A research paper on the history of the trinity doctrine within the early Christian Church and within Seventh-day Adventism


Section twenty-five


John Harvey Kellogg and the trinity doctrine


We have seen in previous sections that regardless of the allegations that say to the contrary, throughout the entire time of Ellen White’s ministry (1844-1915) the Seventh-day Adventist Church has always upheld the full divinity of Jesus Christ, albeit this was from a non-trinitarian point of view. We have also noted that because it is necessary to go outside of the Scriptures to formulate a trinity doctrine (see section four), non-trinitarianism must be the end result of using Scripture only to describe Christ. To put this in another way, to form a trinity doctrine of any type, there must be included in it a certain amount of speculation. This speculation of course, because of its very nature, may or may not be true.


From harmony to disharmony


Up to the beginning of the 1900’s regarding the Godhead, there was no division amongst Seventh-day Adventists although it must be reasoned that as in any denomination there must have been those who believed differently than the main body of its members.  These would obviously have wished that others would believe the same as did they but this was not brought to the fore. In other words, those who believed differently than the main body of believers regarding the Godhead did not make it an issue. Within Seventh-day Adventism up to the early 1900’s, all was harmony with respect to the Godhead beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists.


It was then that this situation began to change. This was when ‘different’ beliefs did come to the fore and it did bring about a veritable crisis within Seventh-day Adventism. This was when there came from Ellen White a steady stream of statements stressing that the faith of Seventh-day Adventists (this was the same faith that they had held from their beginnings) should be upheld.


In other words, because in the early 1900’s there were those who were attempting to promulgate views regarding God and Christ that were out of harmony with the main body of the church, Ellen White, by defending what had been the faith of Seventh-day Adventists for the previous 50 years, met the challenge ‘head on’.


So what exactly happened for this messenger of the Lord to resort to doing such a thing? Certainly it was not something that she had previously deemed necessary to do.


In this section, we shall be seeking to unfold this ‘mystery’.


The date of this crisis is extremely important to note. It was the early 1900’s, meaning that it was following the publication of the book ‘The Desire of Ages’. This is the book that many of the pro-trinitarian Seventh-day Adventists say led our denomination to becoming trinitarian. If this is true, if in this book Ellen White did promote God as being a trinity, then why, many years after it was published did she appeal to Seventh-day Adventists to hold on to their faith of the previous 50 years which as we have noted was a non-trinitarian view of God? This really is something of a mystery.


Kellogg’s speculative views concerning God


On various occasions and by a number of different people, the world-renowned physician John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943), the leading physician in Seventh-day Adventism, had been cautioned about promoting his speculative ideas concerning God. Even before he made them public (this was in his book ‘The Living Temple’) there were those who knew that his ‘new theories’ were far from being in harmony with the beliefs then held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In spite of this, Kellogg still retained his position as leading physician.


So how did Kellogg come to write such a book?


W. A. Spicer who in 1903 became secretary of the General Conference wrote


Immediately following the loss of the sanitarium, in early 1902, counsels were held between the board of that institution and the available members of the General Conference Committee looking toward plans for rebuilding. To help in rebuilding, it was agreed that a medical book should be written, on popular lines to be sold by our people for the benefit of sanitarium work, as Mrs. White's book, "Christ's Object Lessons," had been sold for the benefit of our schools.(W. A. Spicer, How the Spirit of Prophecy Met a Crisis: Memories and Notes of the "Living Temple" Controversy’, 1938)


That book was obviously Kellogg’s ‘The Living Temple’.


Spicer continued


“It was agreed that the leader of the medical forces should write the health book.” (Ibid)


This man was John Harvey Kellogg


Spicer then added


“It was out of the teaching of this book that a crisis developed that touched many phases of the work, raising issues not only about teaching, but about church organization and unity of the advent movement, and the integrity of the Spirit of Prophecy which had been a counselor in the movement and a guide since the days of 1844.” (Ibid)


Arthur L. White, Ellen White’s grandson, relates that when it was first suggested that Kellogg should write a book to help secure funds for the re-building of the Battle Creek Sanitarium (this was after it had been devastated by fire), A. G. Daniells who was then the General Conference President, counselled Kellogg not to include in it any of his beliefs that were not in harmony with Seventh-day Adventism. Obvious to relate, the ‘higher ups’ of the General Conference knew of Kellogg’s views.


Arthur White records that Daniells said to Kellogg


“Now look here, Doctor, that book must not contain a single argument of this new theory you are teaching, because there are a lot of people all over the States who do not accept it. I know from what they say, and if it has any of what they consider pantheism they will never touch it.” (Arthur L. White ‘The Early Elmshaven Years’ Vol. 5 chapter 21 page 288)


Notice here that Daniells did not say that Kellogg was a pantheist or that his views were those of a pantheist but that people may believe his views to be what they “consider pantheism” to be. It is quite possible that Daniells was saying this because during the 19th and 20th centuries, just as there is today, there were wrong views in circulation as to what constituted pantheism. Some thought it to be that God is ‘in everything’. This is an incorrect view of pantheism. It is only a popular (traditional) view of it. Pantheism is actually the belief that all (pan) is God (theism), not that God is in everything. In other words, in pantheism, there is no personal God or personal saviour. Kellogg professed to believe in a personal God and a personal saviour.


Kellogg knew exactly what pantheism was all about and he said that he did not believe it. At least this was his claim in 1907. This was the year his membership was removed from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.


Arthur White continues by revealing Kellogg’s response to this warning.


