“The Humanity of the Son of God Is Everything to Us”
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? (Hebrews 2:1-3, emphasis supplied)2
When searching for truth in the Word of God, the “great controversy theme,” the original “war in heaven,” the struggle between good the evil, the polemic between Christ and Satan (Revelation 12:7-9), must be the foundation and guide to our reasoning. This theme presents our implication in this conflict and our freedom to choose on whose side we want to be. Thus, we are confronted with two counter and opposite ideologies: God’s truth and the Devil’s lies.3 For example, the insinuations and arguments that the Devil used to convince a “third” (Revelation 12:4) of the angels that he was correct in accusing God of being arbitrary, and that the principles of His sovereign government were self-centred and wrong, must have been very convincing. But, as successful as his reasoning may have been, it was skewed, misrepresentative, wrong, and riddled with lies (John 8:44).
An irreconcilable division between two vastly different and opposite claims and ideologies still remains in the great controversy theme. It would be inconceivable, therefore, to claim that we need the Devil’s interpretation of events as to why he was expelled from heaven to arrive at a ‘balanced view’ of the truth or the ‘complete picture.’ Thus, it would be ludicrous, to try to combine the claims of the Devil with the claims of God and profess to have achieved a ‘reasonable view;’ proposing a reconciliation between the two camps, seeking to bring ‘unity’ from the ‘diversity’ of two contradictory and opposing claims and ideologies in some sort of amalgamated, new, middle-of-the-road, ‘unprejudiced’ conciliatory, but compromised and attempted solution!
To argue that opposing claims are merely different poles of the same truth does not fit the great controversy theme presented in the Bible. This reasoning is fallacious and must be discarded. So it is when we seek to discover the truth about sin and salvation or any other subject. We have what God says and what the Devil says, and we must faithfully adhere to what God has revealed. If approached humbly, He will reward us, aided by His Holy Spirit,4 with the ability to clearly distinguish between the two, even though the philosophical and contrary arguments may seem very compelling and reasonable.
Ultimately, and contrary to Greek philosophy and the prevailing opinion of the day, truth is absolute,5 belongs to God, and cannot be mixed with the half-truths and lies of the Devil. In our search for the truth about anything, we must recognise three things. First, there is ultimately only one source of truth, Jesus Christ, The Word of God. Second, the claims of God and His Word have been, are, and will constantly be under attack, and third, there will always seem to be a convincing counterfeit argument to the truth until the enemy of truth is finally destroyed (Revelation 20:10, 14).
THE SIN PROBLEM
Definitions of Sin
Sin is a broken relationship between man and God, a rupture of a face-to-face communion, and dependence upon the Lifegiver. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they chose to act against the plain directives of the Word of God and His law of love. As a result, sin and death entered and blighted the human experience (Genesis 3).6 Consequently, sin has fundamentally two components: 1) the weakening effect of Adam’s transgression, passed down to us through the law of heredity7 in a fallen, sinful, sin-prone human nature, of which none are guilty,8 and 2) our own sinful acts, for which we are responsible and liable. Scripture says that when we commit acts of sin, this is because we choose to respond to the pull and “lust of the flesh” of our own unregenerate, sin-polluted human heart (James 1:12-15, 27; Joshua 24:15; Psalm119:11).
The Bible clearly defines sinful acts and their consequence, if unrepented of: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4, emphasis supplied). “The wages of sin in death” (Romans 6:23). “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). We choose to sin. This occurs when we are deceived by a desire for short-lived (Hebrews 11:25), perverted, selfgratifying pleasure and disobey God’s law contained in His Word. Thus, we come under the influence and control of the Devil. Sinning feeds and strengthens the carnal nature and the lust of the fallen human sinful flesh. In and of ourselves we are powerless to overcome this vicious cycle unless we turn to Jesus Christ our sin substitute and example in the great controversy.
When we choose to break the law of God, it follows that we are guilty only of our own transgression. Therefore, the only thing we inherited from the fall of Adam, and as a consequence of his fall, is a weakened human nature, the fallen sinful flesh. However, in no way do we receive any guilt from, or deserve any punishment for, Adam’s sin. To believe this, would be contrary to the united testimony of Scripture and would necessitate accepting Roman Catholic, as well as the Protestant teaching of the dogma of “original sin.”9
Subsequently, we would be compelled to believe in and practice the error of infant baptism or christening. But newborn babies cannot be guilty of Adam’s sin. Neither can they be condemned for his transgression. Moreover, they cannot be guilty and damned for that which they have had no knowledge.
Take for example the people of Israel. Because of their own sin, murmuring, disbelief, and rebellion, they were forbidden entry into the Promised Land. However, their innocent children were allowed entry because they were not able to decide, neither participate in their parents’ sin. “Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it” (Deuteronomy 1:39, emphasis supplied).10 Ellen G. White affirmed this in the following statement: “As the little infants come forth immortal from their dusty beds, they immediately wing their way to their mothers’ arms. They meet again nevermore to part. But many of the little ones have no mother there. We listen in vain for the rapturous song of triumph from the mother. The angels receive the motherless infants and conduct them to the tree of life.11
The Word of God nowhere mentions, neither does it teach “original sin.” It never teaches that anyone is guilty and deserves condemnation or death because of the sins or crimes committed by someone else (Ezekiel 18:2-4, 20; Jeremiah 31:29, 30; Romans 2:5, 6; 6:23; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 6:7, 8; Revelation 20:12, 13; 21:8). This would be a monstrous and unjust portrayal of God and constitutes a position that not even the courts of earth would rightly uphold.
