XXXVII - 10 (04)
what of the night?”
"The hour has come,
the hour is striking and striking at you,
AN INTERPRETIVE HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE INCARNATION AS TAUGHT BY THE SDA CHURCH - I
With the republication of Questions on Doctrine as the second book in a proposed "Adventist Classic Library" series, the Church has been taken back some forty years in its history. One person in a telephone conversation reacted, "What do I care about what happened in the Church forty years ago?” Well did Ellen White counsel in her Life Sketches—"We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history" (p. 196). While we do not consider the SDA-Evangelical Conferences, which dominated our history forty years ago to be the leading of the Lord, the immediate fall-out caused study and research on the Incarnation by many, including this editor, such as had not been done for years. Α review of some of that study is in order. Beginning with this issue of WWN, we will "republish" chapter by chapter our first manuscript released in 1972 — An Interpretative History of the Doctrine of the Incarnation as Taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The recently published "Annotated Edition" admitted that the Adventist conferees lied to the Evangelicals in regard to the Adventist teaching on the Incarnation. The members of the Church today, which means almost all, need to know how greatly the Church leadership did lie.
We hope to correct all typographical errors of the original edition, as well as to include "annotations" as the historical data may require. We recognize that there was a similar research released some fifteen years later in 1986, as well as attempts since then, to find a compromise under the guise of "an alternate view." This view but reflected the teaching of the men who were leaders of the aberrant Holy Flesh Movement within Adventism.
AN INTERPRETIVE HISTORY OF THE
DOCTRINE OF THE INCARNATION AS TAUGHT
BY THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH - #1
As a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I had always taught and sincerely believed that Christ took upon Himself the fallen nature of man when He condescended to become the Son of man. However, since 1957, I have given intensive study to the doctrine of the Incarnation, both in the Scriptures and in the Writings, as well as other Church publications such as the Senior Sabbath School Lesson Quarterlies. In 1964, as a result of obtaining a copy of a term paper prepared for the Department of Church History at Andrews University, my interest was stimulated to begin a research in depth on the history of this doctrine in the Church. This manuscript is the result. It is not claimed to be exhaustive, especially in the final chapter that surveys the period of 1952 to the present. (If possible we will seek in this reprint and revision to enlarge the documentation of that period so as to make the historical record more complete.) The documentation presented in the original printing was, however, representative and authoritative for each period of our history as a church.
The chapter on the Holy Flesh Movement is a brief summary of the research which was begun when serving as a pastor-evangelist in the Indiana Conference from 1955-62. Continued investigation was made with the help of a senior student while I was head of the Bible Department at Madison College from 1962-64. All of this investigation was organized into a paper to meet the requirements of the course - Research in Theology - at Andrews University when doing graduate work in 1964-65. Further study has been made since then, which will be incorporated into the chapter on the Holy Flesh Movement of this revised manuscript.
In pursuing this study and writing, I had the constant encouragement and help of my wife, Dorothea, now deceased. We searched together to eliminate errors of typing and spelling. We sought to see that each quotation was correctly documented and accurately transcribed in context. We wanted the publication to be letter perfect. We did not succeed. Letters received from friends called our attention to a number of typographical errors. It is my intent this time to reach the goal.
I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the fulfilment of the precious promise which reads:
When you arise in the morning, do you feel your helplessness, and your need of strength from God? And do you humbly, heartily make known your wants to your Heavenly Father? If so, angels mark your prayers, and if these prayers have not gone forth out of feigned lips, when you are in danger of unconsciously doing wrong, and exerting an influence which will lead others to do wrong, your guardian angel will be by your side, prompting you to a better course, choosing your words for you, and influencing your actions (Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, pp. 363-364).
What applies to deeds and actions, applies equally to our thoughts and words, whether written or spoken. In the early morning hours, when much of the writing of the original manuscript was done, I was many times conscious of the presence of my unseen Guardian.
This research was published and is being republished because - "The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us" - and since it is, we need to understand the historic position of the Church, which emphasized the tremendous victory which Christ achieved in our nature, so that we may by faith overcome as He overcame.
The purpose of this manuscript is to present an interpretive history of the doctrine of the Incarnation as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The time span extends from the origins of the Church in the Great Second Advent Movement in the early decades of the 19th Century to the present.
In presenting the teachings of the Church as to the nature Christ assumed in becoming man, no attempt is being made to detract from the dignity of His pre-existence as 0ne with the Father from all eternity, nor in any way to disassociate Him from the oneness with the Father during His earthly sojourn. At Bethlehem, the Word who was in the beginning with God "came to be" (egeneto) flesh (John 1:1, 14). This same God who was manifest in the flesh was received up into glory, where at the throne of the Eternal, He continues to minister as the Son of man (I Timothy 3:16; 2:5; Heb. 9:24).
The sources which document the teachings of the Church are: 1) the writings of "the messenger of the Lord," Ellen G. White; 2) books and publications produced by the Church's publishing houses; and 3) articles appearing in the journals of the Church. One important source apart from the writings of Ellen G. White are the Senior Sabbath School Lesson Quarterlies dating from 1888-89. Inasmuch as the composition of the Sabbath School lessons represent the combined thinking of many leaders and scholars of the Church, and since these lessons received universal acceptance and use by the Church, the teachings contained in these quarterlies on any given subject would reflect the official position of the Church.
The one exception to the teaching on the Incarnation as found in the above guidelines was the introduction of a contrary teaching which the leaders of the Holy Flesh Movement in Indiana promoted from 1898 to 1901. While this Movement did receive the official endorsement of the local conference committee and administration, its work and teachings did not represent the viewpoint of the Church as a whole at that time. It is being introduced into this research because the teaching of the leaders of the Holy Flesh Movement on the doctrine of the Incarnation has been presented as an acceptable "alternate view" in the current Christological controversy within the community of Adventism.
In the use made of the Writings of Ellen G. White, the same hermeneutical (interpretive) principles are invoked as would be used in the study of the Scriptures on any given subject (See Selected Messages - I, p. 42). It is assumed that the inspired testimonies on the Incarnation are not contradictory as the Adventist conferees of the SDA-Evangelical Conferences concluded (see Annotated Edition, pp. 522).
The letter which appears to be at variance with the general tenor of the testimonies in the published sources prior to the death of Ellen G. White in 1915 will be discussed in an Appendix. Even as Adventist scholars do not begin with the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus to establish the doctrine of the non-immortality of the wicked, neither is it a valid approach to underwrite the doctrine of the Incarnation as taught in the Writings with a single isolated letter to an individual, counselling moderation not condemnation, of a statement when there is no record of what that individual said or wrote for comparison.
The editor does not claim a conviction-less objectivity in presenting this historical data. For this reason the title reads - An interpretive History of the Doctrine …
(To be continued in the December issue of WWN)