehensive Assemblage
In Questions on Doctrine, beginning at page 661, there is a section consisting of collections from the writings of Sister White on the subject of atonement, thirty pages in all. It claims to be a "comprehensive assemblage" of Sister White's teachings on the atonement. From the use of the word, "comprehensive," I expected to find a full and extensive collection. But in consulting this material, I was disappointed in its paucity and one-sidedness. I found it to be a very incomplete and meager collection, leaving out numerous quotations that rightly belong even in a small compilation, not to say a comprehensive one. And strangely enough, quotations that were omitted were such as must on no account be left out.
First of all, I wanted to know what Sister White had to say of the date, 1844, which is the "crisis year." I wanted to know if it had anything particularly to do with the atonement, or if it could safely he left out. I found that the one author had omitted it. So I looked in turn for other quotations, not one of which I found in the assemblage. I looked for the statement: "At the termination of the 2300 days in 1844. . . our great High Priest. . . enters the holy of holies, and there appears in the presence of God, to perform the work of the investigative judgment, and to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits." This is said to be the "great day of final atonement." Great Controversy, p. 480. I searched for this important statement in the comprehensive assemblage, but it was not there. I looked for the parallel statement: ". 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." Ibid., pg 422. I did not find it. I looked for this statement:.". . this is the service which began when the 2300 days ended. At that time, as foretold by Daniel the prophet, our High Priest entered the most holy, to perform the last division of His solemn work - to cleanse the sanctuary." I could not find it. I looked for the statement: "The end of the 2300 days in 1844 marked an important crisis," Ibid., p. 429. I did not find it. I looked for other statements, such as: "The sacred work of Christ (that) is going on at the present time in the heavenly sanctuary," " . . the atoning work of Christ is now in progress in the heavenly sanctuary," "Today He is making atonement for us before the Father." Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 520; White Board Minutes, p. 1483; Mss. 21, 1895, quoted in Ministry, February, 1957, p. 30. I found none of these.
At first I thought that this book, Questions on Doctrine, did not have room for these texts, nor did the Ministry. But I had to abandon this reasoning when I observed that it was only a particular kind of statements that was omitted. The omitted quotations al clustered about the important "crisis" date, 1844, the investigative Judgment, Christ's entering into the most holy for the final atonement; His making atonement n now, His making atonement "today before the Father." These are the statements that Dr. Barnhouse ridiculed and which he said our leaders had "totally repudiated." He had also ridiculed Hiram Edson's experience in the cornfield and had called the investigative judgment not only a "peculiar" but a 'human, face-saving idea," in fact "the most colossal, psychological, face-saving phenomenon, in religious history." Eternity Extra, September, 1956, pp. 3, 4. And now we found all these offending statements left out of the "comprehensive assemblage." Can this be a mere coincidence?
We wonder what effect the ridicule of the Evangelicals had upon our leaders and upon the author of the article in the Ministry, which we are discussing. One thing that kept our men from going overboard, body and soul, to the Evangelicals, was, doubtless, Mrs. White's writings. She is very emphatic on the question of the sanctuary, and it would not be easy to convert our people to the new view, as long as they had the Testimonies to sustain them in the old position. The faith of our people in the Spirit of Prophecy must be weakened, or better yet, destroyed, before much headway can be made in bringing in the new view. The Ministry article serves well for this purpose.
It was the editor, himself, who in his research 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.' White Minutes, p. 1483. This did not at all fit in with the new view that the atonement was made on the cross, and so he suggested that "footnotes or Appendix notes might appear in certain of the E. G. White -books clarifying very largely in the words of Ellen White our understanding of the various phases of the atoning work of Christ." Ibid. And he suggested haste in the "preparation and inclusion of such notes in future printings of the E. G. White books." When the plan became known, it was abandoned. The author of the article in the February, 1957, Ministry then took over and had the article printed which we are considering.
Not In A Single Case
The author asks this question, "Why, in the early days, in the light of all this, did not Mrs. White point out and correct the limited or sometimes erroneous concept of some of our early writers concerning the atonement? And why did she employ some of their restricted phrases without contrasting, at the time, her own larger, truer meaning when using them?" Ministry, February, 1957, p. 11.