The teaching of “original sin,” stemmed from Greek paganism,12 and was further channelled by the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, Augustine (AD 354-430)—himself greatly influenced by Greek philosophy—into the Roman Catholic Church and held by the majority of Protestants since the Augsburg Confession in AD 1530. Today, the dogma relies primarily on bad exegesis of Psalm 51:5 and inconsistent interpretation of Romans 5:12, 18, 19 (with the rest of the book of Romans) and with the complete witness of Scripture. Christians must follow divine revelation over and above the prevailing and pervasive Roman Catholic Church tradition and Greek philosophy.
Knowingly or not, it is the false belief in “original sin,” and the presuppositions that derive from it, that logically require that Christ assume the human nature of man before the fall,13 to ostensibly free Him from the presumed guilt of “original sin.” The next logical step, of course, is accepting the false belief of the immaculate conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus, so that He could receive a sinless human nature. If we accept this, then we must go further and accept that the Roman Catholics are correct in venerating Mary as the “mother of God,” and even “co-redemptrix.” But these are hardly positions that Bible believing Christians can substantiate. False belief about the nature of sin leads to false belief about the nature of salvation. False belief about the nature of salvation risks keeping people lost.
The dogma of “original sin” is anti-Christian,14 in that it goes against, and seeks to stand in the place of, the true teachings the Bible regarding the human nature of Christ. So, inevitably we must concede that whatever conclusion is reached regarding the effect of the fall of Adam (and the nature of the sin transmitted in that fall), will also logically determine our conclusions on the human nature of Jesus Christ.15
GOD’S WORD SAYS CHRIST TOOK THE FALLEN HUMAN NATURE OF MAN
In the fullness of time: “The SON of man16 is come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11). “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1), “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14), was “made of a woman” (Galatians 4:4). He was “of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3), “but he took on him the seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16). He also “took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men . . . in fashion as a man” (Philippians 2:7, 8), “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3); thus, “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16).17 What kind of flesh? Taken simply and as it reads, the Word of God gives a clear, unequivocal answer:
Question: How “much” are the fallen children that Jesus came to save partakers of fallen human flesh and blood?
Jesus “also, himself, likewise, took part of the same” fallen, weakened, sin-affected, sin-infected, human nature, that by total dependence and reliance upon the Father, He could kill sin’s power by paying sin’s wages, death on the cross in the human body of His sin-weakened, fallen human nature.
He became one of us18 in that he took on, at His incarnation (or “en-flesh-ment”), the same weakened, fallen, human raw material—“sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3) that we have as a result of the fall.19 Sinless human nature before the fall could not die, but sinful human flesh after the fall could die. That’s the kind of human nature, “sinful flesh,” that the Bible teaches Jesus assumed at His incarnation and finally to His death on the cross.
This condescension toward us, and identification with His “converted brethren,” is so amazing, that Paul has to repeat it: “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels [that is, of an un-fallen being], but he took on him the seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16, emphasis supplied). When did Abraham live? After the fall!20 And in case we still did not get it, Paul soars to a crescendo of repetition, “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren” (Hebrew 2:17, emphasis supplied). How many times do we have to say that Jesus took on sin-affected humanity, sinful human flesh, as it was after the fall, to make that truth clear?
This text does not infer that Jesus committed acts of sin. If this were so, He would not have been able—by taking flesh and blood (from His human mother Mary)—to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). Furthermore, the reality that Jesus “suffered being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18) underlines the fact that He refused and resisted, by the power of God, to commit any sinful act. This being indisputably the case, we are assured later in the epistle to the Hebrews that “we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities [of the flesh]; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis supplied).
At His incarnation, Christ took on the fallen weakened nature of humanity, the “sinful flesh,” the same humanity of the men and women He came to save. That was the whole point of Him condescending to become a man. Biblically, it cannot be otherwise. It was this truth that prepared, and enabled Jesus Christ, “to save us unto the uttermost” (Hebrews 7:25), which means to save us completely from the power of our sinful flesh, and thus to cease from sin (2 Timothy 2:19).
Scripture says that, in our fallen human nature, if we daily surrender ourselves to the Lordship of Christ, we are converted Christians. We no longer are overcome by Satan through the weakness of our fallen human nature, but under the power of the Spirit through faith in Christ. We have been changed “from darkness to light,” we have been converted, changed from being under the power of Satan to the power of God (Acts 26:18). “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, emphasis supplied).
This is the extent of God’s plan of salvation, which is how far and how low He was prepared to go in order to save us from the power of our fallen sinful nature. This is achieved because Jesus took on the same “sinful flesh” of the fallen human nature to which we are subjected and defeated the power of sin in that same fallen, human, sinful flesh. As Jesus relied on and received God’s strength to do all that He did,21 so we, can in complete surrender to Christ, experience victory and Salvation from sin:
We are to be transformed and transferred from the power of Satan (exercised through the flesh of our fallen human nature) to the power of Christ, in the spirit of the mind of the new man created in Christ. This is the true effect upon believers and the real nature of “so great salvation,” from God on those, “his brethren,” unto whom Jesus was not afraid to be made like.
CONTEMPORARY THEOLOGIANS: FALLEN HUMAN NATURE OF CHRIST
All Christians acknowledge the concept that the Son of Man took on human nature, which is why He was called the son of MAN, as well as the Son of GOD. But the vital question is, what kind of human nature did Christ adopt at His incarnation? Did he adopt the pure, perfect sinless human nature God created before the fall (pre-lapsarian)? Or did Jesus assume the human nature of the humanity He was incarnated to save—the nature of man affected, weakened, and degraded by the fall (post-lapsarian)?
