October 21, 2013


Early Seventh-day Adventist Christology was chiefly focused on Christ’s present heavenly sanctuary priesthood (Heb. 4:14-16) and His future second coming in the clouds of heaven (Rev. 1:7), and largely shaped by the anti-Trinitarian views of the pioneers.1 As time went by, significant Christological issues emerged in regard to (1) the eternity of Christ, (2) His human nature during the Incarnation, and (3) whether His divine nature died on the cross.

George R. Knight’s exhaustive research indicates that “from all existing records it appears that the topic of the human nature of Christ had an extremely small role at the Minneapolis meetings. . . . That does not mean that the topic never surfaced.”2 Whatever the case, Ellen White played a crucial role in correcting basic distortions related to issues of Christology.

Against the theory that Christ was “the first created being”3 and “proceeded forth” from God back “in the days of eternity,”4 White stated that “in Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived,”5 and that “from all eternity Christ was united with the Father.”6

Correcting the assumption that “Christ’s nature is precisely our nature,” without any “particle of difference between him and you,”7 White acknowledged that “Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin” and that He “took upon Him the infirmities of degenerate humanity . . . with the possibility of yielding to temptation.”8 But she also warned, “Be careful, exceedingly careful as to how you dwell upon the human nature of Christ. . . . He could have sinned; He could have fallen, but not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity.”9

In response to the idea that at the cross the divine nature of Christ also died,10 White declared, “When Christ was crucified, it was His human nature that died. Deity did not sink and die; that would have been impossible.”11

Two main reasons have prevented those issues from settling down in some Adventist circles. One has been the primitivistic temptation of confusing faithfulness to the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy with loyalty to the views of the pioneers, regardless of what they were. The second reason has been the selective approach of emphasizing one side of a given issue in detriment to the other side. The above-
quoted corrective statements by Ellen White can help us to develop a well-rounded Christology.

  1. See Jerry Moon, “The Adventist Trinity Debate,” two-part series in Andrews University Seminary Studies 41, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 113-129; 41, no. 2 (Autumn 2003): 275-292.
  2. George R. Knight, A User-friendly Guide to the 1888 Message (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1998), pp. 152, 153.
  3. Uriah Smith, Thoughts, Critical and Practical, on the Book of Revelation (Battle Creek, Mich.: Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Pub. Assn., 1865), p. 59.
  4. Ellet J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness (Oakland: Pacific Press Pub. Co., 1890), pp. 21, 22.
  5. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), p. 530.
  6. Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 1, p. 228.
  7.  Alonzo T. Jones, “The Third Angel’s Message—No. 13,” General Conference Bulletin, Feb. 19, 1895. See also [Ellet J. Waggoner], “God Manifest in the Flesh,” Signs of the Times, Jan. 21, 1889.
  8. E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 49, 117.
  9. Ellen G. White letter 8, Feb. 9, 1895, to “Dear Brother and Sister Baker,” published in The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, vol. 5, p. 1128.
  10. [Joseph H. Waggoner], “The Atonement—Part II. The Doctrine of a Trinity Degrades the Atonement,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Nov. 3, 1863; ibid., Nov. 10, 1863; idem, The Atonement: An Examination of a Remedial System, in the Light of Nature and Revelation [3rd ed.] (Oakland: Pacific Press Pub. Co., 1884), pp. 165, 166, 173, 174.
  11. Ellen G. White letter 280, Sept. 3, 1904, “To Ministers, Physicians, and Teachers,” published in The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, vol. 5, p. 1113.