He wrote


“And the doctor replied, "Oh yes, oh yes, I understand that." And Daniells reiterated the point: “You must leave all that out.” (Ibid)


Arthur White then says that


“Dr. Kellogg fully agreed.” (Ibid)


This was not the first time that Kellogg had been counselled concerning his views of God. We know this because at the 1905 General Conference Session, Ellen White said concerning what Kellogg was teaching (this is where Ellen White over and over again stressed the long-held belief that God and Christ were two separate personages, also that Seventh-day Adventists should hold on to their non-trinitarian faith)


“This subject has been kept before me for the past twenty years, yea, for more than twenty years. Before my husband's death, Dr. Kellogg came to my room to tell me that he had great light.” (Ellen G. White to the delegates at the 1905 General Conference, Ms 70, 1905, pp. 3, 4. "A Message of Warning,")


She then said concerning Kellogg


“He sat down and told me what it was. It was similar to some of the views that he has presented in Living Temple. I said, "Those theories are wrong. I have met them before. I had to meet them when I first began to travel." (Ibid)


We can see here that Kellogg’s ideas and teachings in ‘The Living Temple’ were no surprise to Ellen White. She knew of them only too well, even knowing of them before her husband’s death (James White had died 24 years previously in 1881). She also remarked that she had encountered these theories from her first travels as God’s messenger to the remnant.


She also went on to say


Ministers and people were deceived by these sophistries. They lead to making God a nonentity and Christ a nonentity. We are to rebuke these theories in the name of the Lord.” (Ibid)


Note here as she often did, that Ellen White was differentiating between God and Christ. She regarded them as two separate personal beings, two separate personages. Take particular note that again she says nothing at all about the Holy Spirit. If Ellen White had believed, as some people purport she believed, that the Holy Spirit is a person like God and Christ, then why did she not include Him here in this statement? In other words, why did she not say that Kellogg was making the Holy Spirit a non-entity? This should be very significant because as we shall see in the next section, Kellogg’s entire ‘problem’ was with respect to the Holy Spirit, not with God and Christ as such. Note that this was in 1905, seven years after the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’.


In 1905, Ellen White did regard the Holy Spirit as a personality but she also regarded Him as the omnipresence of both God and Christ when these two latter divine beings were not personally (bodily) present. We shall see this in section thirty three and section thirty-four. Her statement therefore, because of her silence regarding the Holy Spirit, is a very strong indication that she did not understand the Holy Spirit to be a person like she regarded God and Christ to be persons. When we realise that Kellogg came to believe that the Holy Spirit is a person like God and Christ, which at that time was not believed by Seventh-day Adventists, this becomes even more evident. We shall return our thoughts to this in the next section.


Ellen White concluded


“As I talked about these things, laying the whole matter before Dr. Kellogg, and showing him what the outcome of receiving these theories would be, he seemed to be dazed. I said, "Never teach such theories in our institutions; do not present them to the people”. (Ibid)


It appears here that after Ellen White had shown Kellogg what the end result would be of accepting his speculative theories, it left him rather shocked and bewildered but he still ignored the advice that he had been given. This we know because in his book ‘The Living Temple’, he did publish his speculative theories concerning God and it did bring about a very serious crisis for Seventh-day Adventists.


Notice now about ‘light’ that Ellen White said had come from God to Kellogg.


She wrote with regards to repeated warnings that had been persistently ignored


“This course can not long be passed over in silence; for I have been instructed by the Lord that the people have a right to know and understand that for the past twenty years God in His mercy has been giving to our physician-in-chief light that has never been given to the churches. This light has shone upon our brother's pathway, in order that he might be prevented from pursuing a course that God could not approve and bless.” (Ellen G. White, Special Testimonies to the Church, Series B No 7 page 55 ‘The result of failure to heed God’s warnings’)


Here we are told that God, in His mercy, just like He had done so in the beginning with Lucifer, had been very patient with Kellogg. Note also that Ellen White said that she had been “instructed by the Lord” that Seventh-day Adventists had a right to be aware of this knowledge.


We are told also that God had sent to Kellogg message after message that was “light that has never been given to the churches”. Kellogg therefore was not innocently ignorant of what he was doing but had consciously and deliberately ignored the warnings.


It was this constant ignoring of God’s testimonies that had brought about the crisis regarding the presence and personality of God. This is why Seventh-day Adventists today should take note. I say this because Ellen White called Kellogg’s wrong views the ‘alpha of heresies’ whilst she said that ‘the omega’, whatever it would be, would follow in a little while (see section one). Could the ignoring of God’s testimonies be one of the problem areas in the omega? This is an absolute certainty.


Where is God’s presence?


In ‘The Living Temple’, Kellogg had taken the view that the presence of God was actually in everything. This was the problem.


In an attempt to prove his point, Kellogg wrote as an illustration (this is probably the most often quoted part of his book)


“Suppose now we have a boot before us -- not an ordinary boot, but a living boot, and as we look at it, we see little boots crowding out at the seams, pushing out at the toes, dropping off at the heels, and leaping out at the top -- scores, hundreds, thousands of boots, a swarm of boots continually issuing from our living boot -- would we not be compelled to say, "There is a shoemaker in the boot"? So there is present in the tree a power which creates and maintains it, a tree-maker in the tree.” (John Harvey Kellogg, ‘The Living Temple’, page 29)


Strange as it may seem to us, Kellogg was making it look as though God’s actual presence was within the boot or within the tree. This was why the Seventh-day Adventist Church did not sanction his book. It was on theological grounds that they made their objections, meaning of course that Kellogg’s beliefs were not in keeping with what was then believed by Seventh-day Adventists.