It may be surprising to many that the most eminent Protestant theologians of the second half of the twentieth century, such as Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Rudolf Bultmann, Oscar Cullmann, J. A. T. Robinson, etc., have openly declared Christ’s human nature to be that of man after the fall.23
Karl Barth, for example, after affirming that Jesus Christ is“truly God,” skilfully articulated the extent to which Christ’s human nature is like ours, affected by the fall of Adam:
He [Jesus] was not a sinful man. But inwardly and outwardly His situation was that of a sinful man. He did not commit the sin of Adam. But He lived the human life in the very condition to which it had been limited by the sin of Adam. Remaining guiltless, He took on the consequences of the guilt of Adam and the consequences of the guilt of us all. Freely He entered into solidarity and necessary association with our fallen and lost existence. This was the cost to be paid so there “could” be Divine revelation and reconciliation for us all.24
It is of critical importance to note that Barth arrived at and based such declarations on the Bible, the letters of Paul, especially the book of Hebrews. He used what God has revealed, to formulate his understanding, definition, and description of the human nature that Christ adopted at His incarnation. Having thus satisfactorily supported his conclusions, Barth added:
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF CONSISTENT ADVENTIST WITNESS
In his book, Touched With Our Feelings: A Historical Survey of Adventist Thought on the Human Nature of Christ (translated from the original title in French), the late Jean R. Zurcher, French-speaking Swiss scholar and church administrator, provided a unique and exhaustive record, from 1844 to 1994, a century and a half of official Adventist church documents and position statements on the human nature of Christ. During 100 years, 1852-1952, Adventists taught the postfall human nature of Jesus Christ as the undisputed official Adventist position.
Zurcher then revealed how the change took place, and the utter chaos and theological confusion that have crept into the SDA Church from 1952 to the present day through the changed, anti-biblical and essentially Roman Catholic teaching.26 Today, a majority of Protestants, and increasingly (for the most part, unwittingly) in the SDA Church today, have accepted that Christ took the human nature of Adam before the fall.
Consistent with the official Adventist position, the “holy flesh movement,” established between 1898 and 1899 in Adventist churches in the Indiana Conference and founded by Pastor/Evangelist S. S. Davis (and favoured by the entire Indiana Conference Committee), was rightly condemned by the General Conference leaders and Ellen G. White, as it wrongly “asserted that Christ had taken Adam’s pre-fall nature and that He therefore possessed ‘holy flesh.’”27
SPIRIT OF PROPHECY: THE CHRISTOLOGY OF ELLEN G. WHITE
The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. This is the Golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. This is to be our study. Christ was a real man; He gave proof of His humility in becoming a man. Yet He was God in the flesh. When we approach this subject, we would do well to heed the words spoken by Christ to Moses at the burning bush, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”
We should come to this study with the humility of a learner, with a contrite heart. And the study of the incarnation of Christ is a fruitful field, which will repay the searcher who digs deep for hidden truth.28
In Christ were united the human and the divine. His mission was to reconcile God to man, to unite the finite with the infinite. This was the only way in which fallen men could be partakers of the divine nature. Taking human nature fitted Christ to understand man’s trials and sorrows, and all the temptations wherewith he is beset. Angels who were unacquainted with sin could not sympathize with man in his particular trials. Christ condescended to take man’s nature and was tempted on all points like as we, that He might know how to succor all who should be tempted.29
The great work of redemption could be carried out only by the redeemer taking the place of fallen Adam. With the sins of the world laid upon Him, He would go over the ground where Adam stumbled. He would bear the test which Adam failed to endure, and which would be almost infinitely more severe than that brought to bear upon Adam. He would overcome on man’s account, and conquer the tempter, that through His obedience, His purity of character and steadfast integrity, His righteousness might be imputed to man, that through His name man might overcome the foe on his own account.
What love! What amazing condescension! The King of glory proposed to humble Himself to fallen humanity!
He would place His feet in Adam’s steps. He would take man’s fallen nature and engage to cope with the strong foe who triumphed over Adam. He would overcome Satan, and in thus doing He would open the way for the redemption of those who would believe on Him from the disgrace of Adam’s failure and fall. (1874), Review & Herald, Feb. 24, emphasis supplied. The point of these statements, referring to Christ’s humility in assuming fallen humanity30 is consistent with Scripture:
1. To clearly emphasize that in His saving work for mankind, Jesus needed to reach man in his fallen status, so that He could be both our substitute and example, thus showing man the way to gain victory over sin.
2. To clearly emphasize that as a man, Jesus had no advantage over us—the same divine power to overcome sin that was available to Him is also available to us because it has the same source—that of His and our loving heavenly Father. He proved this, by taking our same fallen, sinful flesh.
Ellen G. White remained consistent with Scripture by maintaining that even as a human baby and child, Jesus still had no advantage over us:
Even the babe in its mother’s arms may dwell as under the shadow of the Almighty, through the faith of the praying mother. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth. If we live in communion with God, we too may expect the divine Spirit to mold our little ones, even from their earliest moments.31
Jesus was placed where His character would be tested. It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard in order to preserve His purity. He was subject to all the conflicts which we have to meet, that He might be an example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood.32
In studying E. G. White statements on any topic, it is important to realise that “depending on the circumstances and the specific point under consideration, the same concepts are sometimes presented so differently that they sometimes may appear contradictory.” So, as in basic sound exegesis, context is vital, and we must “avoid the temptation to rely on isolated statements.”33
Misuse of the unpublished personal “Baker Letter” (written in 1895 and discovered in 1955) to ensure that he not give the impression that Christ partook in sin itself, is a case in point. This letter is frequently quoted with the following valuable statement omitted:34 “The exact time when humanity blended with divinity, it is not necessary for us to know. We are to keep our feet on the Rock, Christ Jesus, as God revealed in humanity.”35
It should be remembered and is well stated by David Qualls: “That a few paragraphs from the unpublished, handwritten letter to an individual, of whom little is known regarding his teachings in this area, when stacked up against her voluminous, undeniably clear statements in well-publicized works such as The Desire of Ages [her complete and published explanation of Christ and His life], provide little reason to change the course of history in the Adventist teaching on this subject. Nevertheless, that is what happened.”36
SHIFT IN ADVENTIST TEACHING
Preparing the Way
To shift the Seventh-day Adventist Church from its consistently held official position from 1852 to 1952 on the fallen human nature of Christ represented a formidable task. Herbert Douglass, eye witness37 to the events and experienced theologian calls it, the colliding of “two Tectonic Plates,” and, an attempt to merge two theologies (Calvinism and the Adventist form of Arminianism) that had a “Grand Canyon between” them.38 The impossible was being attempted.
