April 7, 2020

What About the Trinity? -5

For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God . . .” (Isa. 9:6 RSV)

Previously, we saw a few of Ellen White’s distinctively Trinitarian statements that appeared in the 1888 era. Especially problematic for many was her statement in The Desire of Ages that “in Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived” (p. 530). 

The forcefulness of that sentence caught many off guard. One was a young preacher by the name of M.L. Andreasen. He was convinced that she really hadn’t written that statement, that her editors and assistants must have altered it. As a result, he asked to read her handwritten book manuscript. She gladly gave him access to her document files. Later he recalled that “I had with me a number of quotations that I wanted to see if they were in the original in her own handwriting. I remember how astonished we were when The Desire of Ages was first published, for it contained some things that we considered unbelievable, among others the doctrine of the Trinity, which was not then generally accepted by the Adventists.” 

Staying in California for several months, Andreasen had adequate time to check out his suspicions. He was especially “interested in the statement in The Desire of Ages which at one time caused great concern to the denomination theology: ‘In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived.’. . . That statement may not seem very revolutionary to you,” he told his audience in 1948, “but to us it was. We could hardly believe it. . . . I was sure Sister White had never written” the passage, “but now I found it in her own handwriting just as it had been published.” 

Some people still don’t believe it. The past 15 years has seen a revival of anti-Trinitarianism among some Adventists. Like Andreasen, they think the editors changed her thoughts. 

That certainly doesn’t say much of the knowledge of Ellen White. She knew what she believed and could hold her own in any disagreement with editors or even General Conference administrators, as we saw in 1888. Her assistants could modify her exact words by supplying synonyms, but not her thoughts. 

The recovery of the Trinity was one more step in God’s progressive leading of Adventism into a fuller understanding of Scripture. 


George R. Knight is a retired professor of Church History at the Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. This article is from his book, Lest We Forget, a daily devotional, published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association, page 292.