Remember here, as we have noted in previous sections, Seventh-day Adventists believed that the Holy Spirit was the personal presence of both God and Christ when the latter two divine beings were not bodily present. In other words, the Holy Spirit was considered to be, by Seventh-day Adventists, God and Christ omnipresent. As we read through this section concerning Kellogg, this is very important for us to remember because as we noted above, Ellen White did say that by his views he was making both God and Christ non-entities but she did not say that he was doing the same to the Holy Spirit. Remember too that we noted in section sixteen that Ellen White said that Christ was the eternal presence.


As we shall see later, Kellogg said that he thought he had removed from his book everything that could be considered of a theological nature but certain Seventh-day Adventist brethren did not see it this way, particularly Ellen White.


When referring to the 1903 General Conference Committee meeting where two testimonies from Ellen White exposed the errors in Kellogg’s book, Arthur White (Ellen White’s grandson) said


“When the messages were read at the Council in Washington, Dr. Kellogg responded favorably, saying that he accepted the testimony and that he would modify the wording in the Living Temple dealing with theological matters. But his statements were rather erratic and changeable. His attitude alternated, and it finally turned out that the doctor never really changed.” (A. L. White, ‘The Early Elmshaven Years’ chapter 22, page 302 ‘Meet it’)


At the time of this council (October 1903), Kellogg obviously knew that in his book he had included a certain ‘theology’ concerning the personalities of the Godhead. He knew also that to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, this theology was not acceptable.


This was the very same theology that Ellen White said concerned the presence and personality of God (the Holy Spirit then to Seventh-day Adventists) and the very same theology of which the trinity doctrine concerns.


Kellogg converts to trinitarianism


It was during 1903 and by private means that John Harvey Kellogg published his book ‘The Living Temple’. The Seventh-day Adventist Church, because its leadership rejected what it was teaching, never sanctioned this printing.


Later that same year (1903) at the October council of the General Conference Committee, Kellogg’s book was discussed, the outcome of which was decided when two testimonies, both condemning what this book was teaching, were received from Ellen White. In consequence, Kellogg said that he would not only withdraw his book from the open market but also that he would revise it. This was in particular regard to its theological content.


The day following this council, Kellogg discussed his book with A. G. Daniells, then the General Conference president. In this conversation and in an attempt to justify what he had written in it, Kellogg said that because he had recently come to believe in the doctrine of the trinity, he could now explain his theories much better.


We are aware of this conversation today because A. G. Daniells wrote to W. C. White (Ellen White’s son) telling him about it.


Daniells wrote


“He [Kellogg] then stated that his former views regarding the trinity had stood in his way of making a clear and absolutely correct statement but that within a short time he had come to believe in the trinity and could now see pretty clearly where all the difficulty was and believed that he could clear up the matter satisfactorily.” (Letter, A. G. Daniells to W. C. White Oct 29th 1903)


Here we can see that like the vast majority of all other Seventh-day Adventists, Kellogg had once been a non-trinitarian. Now though, in 1903, he was making confession to Daniells that within a short time he had come to believe in the trinity. This was obviously something that he, along with Seventh-day Adventists in general, had not done previous to this time.


Daniells continued


“He (Kellogg) told me that he now believed in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost and his view was that it was God the Holy Ghost and not God the Father that filled all space and every living thing.” (Ibid)


This must have been a dramatic switch in beliefs for Kellogg. I say this because prior to accepting this trinity belief, it is more than likely that he believed, as did then the vast majority of Seventh-day Adventists, that the Holy Spirit was the personal presence of both God the Father and the Son (God and Christ omnipresent), not another personal being like them.


Now though, in 1903, Kellogg was managing to ‘separate’ the Holy Spirit from these two divine personalities, thus making the Holy Spirit an individual being like God and Christ. We can see all this because Daniells told W. C. White that Kellogg had said that it was this ‘third being’, “God the Holy Ghost”, that filled all space and every living thing” and not God the Father”.


Whether these were exactly the words that Kellogg had used we do not know but Daniells said that this is what Kellogg had told him. The main point is that Kellogg had said that he had come to believe in the trinity, meaning that he now believed that the Holy Spirit was a personal being like the Father and Son (God and Christ).


In section forty-four, we shall see that W. C. White (to whom Daniells had written concerning Kellogg) wrote in 1935 that because some of our ministers were then attempting to make the Holy Spirit to be an individual person like God and Christ, that he (W. C. White) was saddened. This, as you must surely agree, is a very interesting observation. Note the year well. It was 1935.


This realisation is very relevant to our studies because it tells us that even in 1935 it appears that the preponderant belief in Seventh-day Adventism was that the Holy Spirit was not an individual person (being) like God and Christ. This is very important because it also tells us that by 1935, the trinity doctrine would not have considered to be the preponderant belief of Seventh-day Adventists. I say this because without regarding the Holy Spirit to be an individual being like God the Father and Christ, it is impossible to have a trinity doctrine.


We can see that it was Kellogg’s ‘problem’ of trying to say that God’s presence was actually everywhere and in everything that had led him to his ‘trinity belief’. This, through his book, is what he was attempting to have people believe. It was also these theories that brought about the early 1900’s crisis within Seventh-day Adventism. Where God’s presence is was the all-important question? Kellogg’s answer, according to Seventh-day Adventist theology, destroyed the gospel. He did though, in an attempt to resolve the problem, say that he had come to believe in the trinity.


We know that Kellogg was once in harmony with Seventh-day Adventism on the deity of Christ, also that he once rejected the trinity doctrine because of his own personal testimony in a series of discourses that he had in 1880 with a Seventh-day Baptist. These were recorded in the Review and Herald.