In 1957, the events that led to open propagation of the Questions on Doctrine (QOD), the counter-Adventist interpretation on Christ’s human nature, are clearly stated but not so widely known in Adventism today. They had remained somewhat secluded in a few historic, yet revealing Adventist books of 1957 and 1970.39
One of the strongest and most active proponents of this “theological earthquake,” of the new anti-Adventist interpretation, proposing the pre-fall human nature of Christ, was LeRoy Edwin Froom.40 Froom has recorded these leading events in some detail.41 Indeed, he admits these initial movements “led the way in corrective undertaking,”42 in an attempt lift from us the handicap43 “of certain early published and unrepudiated statements concerning the Eternal Verities.”44 Froom was referring to statements in Adventist literature such as Bible Readings for the Home, which taught the official Adventist position on the fallen human nature of Christ. This position, Froom refers to as a “misconception,”45 a “last standing vestige of Arianism,”46 something “regrettable” and that needed “expunging.”47 As if the truth, which was gained at high cost and held so long, should now be squashed under foot as if it were some loathsome insect!
In January 1955, in an editorial note in Our Hope, Dr. E. Schuyler English stated that Seventh-day Adventists are a church that “disparages the work and person of Christ.” The basis for this “misconception,” Froom stated, was that Dr. English understood Adventists to hold that Christ, during his incarnation, “‘partook of our sinful fallen nature.’ In this expression he was clearly alluding to the then oft-cited note in the old edition of Bible Readings.”48
This supposedly “infamous” note quoted in Bible Readings for the Home Circle, I can read from my own, 1915 Stanborough Press, Limited, Watford, Hertfordshire, (England) edition. Under the heading, “A Sinless Life,” on pages 173, and 174.49 The first four questions establish that Christ committed no sin though He was tempted just as we are as indicated in the following questions and answers:
5. In His humanity, of what nature did Christ partake?
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil.” Heb. 2:14.
6. How fully did Christ share our common humanity?
“Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” Verse 17. [Now, here comes the note!]
NOTE. – In His humanity Christ partook of our sinful, fallen nature. If not, then He was not “made like unto His brethren,” and was not “in all points tempted like as we are,” did not overcome as we have to overcome, and is not, therefore, the complete and perfect Saviour man needs and must have to be saved. The idea that Christ was born of an immaculate or sinless mother, inherited no tendencies to sin, and for this reason did not sin, removes from Him the realm of a fallen world, and from the very place where help is needed. On his human side, Christ inherited just what every child of Adam inherits,—a sinful nature. On the divine side, from His very conception He was begotten and born of the Spirit. And all this was done to place mankind on vantage-ground, and to demonstrate that in the same way everyone who is “born of the Spirit” may gain like victories over sin in his own sinful flesh. Thus each one is to overcome as Christ overcame. Rev. 3:21.Without this birth there can be no victory over temptation, and no salvation from sin. John 3:3-7.
7. Where did God, in Christ, condemn sin, and gain the victory for us over temptation and sin?
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Rom. 8:3.
NOTE.—God, in Christ, condemned sin, not by pronouncing against it merely as a judge sitting on the judgement-seat, but by coming and living in the flesh, in sinful flesh, and yet without sinning. In Christ, He demonstrated that it is possible, by His grace and power, to resist temptation, overcome sin, and live a sinless life in sinful flesh.50
The official Adventist position on the human nature of Christ, presented above, and in other Adventist literature, does not rely on “regrettable statements still lingering in a few of our books”51 as Froom and others would have us believe. But it was, and is based, as has always been the case, upon solid biblical evidence and sound Christian doctrine. Nevertheless, this beautiful section of Bible Readings came under the knife to remove “Christ partook of our sinful, fallen nature,” and even the key Bible reference of the “sinful flesh” in Romans 8:3.52
Questions on Doctrine
In 1957, the book Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine was printed. This book, “easily qualifies as the most divisive book in Seventh-day Adventist history. A book published largely to help bring peace between Adventism and conservative Protestantism, its release brought prolonged alienation and separation to the Adventist factions that grew up around it.”53
The events that led to the “whole QOD dance”54 were intriguing to say the least. In 1949, Toby E. Unruh, president of the East Pennsylvania Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, listened to a radio broadcast by Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, and was so impressed by his presentation of “Righteousness by Faith”, that Unruh wrote Barnhouse a letter telling him so (November 28, 1949). Dr. Barnhouse was surprised that Unruh, a Seventh-day Adventist, should find his presentation such a blessing, as Barnhouse knew the Adventist understanding of righteousness by faith to be different from his Calvinistic evangelical perception.55 So Barnhouse offered to meet Unruh for lunch. As a basis for their discussion, Unruh sent Barnhouse a copy of Steps to Christ. After reading the book, Barnhouse wrote in an Eternity article: with respect to Righteousness by Faith, this book is “false in all its parts,” bearing the “mark of a counterfeit” it promoted “universalism…half truths and Satanic error…”56 With that, Unruh decided not to respond.