This was the dilemma. Some of our early writers had erroneous concepts about the atonement, the author claims. Sister White did not correct them, but even used some of their own restricted phrases. How could this be explained? The answer, which the author gives, is the most astonishing and astounding answer that has ever been given to such a question. Hear this:
"In Answer: it is essential that we first of all remember this basic fact: No doctrinal truth or prophetic interpretation ever came to this people initially through the Spirit of Prophecy - not in a single case." (Emphasis his.)
Read those words again. And have in mind that this is an article which claims to give the true meaning of the atonement, the official interpretation; that it has the approval of the administration and that the editor passed it. Also, it has not been retracted or changed. It stands.
These are bold words, almost unbelievable words, and utterly untrue words. To assert that Sister White never, not even in a single case, initially contributed any doctrinal truth or prophetic interpretation will not be believed by her thousands and millions of readers who all have been benefited by her works. For myself, I have been greatly helped and instructed by her doctrinal teachings and prophetic interpretation. Even the author himself, who on page 11 of the February, 1957, Ministry, says, "We are fundamentally Protestants, taking the Bible only as our sole rule of faith and practice," in a signed letter the next month asserts, "I take the total Spirit of Prophecy teachings on a given subject to be the authoritative Seventh-day Adventist teaching." It does not strengthen faith to have a writer say publicly, "The Bible and the Bible only" and privately deny it. One statement is evidently made to the world for them to believe; the other to our people to quiet their fears. Some explanation is due.
The reader will have noted that the author does not say that Sister White never contributed any doctrinal truth or prophetic interpretation. He says that she never contributed anything initially, that is, she never made any original contribution. She got it from somebody else, she "lifted" it. Our enemies have made that assertion for years, but I never thought that such would be announced to the whole world with the consent of the leaders. But here it is. Whatever Sister White wrote, be it the counsel of Father and Son in eternity, or Satan's inmost rebellious thoughts, "somebody told her." She never contributed a thing, initially. Never in a single case! Let me produce a single case. The following is taken from Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 2, pp. 56, 57:
"Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, Elder Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the word. Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that we might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their study where they said, 'We can do nothing more,' the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me. I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the Scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave others the instruction that the Lord had given me."
In this case there was no human intermediary. Unless we are to believe that Sister White did not tell the truth, she got her instructions from above. In this case the instruction concerned "Christ, His mission, and His priesthood," the very subjects we have now under consideration. Whatever we may be, or not be, sure of, we know now that the instruction that came to Sister White on the subject of Christ, His mission and His priesthood came direct from God. This means that the sanctuary question as our forefathers taught and believed it has God for its author. It came as a result of a vision, which I do not believe can be said of any other doctrine we hold.
We have reached a crisis in this denomination when leaders are attempting to enforce false doctrine and threaten those who object. The whole program is unbelievable. Men are now attempting to remove the foundations of many generations, and think they can succeed. If we did not have the Spirit of Prophecy we would not know of the departure from sound doctrine which is now threatening us, and the coming of the Omega which will decimate our ranks and cause grievous wounds. The present situation has been clearly outlined. We are nearing the climax.
I am well aware that oftentimes visions were given to confirm previous study. I am well aware that for some time Sister White's mind was "locked," as she expressed it, and that hence visions were given, as in the instance here considered. She herself says that "for two or three years my mind continued to be locked to an understanding of the Scriptures." During that time the Lord gave visions. Then an experience came to her, and she records, "from that time to this I have been able to understand the word of God." Ibid., p. 58. For "two or three years" Mrs. White's mind was locked. This was evidently intended by God to strengthen their faith in the gift; for the men knew that of herself she had no knowledge. Then, when they came to the end of their knowledge and did not know what to do, light came from a source of which they knew that of herself she could not solve their problems. It was clearly the Lord's leading, and they confessed it and "accepted as light from heaven the revelations given."
In an attempt to protect himself, the author now turns completely around and says that she frequently went "far beyond the positions taken by any of the original advocates, and her counsels would often be so clear, so full, and so far reaching that they proved to be far ahead of the concepts of any of her contemporaries - sometimes fifty years in advance of their acceptance by some." I wonder whom she copied under such circumstances.