Kellogg’s anti-trinitarianism


In the Review and Herald of December 4th 1879 there was an article dealing with the differences between Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh-day Baptists, the latter of whom were trinitarians (generally speaking there was a certain cordiality between these two denominations, both recognizing that they had a work to do for God, although there was at times confrontation).


In this article there was a reminder that during 1871 there had been a camp meeting that had been attended by approx 400 Seventh-day Adventists, also the same number of Seventh-day Baptists. It was also noted that a delegate from the Seventh-day Adventist Church had attended a Baptist General Conference in September 1876.


There was also the reminder that the month following the conference, again in the Review and Herald, James White had said


“The principal difference between the two bodies is the immortality question. The S. D. Adventists hold the divinity of Christ so nearly with the trinitarian, that we apprehend no trial here.” (James White, Review and Herald, Oct 12th 1876, ‘The two bodies - The Relation Which the S.D. Baptists and S.D. Adventists Sustain to Each Other’)


Following the 1879 article, there was detailed the continuing dialogue between the Rev. N. Wardner of the Seventh-day Baptists and John Harvey Kellogg on behalf of Seventh-day Baptists.


In one reply to the Baptists, Kellogg said (this was in response to a misunderstanding of Wardner’s)


“The only grounds upon which our reviewer could be justified in making such a statement would be the supposition on his part that we believe in the doctrine of the trinity; but he very well knows, from positions taken and arguments used in previous articles, that we do not agree with him on this subject any better than on that of the nature of the soul.” (J. H. Kellogg, Review and Herald, November 25th 1880, ‘Reply to Eld. Wardner’s rejoinder’)


Kellogg then added


“We believe in but one Deity, God, who is a unity, not a compound being.” (Ibid)


Kellogg also said


We repel the charge of "trinitarianism" without the slightest hesitation. We do not believe in a triune God, as before remarked. And we will not, as did our reviewer in a, former article, leave the reader in doubt as to our position on this point. We are utterly at a loss to comprehend how our re- viewer could have blundered so strangely as to suppose us to share in so gross an error as we believe the orthodox doctrine of the trinity to be.” (Ibid)


Note that this was 8 years prior to the famous 1888 Minneapolis General Conference.


Throughout the 1890’s that followed, also the early 1900’s, this non-trinitarian faith still remained the preponderant faith of Seventh-day Adventists. Kellogg is the first Seventh-day Adventist that I can find who openly professed a belief in the trinity doctrine. This was in the early 1900’s.


Kellogg’s teachings invalidate the gospel


The entire problem with Kellogg’s newly-acquired trinity beliefs was that according to Seventh-day Adventist theology, it was antagonistic to the gospel. This is inasmuch that if (as was being said by Kellogg) the Holy Spirit was in everything, which in consequence meant that He was within everyone, then there was no need of conversion. This was the unacceptable part of his theology.


In a talk where she made reference to Kellogg’s ‘Living Temple’, also relating how she had to meet similar sentiments during her younger years, Ellen White spoke of the danger in believing that the Holy Spirit dwelt within everyone.


She said


“Thus I worked and suffered in my girlhood. And all through my life I have had the same errors to meet, though not always in the same form.” (Sermons and Talks, Volume 1 Ms. 46, 1904, MR 900 page 343)


She then added


“In Living Temple the assertion is made that God is in the flower, in the leaf, in the sinner.” (Ibid)


In particular, it was the latter that was the problem with Kellogg’s beliefs.


As Ellen White went on to explain


But God does not live in the sinner. The Word declares that He abides only in the hearts of those who love Him and do righteousness. God does not abide in the heart of the sinner; it is the enemy who abides there.” (Ibid) 


Notice first of all that although Kellogg had said (after he had published the book) that he believed that it was not God the Father that was in everything but the Holy Spirit, Ellen White interpreted him as saying that God was in everything, including “in the sinner”. Thus it was that in the thinking of Ellen White, wherever the Holy Spirit is present, God Himself (the Father) is present. This was the early 1900’s theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.


In Ellen White’s notebook leaflets were found these words


“Let not the theory be presented that God would dwell in the soul-temple of a wicked man. No greater falsehood could be presented.” (Ellen G. White, Notebook Leaflets from the Elmshaven Library, ‘Be Earnest and Steadfast’)


With reference to Kellogg’s beliefs and the gospel, Ellen White made it very clear that


“If God is an essence pervading all nature, then He dwells in all men; and in order to attain holiness, man has only to develop the power that is within him”. (Ellen G. White 8th Volume Testimonies, ‘The essential Knowledge” page 291 1904)


She then added


“These theories, followed to their logical conclusion, sweep away the whole Christian economy.” (Ibid)


She also wrote in 1905


“There has been growing up a spirit of criticism, and a lack of faith in the gospel ministry, and this has continued until the present time. Now the publication of "Living Temple" has brought about a crisis. If the ideas presented in this book were received, they would lead to the uprooting of the whole construction of the faith that makes Seventh-day Adventists a chosen, denominated people.” (Ellen G. White, Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, page 48, 1906, written November 18th 1905, ‘A Great opportunity slighted’)


As we shall see in later sections, Seventh-day Adventists believed that the Holy Spirit was the personal presence (not bodily presence) of both God the Father and of Christ but not a separate being like them. It was for this reason why Kellogg could not use this particular belief to say that it was the Holy Spirit that was in every living thing. This is because in the thinking of Seventh-day Adventists, it was just like saying that both the Father and Son (God and Christ) were in everything. Somehow therefore, to justify what he had written in his book, Kellogg had to come up with an alternative theology, meaning that he had to ‘separate’ the Holy Spirit from the Father and from Christ. This is why he ended up with believing in three separate divine beings.