Enter,Walter Martin, evangelical specialist in non-Christian cults. He was putting the final touches on his book, The Rise of the Cults, in which he categorised Seventh-day Adventists as one of the “Big Five”: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Mormons, Un[versalism]ity, and Seventh-day Adventists.57 But as he felt he needed more research on the Seventh-day Adventists, he asked Unruh for a meeting with Froom and top Adventist leaders in Washington, D.C. The rest is history.58
A few pertinent facts need to be highlighted at this juncture. In the early stages, Froom conducted a poll of where Adventist leaders stood on the human nature of Christ; “nearly all of them”59 agreed with the biblical and Spirit of Prophecy teaching that Jesus took on fallen, sinful flesh at the incarnation, but Froom ignored the poll and pressed ahead.
The “Representative Group of Seventh-day Adventist Leaders and Bible Teachers and Editors,”60 by which QOD was claimed to be prepared, comprised, “the QOD trio”: L. E. Froom, W. E. Reed, R. A. Anderson. Though respected and capable men, they were not trained theologians, and M. L. Andreasen was excluded. Although retired, he was one of Adventism’s leading systematic theologians and experts on the book of Hebrews and biblical atonement.
The four points of doctrinal contention that the Evangelicals had with Adventists were:
1) that the atonement of Christ is not completed at the Cross; 2) that salvation is the result of grace and works of the law; 3) that the Lord Jesus Christ was a created being, and not from all eternity; and
4) that Jesus partook of man’s sinful fallen nature at the Incarnation.61
Basically, the Evangelicals were saying that if any denomination believed any of the above points, they would be classified as a cult. It has to be said that QOD had a lot of Adventist truth in it, and consequently, the second and third points were adequately rebuffed. QOD, however, woefully compromised and watered down the first point, as it related to Christ’s high priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary and “final atonement.” The fourth point was contradicted.
When Barnhouse and Martin discussed with the QOD Trio “the problem of the Incarnation”62 over the 18 conferences between 1955 and 1956, Martin attested they were assured that “The majority of the denomination [SDA], has always held (the nature of Christ while in the flesh) to be sinless, holy, and perfect, despite the fact that certain of their writers have occasionally gotten into print with contrary views completely repugnant to the church at large.”63 Compounding the blatant, complete inaccuracy and slander of the above claim was the equally libellous assertion “declared”64 by the Adventists that “they had among their members a certain number of the ‘lunatic fringe,’ even as there are similar wild-eyed irresponsibles in every field of fundamental Christianity.”65
In seeking to constrain (in one swoop) the meaning of hundreds of Ellen G. White statements on the human nature of Jesus, R. A. Anderson declared, “In only three or four places in all these inspired counsels have we found such expressions as ‘fallen nature’ and ‘sinful nature.’”66 But he seems to ignore the fact there are copious statements, which clearly convey the meaning he denies, in just one book, The Desire of Ages!67 Even in the limitations of this article, we have demonstrated Anderson’s glaring claim to be incorrect.
Apparently, QOD did not significantly improve Barnhouse’s perception of Seventh-day Adventists. He is reported to have said:
There has been consistent, constant resistance—consternation, warnings, and solid opposition—levelled at the compromises on the atonement, the remnant, and the human nature of Christ in QOD. These have been voiced by, Francis Nichol,69 M. L. Andreasen (cf. his Letters to the Churches), the inimitable Raymond Cottrell,70 Kenneth Wood, and Herbert Douglass, just to name a few. The brief was ignored and was not presented to the delegates.
As laudable as seeking to draw leaders in other denominations to accept Seventh-day Adventists as “mainline” Christians (in their estimation) might seem, the process and goal of “Changing the Impaired Image of Adventism”71 that led to compromise and the watering down of biblical truth, was an exercise in theology travesty and a repudiation of true and essential biblical Christology. This was a part played by some of the subject matter of Questions on Doctrine, which shifted Seventh-day Adventist belief on key doctrinal counts.72
An example of the extent of the reaction to QOD is clearly shown by the following “supporting brief” prepared by lawyers for a proposed resolution to be presented to delegates of the 1958 General Conference Session in Cleveland, Ohio:
2) It contains duplicity.
3) It is inadequate.
4) It contains error.
5) It is Satan’s masterpiece of strategy to defeat the purpose of God for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.73
Being “accepted” by other denominations, to which we have been commissioned to proclaim the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, has never been a divine mandate of God’s remnant people so viciously under attack (Revelation 12:17). Preaching the extent of the love of God in present truth—that of “the everlasting gospel” (Revelation 14:6), warning that “Babylon…is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils” (Revelation 18:2, emphasis supplied) and proclaiming the voice of God calling, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4, emphasis supplied)74—however, is God’s mandate.
The “tectonic shift” in Adventism was openly admitted and boldly presented as “corrective.” But this was done through questionable means and methods. There was no sound biblical substantiation for the change, and it leaned upon the skewed presentation of Ellen White quotations, which were couched in some tendentious headings and absence of biblical references.75
It was driven chiefly by the reluctance to being called a cult, and the false sense of security and satisfaction that come from “being accepted.” Even if, all of this were a worthy pursuit, the aim was not achieved, as we have seen, and the consequences to God’s remnant church have been unimaginable. So the whole so-called “corrective undertaking”76 intended for QOD, and all that surrounded it, was useless, reprehensible, and itself, is worthy of repudiation, but it certainly is not worthy of republication after a so-called, 40-year hiatus.