In composing the book, Questions on Doctrine, it became necessary to do some research work in Sister White's published and unpublished manuscripts to ascertain beyond a doubt just what she had said on various subjects. This work was turned over to the Ministry author who reports as follows in the Ministry for February, 1957, p. 11:
The Ministry Report
"The further question has likewise arisen: 'Just why were these counsels, clarifications, and expositions on the atonement, and its priestly manifestations, not brought together for our use before this?' The answer, we believe, is equally simple and straightforward and obvious: No one had taken the time for the sustained effort involved in laborious, comprehensive search necessary to find, analyze, and organize them.
"Since our leaders were largely unaware of this latent evidence and its priceless value, the need was not felt, and the time required for such a vast project was not considered available. Access to the complete files of all the old periodicals containing Ellen White's two thousand articles is not easy, for there is no complete file in any one place. More than that, the priceless manuscript statements are not available in published form.
"Further, as a church we have been so engrossed in giving our special message to the world, in keeping with our complex movement rolling onward in its multiple activities, that no one seemed to have the time or even the burden for such a huge task. It was known that the search would be a most laborious one because of the vast amount of material that must he compassed.
"However, when the need clearly arose and the time for such a search had obviously come, the necessity was recognized and the time taken to compass not only the familiar book statements, but the vast array of periodicals, articles, and manuscript counsels bearing thereon."
It will be noted that the author does not minimize the task that faced him - and it was a great task. It is to he regretted that he should take the opportunity to inform us that the leaders had not felt the need of this work, did not have the time for it, and did not even have any burden for it.
It was in this research that they discovered that Mrs. White did not contradict or change what she said in the beginning of tier work. The author puts it in his peculiar phraseology that, "Mrs. White's later statements do not contradict or change her earlier expressions." He had evidently hoped that she had changed her position on the atonement, which position he had criticized and attempted to explain by saying that she never, not even in a single case, had contributed anything initially to doctrine or prophetic interpretation. It is clear that if she intended to change her position, she had abundant opportunity to do so in the sixty or more years she lived after making her position clear on the atonement. But she did not contradict or change what she had once written. This is the testimony of the very one who had challenged her early position, and who now is compelled to testify that she did not change. It is a poetic justice that the author of the Ministry article should be the one to testify after he had examined all the material that there is no evidence that she ever changed her mind or contradicted what she had written earlier.
This created another dilemma for our author. He must now let stand all she had ever written, and could not argue that she had authorized any change whatsoever. What then could he do or did he do? A most unique solution he had: he calmly asserted that Sister White did not mean what she said; Note again his peculiar use of the English language, not a direct statement but a passive approach: he says, ".. a distinct clarification of terms and of meaning emerges that is destined to have far-reaching consequences." Her later statements "invest those earlier terms with a larger, truer meaning inherently there all the time." And so he explains when she says that Christ is making atonement (he is omitting the word now), she is "obviously meaning applying the completed atonement to the individual." Emphasis his.
This is in complete harmony with the statement in Questions on Doctrine where the author boldly asserts that if any one "hears an Adventist say, or reads in Adventist literature - even in the writings of Ellen White - that Christ is making atonement now,' it should be understood that we mean simply that Christ is making application of the benefits of the sacrificial atonement He made on the cross."
This is news indeed. I have written several books, one of them on the Sanctuary service and hence these may come under what he calls "Adventist literature." And now some unauthorized individual proclaims to the world that when I say that Christ is making atonement now, I do not mean it. I mean that He is making application, but not atonement which was made 1800 years ago. However, it is only a minor matter that he presumes to act as my interpreter and tell what I mean by what I say. But when he undertakes to tell the world that when Sister White says Christ is making atonement she means simply that He is making application, that is serious. God's reproof to Job when he was talking too much may apply here: "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?" Job 38:1. It is not often that God is sarcastic. But here He is. Read verse 21.' Job deserved it.