Kellogg therefore maintained that he had come to accept the ‘trinity’ belief of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (making the Holy Spirit a personal being like the Father and Son), therefore according to this reasoning he was now able to achieve his objective. Kellogg’s theology though, if left on its own, appears to fall short of trinity essentialness. This is because although Kellogg said that he had come to believe that the Holy Spirit was a person like God and Christ, I cannot find in his theology any mention of trinity ‘oneness’. If it was not there, then his views were more tritheistic (three gods) than trinitarian. If in any belief the Holy Spirit can be separated from the other two personalities of the Godhead, then it is definitely tritheistic. In other words, if it can be said that the Holy Spirit is somewhere where God the Father is not, then this is a problem.


W. W. Prescott realised the problem.


In the periodical ‘Lest we Forget’ it said that


“In January, 1902 the Sanitarium in Battle Creek had burned down. The GC Committee approved using the sale of Dr. Kellogg’s upcoming book for fund-raising to replace the San. This book, The Living Temple, was planned from a collection of health studies commissioned for a church-wide health emphasis. However, Prescott detected pantheism in the manuscript.” (Lest we Forget, Adventist Pioneer Library, Second quarter 2000, Volume 10, No. 2,  ‘W. W. Prescott Part 2, 1901-1944’)


It then says


“In the December 2, 1902 issue of the Review, he began to address the Kellogg danger of “substituting a human conception of the presence of God for the reality of his presence in Christ through the Holy Spirit.” Over the next five years more than 100 of his editorials dealt with Kellogg’s concepts.” (Ibid)


In the early 1900’s, Seventh-day Adventists did believe that the Holy Spirit was the personal presence of the Father and the Son whilst bodily they were in the sanctuary in Heaven (see section thirty-one and section thirty-two for the pioneers’ beliefs of the Holy Spirit, also section thirty-three and section thirty-four for Ellen White’s beliefs).


The article then reveals that


Prescott wrote to Dr. Kellogg on 10/28/03, specifying the errors he detected.”


The article then list these errors by saying


He [Prescott] stated the doctor’s teaching:


1. gave “a wrong view of God and his dwelling place


2. “set aside any need of atonement and the work of Christ as our High Priest in the Sanctuary above


3. led to “a breaking down of the distinction between the sinner and the Christian by teaching that every man is a temple of God regardless of his faith in Christ (Ibid)


As we can see, there were very serious theological problems with Kellogg’s book. It was not just a simple case of ‘God in nature’ but something much more sinister. It was all to do with a wrong picture of God, the atonement, the sanctuary and the sinner’s need for a saviour. Kellogg’s theories therefore struck right at the heart of the gospel, particularly as it was taught within Seventh-day Adventism. It was ‘casting the truth to the ground’ as Seventh-day Adventists understood it.


No theological change


At the time of this controversy (the early 1900’s), the theology of Seventh-day Adventists regarding the Holy Spirit (meaning the Father and Son omnipresent) was still the same as it always had been. This was even when they had come to accept, because of light given through the spirit of prophecy, that the Holy Spirit is a personality. This is because they still believed, just as Ellen White had been stressing all through this time of this Godhead crisis, that just like Christ is a personal being in His own right, so too God is a personal being in His own right, therefore God and Christ are two separate personal beings.


In other words as far as personalities were concerned, God and Christ were not the one being. This is why in the sense of personalities, Seventh-day Adventists clearly differentiated between the infinite God (the Father) and His Son (Christ) although the latter they definitely believed to be God essentially (for how Seventh-day Adventists were misunderstood concerning their beliefs about Christ’s divinity see section twenty-one and section twenty-two).


This ‘new light’ therefore (that the Holy Spirit is a personality) did not in one iota change the theology of Seventh-day Adventists. They still regarded Him, although believing Him to be a personality, as the personal presence of both the Father and the Son (God and Christ) but not another personal being like them.


The alpha of deadly heresies (new theories concerning God and Christ)


Referring back to the letter that Daniells sent to Willie White, Daniells explained that regarding Kellogg’s newly found theology


“He [Kellogg] said that if he had believed this before writing the book, he could have expressed his views without giving the wrong impression the book now gives” (Letter, A. G. Daniells to W. C. White Oct 29th 1903)


Here we can see it said that prior to writing ‘Living Temple’, Kellogg had not believed in the trinity doctrine. This “wrong impression” that Kellogg said he had made was obviously the impression that he was saying that God the Father (the infinite God to Seventh-day Adventists) was in “every living thing” but now he (Kellogg) had come to believe in the trinity he could see instead that it was the Holy Spirit that was in everything.


We can see therefore that Kellogg’s ‘conversion’ to what some term ‘trinitarianism’ (which was more like tritheism) was after he had published his book (1903) and was used by him as an attempt to justify what he had written in it. This was a conversion that necessitated him changing his views regarding the Holy Spirit. In other words, by saying that the Holy Spirit was a person like God and Christ, Kellogg was introducing heresy into the 1904 faith of Seventh-day Adventists.


This is why when Ellen White warned about wrong beliefs that were coming into the Seventh-day Adventist Church she said


“In the book "Living Temple" there is presented the alpha of deadly heresies. The omega will follow, and will be received by those who are not willing to heed the warning God has given.” (Ellen G. White, Special Testimonies Series B No. 2, page 50, letter, August 7th 1904 ‘Beware’)


This is also why she said in 1903 to the teachers in Emmanuel Missionary College


The new theories in regard to God and Christ, as brought out in "The Living Temple", are not in harmony with the teaching of Christ. The Lord Jesus came to this world to represent the Father. He did not represent God as an essence pervading nature, but as a personal being. Christians should bear in mind that God has a personality as verily as has Christ.” (Ellen G. White, September 23 1903, To the teachers in Emmanuel Missionary College, ‘A Warning of Danger’)


Ellen White was saying here that Kellogg’s views were making God look like an “essence pervading nature” and not as Jesus came to present Him as “a personal being”. This then was the problem area.