Kenneth Wood, former editor of the Review and Herald and chair of the Ellen G. White Estate Board of Trustees demonstrated the depth of the implications in his perceptive comment:
It is my deep conviction that before the church can proclaim with power God’s last warning message to the world, it must be united on the truth about Christ’s human nature.77
The Bible says, God’s “so great salvation” and solution for the great predicament of sin is superior to the problem itself: the divine Son of God condescended to be born into the fallen human race, lived a sinless life in “sinful flesh,” and died an undeserving death on the cross to “condemn sin in the flesh” and set us free from the power of sin in
our mortal body.
The Bible teaches that we inherited the effect, and not the guilt of, Adam’s sin. Adam transmitted “sinful flesh” to us, a weakened, fallen, human nature, with an inclination to sin. In this we had no choice, but sinning is our own choice. Rightly understanding these elements of sin will help us understand the nature of Christ’s humanity, which will then give us the biblical understanding of what salvation from sin really is and the workings of conversion. Therefore, the question: “Was Jesus only our substitute for sin, or was He also our example in victory over sin?” will be answered correctly.
To find the truth to these questions, we have fundamentally, two basic theological systems upon which to build. There is the Roman Catholic/Calvinistic/Evangelical grid, whose predominant claims are: the Augustinian sovereignty of God, we are all born sinners, need infant baptism, will continue sinning until the Lord returns, and never gain complete victory over our sins. Romans 7 describes a converted man; Jesus is only our substitute; salvation is not really our choice but God’s; Jesus was born with a sinless human nature like Adam’s before the fall; His human nature was not like ours; He had an advantage over us; Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to be immaculately conceived.
Therefore, the crucial descriptions of salvation, the “new birth,” being “born of the spirit,” being a “new creation,” “partaking of the divine nature,” having Christ “dwell” in us, “righteousness by faith,” being “holy” as our “father in heaven is holy,” are incapable of being rightly understood, and consequently, the danger lingers that we remain in our sins.
Then there is the Adventist form of Arminianism, which maintains that we were all born with a tendency toward sin; however, if we live completely surrendered and dependent on God as Christ was, we can experience salvation “from” our sins now. Romans 7 describes a legalist and, therefore, an unconverted man, “Christ in you, [is] the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Jesus is our substitute and our example of victorious living. Salvation depends on our choice; Jesus was born with a fallen human nature like Adam’s after the fall; His human nature was like ours; He had no advantages over us; Mary was not immaculately conceived.
Thus, crucial descriptions of conversion can be rightly understood, the whole Bible takes on a new depth of meaning. The study of the humanity of the Son of God is everything to us, and it will bring us the deep reward of understanding and experiencing the vital workings of salvation from sin.
The context of E. G. White’s personal letter to Pastor W. L. H. Baker needs to be understood and not used to displace her clear consistent statements that Christ assumed our human nature weakened by the fall, as presented in The Desire of Ages. Confusion in the debate over the human nature of Christ arises when we are captivated and confused by the sophistication of human philosophising, and do not keep to what the Scripture clearly teaches. The issue, is not the divinity of Christ, it is His humanity. Attempting to resolve the debate over Christ’s human nature cannot be done by amalgamation of the pre-fall and post-fall interpretations. It is a question of one or the other.
QOD was the ultimate Trojan horse that “officially” opened the floodgates of Catholic and Calvinistic theology into the divinely established Seventh-day Adventist belief system. This book effectively seeks to reverse a hundred years of official Adventist teaching on the fallen human nature of Christ and mute our witness on the investigative judgement, and the remnant. If ever there were a “neutering of Adventism,” this is it! And all this was intended to “help bring peace between Adventism and conservative Protestantism”? But the price is too high, God’s Truth cannot be contradicted or altered without impunity (Revelation 22:18, 19)!
As Adventists today, we desperately need to know the truth about this part of our church history and the changes made to distinctly Adventist teaching that have crept in as a result (Jude 4). This will help us understand the internal disunity regarding our Christian standards, our remnant identity, our prophetic mission and message, the reasons for the delay of Christ’s second coming, and help us take a clear stand for true Adventism, with all of its interrelated teachings, and thus be ready for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s soon return.
Finally, QOD has been the catalyst for an ingeniously established, untenable, destructive, quick-spirited persecution of those who seek to keep “the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Those
Seventh-day Adventists of your church and my church, who in Christlike manner teach and follow the teachings of the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White (especially with regard to holy living, Christian perfection, and the heath message) too often have persecution levelled at them, in the form of ridicule, which is consistent with and akin to the “officially” accepted and established precedent of “lunatic fringe,” “wide-eyed irresponsibles” and a collection of similar disparaging terms. This abhorrent behaviour needs to be repented of and the justification for it repudiated. How the Devil has waged his war! (Revelation 12:17).
The stakes are extremely high as Zurcher pointed out:
- A favourite phrase of Ellen G. White, The Youth’s Instructor, Oct. 13, 1898, and: Selected Messages, Book 1 (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958), 244.
- All Scriptural references and quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the King James Version.
- To deceive the sons and daughters of God, the Devil has mastered the art of 1) challenging what God has said and insinuating doubt (Genesis 3:1, 4), and 2) deception that relies upon the use of truth mixed with error (Genesis 3:4, 5).
- He will, “abide with you for ever” (John 14:16); “he shall teach you all things” (John 14:26); and “the Spirit of truth . . . will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
- Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis supplied). Jesus also said, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37, emphasis supplied).
- Notice also, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).
- See for example: Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1898), 49, and, Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, Book 1 (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958), 267, 268.
