Crucial Question 23:  Would God allow a true prophet to be confused regarding the Trinity?




The early Adventists were not Trinitarians, and the most notable anti-Trinitarian leaders among them were James White, Joseph Bates, and Uriah Smith.  James White vehemently denounced what he called the “old Trinitarian absurdity that Jesus Christ is the very and eternal God,” while Smith wrote that, “The Scripture . . . represents Christ as a created being” (qtd. in Durand 156).  Where did the prophetess Ellen White stand on this issue?


“While some of the angels joined Satan in his rebellion, others reasoned with him to dissuade him from his purposes, contending for the honor and wisdom of God in giving authority to his Son. Satan urged, for what reason was Christ endowed with unlimited power and such high command above himself! He stood up proudly, and urged that he should be equal with God. He makes his boasts to his sympathizers that he will not submit to the authority of Christ.

“At length all the angels are summoned to appear before the Father, to have each case decided. Satan unblushingly makes known to all the heavenly family, his discontent, that Christ should be preferred before him, to be in such close conference with God, and he be uninformed as to the result of their frequent consultations. God informs Satan that this he can never know. That to his Son will he reveal his secret purposes, and that all the family of Heaven, Satan not excepted, were required to yield implicit obedience. Satan boldly speaks out his rebellion, and points to a large company who think God is unjust in not exalting him to be equal with God, and in not giving him command above Christ. He declares he cannot submit to be under Christ's command, that God's commands alone will he obey. Good angels weep to hear the words of Satan, and to see how he despises to follow the direction of Christ, their exalted and loving commander” (3SG 37-38).




The great Creator assembled the heavenly host, that he might in the presence of all the angels confer special honor upon his Son. The Son was seated on the throne with the Father, and the heavenly throng of holy angels was gathered around them. The Father then made known that it was ordained by himself that Christ, his Son, should be equal with himself; so that wherever was the presence of his Son, it was as his own presence. The word of the Son was to be obeyed as readily as the word of the Father. His Son he had invested with authority to command the heavenly host. Especially was his Son to work in union with himself in the anticipated creation of the earth and every living thing that should exist upon the earth. His Son would carry out his will and his purposes, but would do nothing of himself alone. The Father's will would be fulfilled in him.

Satan was envious and jealous of Jesus Christ. Yet when all the angels bowed to Jesus to acknowledge his supremacy and high authority and rightful rule, Satan bowed with them; but his heart was filled with envy and hatred. Christ had been taken into the special counsel of God in regard to his plans, while Satan was unacquainted with them. He did not understand, neither was he permitted to know, the purposes of God. But Christ was acknowledged sovereign of Heaven, his power and authority to be the same as that of God himself. Satan thought that he was himself a favorite in Heaven among the angels. He had been highly exalted; but this did not call forth from him gratitude and praise to his Creator. He aspired to the height of God himself. He gloried in his loftiness. He knew that he was honored by the angels. He had a special mission to execute. He had been near the great Creator, and the ceaseless beams of glorious light enshrouding the eternal God, had shone especially upon him. Satan thought how angels had obeyed his command with pleasurable alacrity. Were not his garments light and beautiful? Why should Christ thus be honored before himself?

“He left the immediate presence of the Father, dissatisfied, and filled with envy against Jesus Christ. Concealing his real purposes, he assembled the angelic host. He introduced his subject, which was himself. As one aggrieved, he related the preference God had given Jesus to the neglect of himself. He told them that henceforth all the sweet liberty the angels had enjoyed was at an end. For had not a ruler been appointed over them, to whom they from henceforth must yield servile honor? He stated to them that he had called them together to assure them that he no longer would submit to this invasion of his rights and theirs; that never would he again bow down to Christ; that he would take the honor upon himself which should have been conferred upon him, and would be the commander of all who would submit to follow him and obey his voice. There was contention among the angels. Satan and his sympathizers were striving to reform the government of God. They were discontented and unhappy because they could not look into his unsearchable wisdom and ascertain his purposes in exalting his Son Jesus, and endowing him with such unlimited power and command. They rebelled against the authority of the Son” (1SP 17-19).


“Evil entered in the heavenly courts through the angel who, next to Christ, occupied the most exalted position” (4MR 84).