Kellogg had said that by coming to believe in ‘the trinity’ that he had solved the ‘problem’ of what he had written in his book but it is obvious that Ellen White did not see it this way. Note according to her that Kellogg’s views were making God look as though He was not a personal being but never did she say that he was doing this with respect to the Holy Spirit. This was even though Kellogg said it was the Holy Spirit that was in everything. It is only reasonable to believe therefore that if Ellen White had believed that the Holy Spirit was a personal being like God and Christ then she would have said that He (the Holy Spirit) was being made to look a non-entity. As it was, she only said that Kellogg was making God and Christ look that way. This is very significant.


Not clear on the personality of God


Whilst Kellogg did confess to have come to believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (the trinity confession), Ellen White consistently repudiated his understanding of the Godhead.


Even before he openly made this ‘trinity confession’ she had said to him


“You are not definitely clear on the personality of God, which is everything to us as a people. You have virtually destroyed the Lord God Himself.” (Ellen G. White to John Harvey Kellogg, Letter 300, March 16th 1903)”


This statement was a part of a letter that just previous to the 1903 General Conference session Ellen White had sent to Kellogg but during the conference itself, she did send him at least two others, both of which condemned ‘The Living Temple’. Ellen White could not have told Kellogg more clearly that by his teachings he was virtually destroying God as a personal being.


Note very importantly that there is no record of Ellen White either commending or directly condemning Kellogg for coming to believe in the trinity doctrine although as we shall see in section twenty-seven (this was in denouncing what Kellogg had written in his book) she did condemn all illustrations that depicted God as three-in-one. Obvious to relate, she did this for a very good reason. She also said in a number of different testimonies that in all of this, Kellogg was being led astray by the devil himself and satanic influences.


Kellogg had said that he had come to believe in the trinity, meaning God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (see above Daniells to W. C. White letter dated October 29th 1903). Four years later his name was removed from the membership roll of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This was not only because of doctrine but also of other circumstances that is outside of the scope of this study to detail.


The presence and personality of God


No one will deny that the trinity doctrine concerns the ‘presence and personality’ of God but I wonder how many Seventh-day Adventists realise that this is exactly what Ellen White said that the ‘alpha’ heresy in Kellogg’s ‘Living Temple’ was all about? Remember too that she constantly linked this heresy found in Kellogg’s book with the ‘omega’ she warned was coming into Seventh-day Adventism.


When Ellen White first received a copy of ‘The Living Temple’, she placed it in her library. There it remained unread until her son persuaded her to read a portion of it. So it was that together they read the very first chapter and certain other paragraphs.


She said of what Kellogg had written


“As we read, I recognized the very sentiments against which I had been bidden to speak in warning during the early days of my public labors. When I first left the State of Maine, it was to go through Vermont and Massachusetts, to bear a testimony against these sentiments. "Living Temple" contains the alpha of these theories. I knew that the omega would follow in a little while; and I trembled for our people.” (Ellen G. White, Special Testimonies, series B No. 2 Page 53, ‘The Foundation of our Faith 1904)


She then said


“I knew that I must warn our brethren and sisters not to enter into controversy over the presence and personality of God. The statements made in "Living Temple" in regard to this point are incorrect. The scripture used to substantiate the doctrine there set forth, is scripture misapplied.” (Ibid)


Here we can see that Ellen White was giving a warning to Seventh-day Adventists that they should not enter into controversy over “the presence and personality of God”. This is obviously what she regarded Kellogg was doing. It concerned her immensely. Note she said that the Scriptures Kellogg was using to ‘prove his point’ were “scripture misapplied”. In other words to prove his point, Kellogg had used the Scriptures but Ellen White said that he had misapplied them. Kellogg could have said therefore that his beliefs were based on ‘Sola Scriptura’ but as we have seen said by Ellen White, this did not make them correct.


She also said that these sentiments in Kellogg’s book were the same as those she had encountered and had spoken out against in the early days of her “public labours”. Now though, in 1904, she was linking these same sentiments with the coming ‘omega’ that she said Seventh-day Adventists would very soon encounter. It was this realisation she said that had caused her to tremble!


She also wrote in this same testimony


“I have been instructed by the heavenly messenger that some of the reasoning in the book, "Living Temple," is unsound and that this reasoning would lead astray the minds of those who are not thoroughly established on the foundation principles of present truth.” (Ibid page 51)


She then added


“It introduces that which is naught but speculation in regard to the personality of God and where His presence is. No one on this earth has a right to speculate on this question. The more fanciful theories are discussed, the less men will know of God and of the truth that sanctifies the soul.” (Ibid)


As we noted in previous sections, Ellen White definitely included in the “foundation principles of present truth” what Seventh-day Adventists had always believed about God and Christ (Father and Son). This belief was that they were two separate personalities (two separate personal beings). She said that this belief (using her words) was amongst the landmarks and the pillars of the faith of Seventh-day Adventism. We shall note in later sections that repeatedly she said that the Holy Spirit is both God and Christ omnipresent.


In the statement above, Ellen White is obviously referring to the 1904 `faith of Seventh-day Adventists. This is the faith that she said should never be changed.