And so when I read, ". . . even in the writings of Ellen G. White," that Christ is making atonement, I am not to believe it. He made the atonement 1800 years ago, not now; and even if she affirms that Christ is making atonement now, that "today He is making atonement," that "We are in the great day of atonement, and the sacred work of Christ for the people of God that is going on at the present time (1882 in the heavenly sanctuary should be our constant. study," I am still to apply to the interpreter to find out what she means. (See Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 520)
Such is playing with words, it is playing with fire, and makes any interpretation possible. If the author is right, I am permitted to take any word of an author and say that he means something else than what he says. Such makes inter-communication impossible, and the world a Babel. What would agreements amount to, or contracts, or words of mouth, if I am permitted to put my own interpretation on what another man says? The Bible says that the seventh day is the Sabbath. That seems plain enough. But the author's theory would permit me to hold that the Bible means no such thing. Absurd, you say. And I say Amen. When the Bible says seven, it does not mean one. With the author's philosophy, however, words become meaningless. "Let your nay be nay, and your yea, yea," James says. That is, mean what you say. To make the plain statement that "Christ is making atonement now" means that He is making application now is indefensible on grammatical, philological, theological, or common-sense ground. And to go farther and upon such false interpretation, build a new theology to be enforced by sanctions, is simply out of this world. Undue assumption of authority coupled with overconfidence in the virtue of bestowed honors have borne fruit. And the fruit is not good.
The present attempt to lessen and destroy confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy and establish a new theology, may deceive some, even many, but the foundations upon which we have built these many years, still stands, and God still lives. This warning should not go unheeded. "If you lessen the confidence of God's people in the testimonies He has sent them, you are rebelling against God as certainly as were Korah, Dathan, and Abiram." Testimonies to the Church, vol. 5, p. 66.
In an incomplete research which I conducted years ago I found what the author found, and more. Among other things, I found in a small pamphlet entitled, "A Word to the Little Flock." published by James White in Brunswick, Maine, May 30, 1847, a statement by Sister White on the sanctuary that immediately drew my attention. It is dated April 21, 1847, and written from Topsham, Maine. On page 12, I found these words, which I suppose our Ministry author also found. Says Sr. White:
"I believe the sanctuary, to be cleansed at the end of the 2300 days, is the New Jerusalem Temple, of which Christ is a minister. The Lord shew (showed) me in vision, more than a year ago, that Brother Crosier had the true light on the cleansing of the sanctuary, etc., and that it was His will, that Brother C (Crosier) should write out the view which he gave us in the Daystar, Extra, February 7, 1846. I feel fully authorized by the Lord, to recommend that Extra to every saint. I pray that these lines may prove a blessing to you, and to all the dear children who may read them. Signed, E. G, White."
I lost no time to get a copy of that Extra and read it. As I write this I have before me a photostatic copy of the Day-Star Extra for February 7, 1846, and on pages 40 and 41 of that issue I read Brother Crosier's article. After having discussed certain theories in which he does not believe, Brother Crosier observes:
"But again, they say the atonement was made and finished on Calvary when the Lamb of God expired. So men have taught us, and so the churches and the world believe; but it is none the more true or sacred on that account, if unsupported by Divine authority. Perhaps few or none who hold that opinion have ever tested the foundation on which it rests.
"1. If the atonement was made on Calvary, by whom was it made? The making of the atonement is the work of a priest; but who officiated on Calvary? Roman soldiers and wicked Jews.
"2. The slaying was not making the atonement; the sinner slew the victim. Lev. 4;1-4, 13-15, etc., after that the priest took the blood and made the atonement. Lev. 4:5-12, 16-21.
"3. Christ was the appointed High Priest to make the atonement, and certainly could not have acted in that capacity till after His resurrection, and we have no record of His doing anything on earth after His resurrection which could be called the atonement.
"4. The atonement was made in the sanctuary, but Calvary was not such a place.
"5. He could not, according to Heb. 8:4 make the atonement while on earth.. 'If He were on earth, He could not be a priest.' The Levitical was the earthly priesthood; the Divine, the heavenly.
"6. Therefore, He did not begin the work of making the atonement, whatever the nature of that work may be, till after His ascension, when by His own blood He entered the heavenly sanctuary for us."
This, then is` the "true light," which the Lord showed Sister White in vision, had His approval, and which she felt fully authorized to recommend to every saint. Only as we downgrade Sister White can we reject this testimony of hers. We are not ready to do this.
We now face this situation: Did our Ministry author in his thorough search find this statement that Brother Crosier had "the true light?"
If he did not find it, he has little ground to feel pleased with his work. In either case, if I were a teacher and had sent him to do this research work and he presented the collection in Questions on Doctrine as his report, I would have to give him a straight F, which in school language stands for Failure. It is either a case of poor research, or of omission, which latter, under the circumstances, is most serious.