“Pride in his own glory nourished the desire for supremacy. The high honors conferred upon Lucifer were not appreciated as the gift of God and called forth no gratitude to the Creator. He gloried in his brightness and exaltation, and aspired to be equal with God. He was beloved and reverenced by the heavenly host. Angels delighted to execute his commands, and he was clothed with wisdom and glory above them all. Yet the Son of God was the acknowledged Sovereign of heaven, one in power and authority with the Father. In all the councils of God, Christ was a participant, while Lucifer was not permitted thus to enter into the divine purposes. ‘Why,’ questioned this mighty angel, ‘should Christ have the supremacy? Why is He thus honored above Lucifer?’

“Leaving his place in the immediate presence of God, Lucifer went forth to diffuse the spirit of discontent among the angels. Working with mysterious secrecy, and for a time concealing his real purpose under an appearance of reverence for God, he endeavored to excite dissatisfaction concerning the laws that governed heavenly beings, intimating that they imposed an unnecessary restraint. Since their natures were holy, he urged that the angels should obey the dictates of their own will. He sought to create sympathy for himself by representing that God had dealt unjustly with him in bestowing supreme honor upon Christ. He claimed that in aspiring to greater power and honor he was not aiming at self-exaltation, but was seeking to secure liberty for all the inhabitants of heaven, that by this means they might attain to a higher state of existence” (GC 495).




In The Desire of Ages (1898), Ellen White declared, “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived” (530), and she adds that the Holy Spirit is “the Third Person of the Godhead” (671).  Ellen White’s adoption of Trinitarianism was so shocking to M.L. Andreason, a strong EGW supporter, that he traveled to her home in California, refusing to believe the new teaching until he saw that she had written it in her own handwriting (Thompson, Escape From the Flames, 78).


Is the 1898 affirmation of the divinity of Christ and the existence of the Trinity in accordance with her original writings?  According to Ellen White, the Father honored Christ by making Christ equal in authority with the Father, and she goes on to state that this was the basis for Satan’s rebellion against God.  Satan wanted the honor that had been given to Christ.  Did Lucifer and the other angels not know that Christ was God?  According to Ellen White, they were unaware of this basic fact.  Had they only known, maybe they wouldn’t have fallen . . . .


While it is good that Ellen White became a Trinitarian prior to the 1898 publication of The Desire of Ages, she had been a prophetess since winter 1844.  Thus, she taught error (or ambiguity, as some SDAs would argue) for more than fifty years.  In addition, one cannot readily dismiss her early writings on the subject because she was apparently recounting visionary experiences.  She apparently saw the Father confirm equal authority on His Son, and she apparently saw Lucifer confuse the angels regarding the appropriateness of the honor given to Christ.


Thought Questions:


  1. If Ellen White was a true prophetess, why would God allow her to teach error for over fifty years?
  2. Has a true prophet ever misrepresented previously established truth?
  3. Are Ellen White’s early visions valid in light of her later teachings (and the Bible)?
  4. Is it reasonable to believe that the heavenly beings were unaware that Jesus is God?
  5. Why isn’t the Holy Spirit mentioned in these accounts?
  6. Why does Ellen White call God the Father “the great Creator” when the Bible teaches that Christ is the creator of all things?
  7. Do God’s true prophets grow from error to truth in their prophetic utterances?
  8. Is Ellen White’s testimony regarding Christ true?


Bible Texts:


“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (II Pe. 2:1).

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4).

“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9).


  • Eugene F. Durand, Yours in the Blessed Hope, Uriah Smith, pp. 155-158
  • Woodrow Whidden, Jerry Moon, & John W. Reeve, The Trinity: Understanding God’s Love, His Plan of Salvation, and Christian Relationships, pp. 190-220
  • George R. Knight, A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs, pp. 110-117
  • Alden Thompson, Escape From the Flames, pp. 77-78
  • Joseph Bates, Autobiography of Joseph Bates, p. 205
  • The Great Controversy (1888), pp. 493-495
  • The Great Controversy p. 495
  • Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, pp. 17-19
  • Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, pp. 36-38
  • Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, p. 84


Continue on to Crucial Question #24:  Incomplete Atonement

Go back to Crucial Question #22:  Vision Denouncing Hospital