In her latter statement, note first of all that she said that Kellogg’s teachings with regards to God and His presence was “naught but speculation”, meaning of course, something about which God had not revealed. This is very important for us to realise because as we noted in section four, the trinity doctrine is based totally on speculation. Ellen White also said that if heeded, Kellogg’s “speculation” (see above) would lead many away from what she regarded as being the “present truth” as held in 1904 by Seventh-day Adventists. This is also very important for us to remember! This is because the Seventh-day Adventist faith was then non-trinitarian.


Kellogg certainly realised that his book did contain ‘trinitarian’ theology.


This we know because when certain Seventh-day Adventist brethren visited him prior to his membership being withdrawn from the Seventh-day Adventist Church (this was in 1907) he said


“Now, I thought I had cut out entirely the theological side of questions of the trinity and all that sort of things.  I didn't mean to put it in at all, and I took pains to state in the preface that I did not. I never dreamed of such a thing as any theological question being brought into it. I only wanted to show that the heart does not beat of its own motion but that it is the power of God that keeps it going(Interview, J. H. Kellogg, G. W. Amadon and A. C. Bourdeau October 7th 1907 held at Kellogg’s residence)


Regardless of what Kellogg said, he had obviously been shown that in his book he did include trinitarian theology. He knew also that it was a theology to which Seventh-day Adventists objected.


God without form


In 1903, the year Kellogg’s ‘The Living Temple’ was published, W. A. Spicer became the General Conference secretary. In 1922 he followed on from A. G. Daniells as General Conference President. This was until 1930.


In 1938, he wrote of his recollections of the Kellogg ‘pantheism’ controversy and how through the spirit of prophecy God guided the church. Throughout his manuscript, Spicer wrote of how Kellogg’s reasoning was destroying the reality of things such as Heaven, the sanctuary, the throne of God and even God Himself. This was as reasoned by Prescott (see above)


In one place he quoted from Ellen White’s ‘Early Writings’


"I saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. I gazed on Jesus' countenance and admired His lovely person. The Father's person I could not behold, for a cloud of glorious light covered Him. I asked Jesus if His Father had a form like Himself. He said he had, but I could not behold it, for, said He, if you should once behold the glory of His person, you would cease to exist."—Early Writings p. 45. (W. A. Spicer, How the Spirit of Prophecy Met a Crisis: Memories and Notes of the "Living Temple" Controversy’, 1938)


Spicer then said


This view is in harmony with Bible descriptions. Strike this view from us, and substitute the idea the all-pervasive personality called God by the pantheistic philosophy and we are at once involved in the mazes of the spiritualistic deception. Then Heaven and the throne are wherever God is, and He is everywhere, in tree and plant and creature.” (Ibid)


Spicer then spoke of an interview he had with Kellogg.


He said


“In the first interview I had with the author over the book prepared for us he illustrated his idea that it was idolatry to conceive of God as having form.” (Ibid)


Spicer further explains


“He [Kellogg] gleefully told of pressing one of our ministers into a description of the Father's person. Naming different portions of the human anatomy, he got the unsuspecting minister to say "Yes" as to likeness of man's bodily members, until the picture was crude and irreverent. The reverent view leaves it just where the view given by the Spirit of prophecy left it. The form was there on the throne, as real as the form of Jesus on the throne beside the Father. But a cloud of glory veiled the Father's person. The reverent mind does not seek to penetrate that veil between.” (Ibid)


Spicer then warned


“Strike out this view of Bible truth and substitute for it the pantheistic conception that makes of Deity a personality present everywhere the same as He is anywhere, and there is no place in the universe for the sinner to come before God. This hopeless Hindu conception is easily recognized in its own heathen surroundings. But clothe it in the language of Christian thought, and in third angel's message phraseology, and it may readily deceive the very elect if they are off guard.” (Ibid)


Spicer concluded


“In the very first writings of the Spirit of prophecy — in 1844 and 1845 — descriptions of heaven and of the throne, and of the Father and Son were given to lift up a standard against the religio-scientific philosophy of God and nature that was to come in like a flood.” (Ibid)


Notice something very important here. Just like Ellen White, Spicer mentions the separate ‘forms’ of the Father and the Son but does not mention the Holy Spirit. Once again this is indicative of pre-trinitarian Seventh-day Adventist thinking. They did not regard the Holy Spirit as a person like God and Christ were persons but rather that He was the personal presence of them both whilst they were in the sanctuary in Heaven.


In the next chapter Spicer said


“The redeemed, in the flesh, immortal, will "see God." They can approach a Father upon His throne in the heavenly temple. "They shall see His face." And by the Father's side we shall see "the man Christ Jesus" - "this same Jesus" that the disciples saw - in form like unto the Father.” (Ibid)


Spicer says that the redeemed will “see God” and see “the man Christ Jesus” but says nothing about seeing the Holy Spirit.


The trail of the serpent


Concerning Kellogg’s apostasy, which as we have seen certainly involved trinitarian theology, Ellen White said in 1906 (this was the year previous to Kellogg’s name being removed from the membership roll)


“This large work and its sure results are plainly presented to me.” (Special Testimonies Series B No 7, page 61 ‘Come out and be Separate 1906)


Here Ellen White is saying that as usual she could see the ‘bigger picture’. In other words her eyes were ‘open’ as to what was going on.


She continued


“I am so sorry that sensible men do not discern the trail of the serpent. I call it thus; for thus the Lord pronounces it.” (Ibid)


She then added


“Wherein are those who are designated as departing from the faith and giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, departing from the faith which they have held sacred for the past fifty years? I leave that for the ones to answer who sustain those who develop such acuteness in their plans for spoiling and hindering the work of God.” (Ibid)


This was written in 1906 when Seventh-day Adventists were still strictly adhering to a non-trinitarian faith. It was also eight years after the professedly trinitarian ‘The Desire of Ages’.