- “Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression” (Romans 5:14).
- The Roman Catholic Church teaches we are born sinners, and that “original sin . . . is universal. Every child is therefore defiled at its birth with the taint of Adam’s disobedience. . . . Hence baptism, which washes away original sin, is as essential for the infant as for the full grown man, in order to attain the kingdom of heaven.” Cardinal James Gibbons, Faith of Our Fathers (Baltimore: John Murphy & Co., 1891), 311 (emphasis supplied), see also, 303-319. Likewise, “original sin,” has been believed by the majority of Protestants since the Augsburg Confession of Protestant Princes on June 25, AD 1530. It reads: “Article II Confesses Original Sin. Since the fall of Adam, all men descending from him in ordinary generation are born in sin, which places under condemnation and brings eternal death to all who are not born again by baptism [infant baptism] and the Holy Ghost.” (J. A. Wylie, The History of Protestantism, Part 1 (Mourne Missionary Trust, Church Road, Carginagh, Kilkeel, Co. Down. N. Ireland), 597 (emphasis supplied).
- God considered the guilty parents’ babies innocent, and so they were to go into the Promised Land, which is a figure of our promised future inheritance. Note, also, that Jesus in no way refers to babies and little ones as being guilty at birth, or at any time, for Adam’s transgression or anyone else’s (Matthew 18:2-4, 5, 10, 14; 19:14).
- Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, Book 2 (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958), 260 (emphasis supplied).
- “The popular view [of Greek philosophy] was that guilt was inherited, that is, that the children are punished for their fathers’ sins.” S. H. Butcher, Some Aspects of the Greek Genius, 123 (London, England: Macmillan, 1904 ). This “popular view,” though repudiated by Scripture, was brought into Catholicism by Augustine, who was greatly influenced by Greek pagan ideas. From Catholicism it was passed on to the majority of today’s Protestant denominations.
- The Augustinian notion has often been repeated, that if Jesus were born in fallen, sinful flesh, “then He himself would have needed a Saviour ” (R. A. Anderson, Ministry, September 1956, 13). But this presupposes guilt at the moment of birth, that is, “Original Sin, ” which is contrary to the clear and unified testimony of Scripture.
- II John 7; I John 4:3, 4.
- Norman Gully wrote that the two conflicting understandings of the human nature of Christ “spring from two different understandings of what constitutes sin” (Adventist Review, January 25, 1990).
- “Son of man” was Christ’s favourite title.
- All emphasis in this section was supplied by the author.
- “Us” here is meant in the biblical sense; those converted by the indwelling power of Jesus Christ.
- After the beloved disciple John wrote of the converted, “which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of [Greek: ek—“out of”] God,” that he then pronounces with a [kai –“and” explicative] “and the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:13, 14).
- Abraham is one of the “converted brethren”—“converted children” that “are partakers of flesh and blood,” of whom Jesus was not ashamed to be called a brother (Hebrews 2:11).
- Jesus said, “I can of Mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30); “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father who dwells in Me, He does the works” (John 14:10, emphasis supplied).
- Note: Scripture says Christ took, “sinful [human] flesh,” which we all have inherited from Adam after his fall. God’s Word does not say Jesus took, sinless [human] flesh, such as Adam had before the fall.
- J. R. Zurcher, Touched With Our Feelings: A Historical Survey of Adventist Thought on the Human Nature of Christ (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1999). Translated by Edward E. White, from the original French: Le Christ Manifesté en Chair: Cent cinquante années de Christology Adventist 1844 – 1994 [Christ Manifested in the Flesh: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Adventist Christology 1844 – 1994] (Haute-Savoie, France: Faculte Adventist de Theologie, Collonges-sous-Salève, 1994).
- Karl Barth, Dogmatics, vol. 1, part 2 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1956), 152, quoted in Zurcher, op. cit., French edition 12 (emphasis and translation supplied), English edition, 24.
- Ibid. (emphasis supplied).
- The Roman Catholic Encyclopedia states, “In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary ‘in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin’” (emphasis supplied). This false premise then, according to Roman Catholic dogma, logically attributes and holds Jesus to, a pre-fall human nature. See also, J.A.T. Robinson, The Body, a Study in Pauline Theology (London: SCM Press, LTD, 1952), 37, 38.
- Zurcher, op. cit., 107. See whole chapter, 107-115.
- Ellen G. White, “Search the Scriptures,” The Youth’s Instructor, October 13, 1898, (emphasis supplied).
- Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1869), 201 (emphasis supplied).
- See a selection of similar statements in, The Desire of Ages, 24, 49, 111, 112, 116, 117, 122, 123, 266, 311, 312, 641, and 763.
- Selected Messages, Book 1, 267, 268 (emphasis supplied).
- Desire of Ages, 71.
- Zurcher, op. cit., English edition, 54.
- For example, Questions on Doctrine, 1957, 62.
- For full quotation, see Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1128, 1129, emphasis supplied).
- David Qualls’ book review on J. R. Zurcher’s Touched With Our Feelings: A Historical Survey of Adventist Thought on the Human Nature of Christ, published on, GreatControversy.org, November 1, 2004, 10, 11.
- Herbert Douglass, member of the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Committee at the time, worked in the General Conference offices in Washington D.C., adjacent to where the QOD trio met.
- Hebert E. Douglass, A Fork in the Road: Questions on Doctrine/The Historic Adventist Divide of 1957 (Coldwater, MI: Remnant Publications, 2008), 15.
- Briefly, in the introduction of, Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1957), 7-10. LeRoy Edwin Froom, Movement of Destiny (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1970), 420-428; 465-475; and 476-492.
- General Conference Seventh-day Adventists ministerial director, 1941–1950; professor emeritus of historical theology, Andrews University; and author.
- Movement of Destiny, 465-475.
- Ibid., 468 (emphasis supplied).
- Froom, himself stated, “Previously we had been handicapped,” ibid., 467 (emphasis supplied).
- Ibid. (emphasis supplied).
- Ibid., 465, 469 (emphasis supplied).
- This claim by Froom is as inaccurate as it is shocking. Arianism denies the divinity of Christ, stemming from the belief that Jesus Christ was the first created being; this has never been widely held or ever been the official Adventist position!
- Ibid., 465 (emphasis supplied).
- Ibid., 469.
- The same pagination and exact text is in the 1949, Bible Readings for the Home, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington D. C. (USA version), copyrighted in London, England.
- All emphasis is original.
- Movement of Destiny, 467 (emphasis supplied).
- Touched With Our Feelings, 154, 155.
- Questions on Doctrine, Annotated Edition. Notes with Historical and Theological Introduction by George Knight (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2003), xiii.
- A Fork in the Road, 16.
- This letter, and that it should be sent to Barnhouse, was, Douglass recalls, a “mystery to many of us in Washington during the 1950’s…” Ministry, August 2004, 16.
- Donald Grey Barnhouse, “Spiritual Discernment, or How to Read Religious Books,” Eternity (June 1950), as quoted in, A Fork in the Road, 16.
- Walter R. Martin, The Rise of the Cults (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1955), 12, as quoted in, A Fork in the Road, 17.
- For further details and implications see: Chapter 10, “Adventism’s New Milestone,” Touched With Our Feelings, 153-166; A Fork in the Road, 17-21. Also, Norman McNulty’s lectures, “The History of Questions on Doctrine,” and “The Desmond Ford Apostasy,” available on www.audioverse.org. These sources are vital to anyone interested in knowing why there is a loss of identity and mission, along with theological disagreement at all levels within the Seventh-day Adventist Church today.
- Questions on Doctrine (Andrews University Press edition, 2003), xiii, as quoted by Herbert E. Douglass, in Ministry, August 2004, 16.
- QOD, 1957, front inside page.
- Ibid., xv.
- Touched With Our Feelings, French edition, 129, emphasis supplied. (The English edition translates, “le probleme,” incorrectly as, “the doctrine,” 156.)
- Donald Grey Barnhouse, “Are Seventh-day Adventists Christians?” Eternity (September 1956).
- Touched With Our Feelings, French edition, 129.
- Walter Martin, ibid. This glaring, inconceivable, unbelievable, unsubstantiated, untenable claim, demands to be laid in the dust! Note just a portion of the prominent men of Adventist leadership and ministry that comprise the so called, “lunatic fringe” and “wide-eyed irresponsibles”: Francis Nichol, W. H. Branson, Ray Cottrell, Don Neufeld, K. H. Wood, H. E. Douglass, (all living in Washington during the 1950’s), as well as a century of Adventist leadership, such as, James White, (see, Zurcher, op. cit., pp. 46, 48,) E. J. Waggoner, A. T. Jones, S. N. Haskell, W. W. Prescott, Uriah Smith, M.C. Wilcox, G. W. Reaser, G. B. Thompson, M. E. Kern, M. C. Snow, C. P. Bollman, Meade MacGuire, C. B. Haynes, I. H. Evans, L. A. Wilcox, William Wirth, E. F. Hackman, A. G. Daniells, Oscar Tait, Allen Walker, Merlin Neff, E. W. Howell, Gwynne Dalrymple, T. M. French, J. L. McElhany, C. Lester Bond, E. K. Slade, J. E. Fouton, D. H. Kress, Frederick Lee, L. H. Wood, A. V. Olson, Christian Edwardson, J. C. Stevens, F. M. Wilcox, A. W. Truman, F. G. Clifford, Varner Johns, Dallas Young, J. B. Conley, Fenton Edwin Froom, W. E. Read, J. A. McMillan, Benjamin Hoffman, L. H. Ruddy, M. L. Andreasen and E. G. White (from Herbert Douglass, op. cit., p. 19). The same phrase “lunatic fringe” has recently been used by professor Gary Bradley, while teaching biology at La Sierra University, to refer to SDAs who believe in the literal biblical six-day Creation account (see Jack Stripling, Creating Controversy, www.insidehighered.com, September 9, 2009). Are we to accept libel and slander as valid arguments against biblical truth and those who uphold it?
- R. A. Anderson, “Human, Not Carnal,” Ministry (September 1956), 13.
- See a selection of overlooked statements in, The Desire of Ages, 24, 49, 111, 112, 116, 117, 122, 123, 266, 311, 312, 641, and 763.
- Telephone conversation on May 16, 1958, between Al Hudson (Adventist printer and first elder) and Dr. Barnhouse, as quoted in, A Fork in the Road, 79.
- A Fork in the Road, 37.
- Ibid., 36.
- L.E. Froom, Movement of Destiny, 465-475.
- These have caused disunity and confusion in Adventist soteriology, and have seriously diminished Adventism’s divinely established system of doctrine, and it’s clear and unified understanding of its remnant identity, mission, and the proclamation of the angels’ messages in Revelation chapters 14 and 18.
- A Fork in the Road, 79.
- The whole of Revelation 18:2-4, needs to be read to appreciate the abhorrent characteristics of Babylon that God denounces and that He wants His people to leave.
- QOD, 1957, 647-660.
- Movement of Destiny, 468.
- Touched With Our Feelings, 19.
- Ellen G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald Publishing Association, 1953-1957), 929, (emphasis supplied).