Ellen White was again warning not to depart from this non-trinitarian faith. She even said that this was the faith that for the “past fifty years” had been “held sacred” by Seventh-day Adventists. This is a categorical statement. Can it be misinterpreted or misunderstood?


Worth remembering again here is that Ellen White said it was the Seventh-day Adventists’ beliefs about the separate personalities of God and Christ (as well as the sanctuary teaching) that were under attack from Satan (see section twenty-three).


Her latter quoted statement is no different to what she said the same year which was


Ever we are to keep the faith that has been substantiated by the Holy Spirit of God from the earlier events of our experience until the present time.” (Ellen G. White, Special Testimonies Series B No. 7 page 57 Sanitarium, Cal., Dec. 4, 1905, ‘Standing in the way of God’s Messages’, see also the New York Independent, 27th February 1906)


This “present time” that Ellen White spoke of here was 1905/6, meaning that it was the early 1900’s faith of Seventh-day Adventists of which she said “Ever are we to keep”. Notice she also said that this was “the faith” that had been substantiated by the Holy Spirit of God”. Again and again Ellen White endorses that it was God Himself that gave the pioneers their faith (beliefs).


Two years later in 1908 as Ellen White’s ministry to Seventh-day Adventists was in its latter years (she died in 1915), she wrote in one testimony under the sub-heading of “Dangers of speculative study


“There is danger that the false sentiments expressed in the books that they have been reading will sometimes be interwoven by our ministers, teachers, and editors with their arguments, discourses, and publications, under the belief that they are the same in principle as the teachings of the Spirit of truth.” (Ellen G. White, 9th Volume Testimonies, page 68 1909, ‘Literature in service”, see also Review and Herald 6th August 1908 ‘Circulate the publications No. 1)


By the term “the Spirit of truth”, Ellen White is obviously referring to the Holy Spirit. Particularly she must have had in mind the truth that God had substantiated through the spirit of prophecy.


We can see this because she then added


“The book Living Temple is an illustration of this work, the writer of which declared in its support that its teachings were the same as those found in the writings of Mrs. White. Again and again we shall be called to meet the influence of men who are studying sciences of satanic origin, through which Satan is working to make a nonentity of God and of Christ.” (Ibid)


Notice very importantly here that Ellen White said that these “false sentiments” found in the books that those of our leadership were reading did concern both “God” and “Christ” (note the differentiating again). These were obviously books to do with the Godhead. Note too that she said that there was a danger of these very same sentiments being interwoven in what was then being taught in Seventh-day Adventist discourses and publications. Obvious to relate, these were books that were not in support of what Seventh-day Adventists then believed but our leaders were reading them anyway. This said Ellen White was the danger. She also said that through these same “false sentiments”, Satan was seeking to make “a nonentity of God and of Christ” meaning making both of them ‘something’ but certainly not personal beings.


Notice here also that Ellen White did not say that there were those who were trying to make the Holy Spirit a non-entity. She only said this with reference to God and Christ. In other words she did not say that Satan was trying to make God, Christ and the Holy Spirit a non-entity – only God and Christ. This is another very important realisation.


Notice also that Ellen White said that the writer of ‘The Living Temple’ (Kellogg) was claiming that what he had written in his book was only the same as in her writings. This was also obviously with reference to the “wrong sentiments” that she said would attempt to be passed off “as the teachings of the Spirit of truth”. In other words, attempts were being made then to pass of these wrong teachings as though they were supported by the writings of the spirit of prophecy (Ellen White’s writings). This is how it was in the ‘alpha’ of heresies. Could it be the same with the ‘omega’? This again is an absolute certainty.




Ellen White’s consistent view that God is a personal being and Christ is another personal being separate from Him does completely invalidate the idea of God being a trinity. To put it another way, true trinitarians would never confess such a belief. This is because they regard God as a trinity (tri-unity) of persons with all three personalities subsisting in the one indivisible substance (the one being) of God. This is something that was never professed by Ellen White.


Today though, the Seventh-day Adventist Church confesses such a belief. In the second of its fundamental beliefs it says


“There is one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons.” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe … A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines page 16)”


Here in brief is the Seventh-day Adventist confession of their belief in the trinity. It says simply that God is a unity of three co-eternal persons”. This is in stark contrast to that which Seventh-day Adventists believed during the time of Ellen White, which was (as Ellen White put it to the delegates at the 1905 General Conference Session)


Christ is one with the Father, but Christ and God are two distinct personages. Read the prayer of Christ in the seventeenth chapter of John, and you will find this point clearly brought out.” (Ellen G. White to the delegates at the 1905 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Takoma Park Washington D. C., May 19th 1905, Review and Herald, June 1st 1905, ‘The Work in Washington’)


Ellen White concluded about this long held belief


“Wrong sentiments regarding this are coming in, and we shall all have to meet them.” (Ibid)


Here is the ultimate warning, given through the spirit of prophecy, which says that wrong sentiments regarding God and Christ were on their way into Seventh-day Adventism. These would obviously be sentiments that would conflict with what was then, in 1905, their non-trinitarian faith.


We shall now go to section twenty-six. This is where we shall be taking a look in more detail at this early 1900’s Godhead crisis within Seventh-day Adventism. We shall see that it concerned Kellogg’s views regarding the Holy Spirit. In the section following that one we shall see how Ellen White, when speaking out against Kellogg’s teachings, condemned all three-in-one illustrations of God.



Initial publication – 22nd May 2008

Last edited – 31st December 2011


© T. M. Hill 2008 England