The following discussion is imaginary, but almost every statement is factual and stated by the person named, as you will see in the Bibliography at the end. Some of the men were not early pioneers, as they lived later in history.
However, it could have taken place, if all were together with their varied views. The point of this discussion is to help us see that if they were together, as were the pioneers, it would need to be discussed.
Today some are saying that the subject of God is not listed by the prophet when she is speaking of the pillars. It is true that the one generally quoted, does not mention it, however, the subject is discussed on many other occasions.
Young Ellen was a Methodist who believed in the Trinity. Joseph Bates was a Christian Connection, as was James White and Hiram Edson, and they did not believe in the Trinity. We do not know the denomination of others who were present at the original meetings, but they were of denominations that believed in the Trinity.
All would quickly see that the subject must be studied if they wanted to be in harmony. We can well imagine the meetings were very intense, but if a wrong spirit manifested itself, the discussion was closed and everyone went home.
The discussion could well have been as follows:
‘Brethren, on the subject of the Trinity we can all be in harmony, for not only is Christ the eternal God, but there are three eternal Persons in the Godhead – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’
‘No my brother, for we can trace this doctrine no farther back than the origin of the ‘Man of Sin’, and as we find this dogma at that time established rather by force than otherwise, we claim the right to investigate the matter; and ascertain the bearing of Scripture on this subject.’ 1
‘Yes brother Hull, you are right’.
‘No, no, he is not right.’
‘Brother, let me finish. The doctrine was established by the Council of Nice in AD325, and ever since that period, persons not believing this peculiar tenet, have been denounced by popes and priests, as dangerous heretics. It was for a disbelief in this doctrine, that the Arians were anathematized in AD513’ 2
‘I agree, and the infamous measures by which it was forced upon the church which appear upon the pages of ecclesiastical history might well cause every believer in that doctrine to blush’. 3
‘But Arius believed Christ was a created being’.
‘That is debatable, but there is no question, Christ was not a created being.’
‘The Bible clearly says God sent His Son, so He must have been ‘born’ at some time in eternity’. 4
‘Oh no, Christ is eternally begotten’.
‘That is Catholicism’.
‘No my brother, Christ was twice born, once in eternity, the only begotten of the Father; and again here in the flesh…’ 5
‘No, brother Prescott, that is heresy. Christ was not begotten in eternity, but at Bethlehem only.’
‘Brother, that is not true. Jesus Christ was born again. He came from heaven, God’s first-born, to the earth, and was born again.’ 6
‘How can you say Jesus was ‘born again’. He did not need to be born again. He was conceived of the virgin Mary and was born into the human race; on this day He was begotten’.
‘He was not ‘born again’ in the sense we must be, but` the idea of being sent implies that He was the Son of God antecedent to His being sent. To suppose otherwise is to suppose that a father can send His son on an errand before that son has an existence, which would be manifestly absurd.” 7
‘I do not agree with you brother. Jesus could not have a beginning. He is as old as His Father’.
‘To say that the Son is as old as his Father, is a palpable contradiction of terms. It is a natural impossibility for the Father to be as young as the Son, or the Son to be as old as the Father”. 8
‘Yes brother Stephenson, you are right. God alone is without beginning. At the earliest epoch when a beginning could be – a period so remote that to finite minds it is essentially eternity – appeared the Word. ‘In the beginning was the Word’. This uncreated Word was the Being who, in the fullness of time, was made flesh, and dwelt among us. His beginning was not like that of any other being in the universe. It is set forth in the mysterious expression, ‘His (God’s) only begotten Son’, in John 3:16.’ 9
‘I agree brother Smith. Christ was the firstborn in heaven; He was likewise the firstborn of God upon earth’. 10
‘No, no, no, I cannot accept these false teachings. How can we possibly be in harmony when we believe so differently. Brother Waggoner, where do you stand?’
‘I believe Jesus is the Son of God. It is not given to men to know when or how the Son was begotten…. We know that Christ ‘proceeded forth and came from God’, but it was so far back in the ages of eternity as to be far beyond the grasp of the mind of man.’ 11
‘But you do say Christ had a beginning?’
‘Yes, far back in the ages of eternity’.
‘That is not the truth. I for one stand on the Nicaean creed that Christ was eternally begotten’.
‘But that is the Papal stand!’
‘What about the Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit a co-eternal Being like the Father?’
‘I believe that too’.
‘Brother, I do not accept that at all. The Spirit is the Spirit of God and Christ; the Spirit being the same whether it is spoken of as pertaining to God or Christ But respecting the Spirit, the Bible uses expressions which cannot be harmonized with the idea that it is a person like the Father and the Son.
Rather it is shown to be a divine influence from them both, the medium which represents their presence and by which they have knowledge and power through all the universe, when not personally present. Christ is a person, now officiating as priest in the sanctuary in heaven, and yet He says that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He is there in the midst. Matthew 18:20. How? Not personally, but by His Spirit.’ 12
‘So brother Smith, you are saying Christ is present by His own Spirit, and not by the Spirit, as another divine co-equal Person?
‘Yes, that’s right’.
‘Well, I believe the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God’.
‘Which you call the Trinity?
‘Yes, absolutely, but there is only one God.’
‘It is not very consonant (meaning consistent) with common sense to talk of three being one, and one being three. Or as some express it, calling God ‘the Triune God’, or ‘the three-one-God’. If Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are each God, it would be three Gods; for three times one is not one, but three.’ 13
‘No, there are not three Gods’.
‘I agree. It is not common sense to talk about one being three, and three being one. They can be one in purpose of course, but the Trinity is not saying just that’.
‘Listen my brothers, the Holy Spirit is that divine, mysterious emanation through which they (God and Christ) carry forward their great and infinite work. It is called the Eternal Spirit; it is a spirit that is omniscient and omnipresent… it is the agency through which life is imparted; it is the medium through which all God’s blessings and graces come to His people. It is the Comforter; it is the Spirit of Truth ‘ 14
‘So you don’t think of the Spirit as a person?’
‘Not in the Trinitarian sense’.
‘Can I speak brethren?’
‘Go ahead brother Prescott’.
‘When Jesus was talking with his disciples it was the time of transition from Jesus with His disciples to Jesus in His disciples, a change from a temporary residence among them to a permanent residence in them. This is the meaning of His words, ‘Ye know Him; for He abideth with you, and shall be in you’. In both cases it was Jesus, first with them in the flesh, and then in them as the Spirit of truth.” 15
‘So you stand against the Trinitarians?’
‘Let me say something else my brother, it is expedient for the believer to exchange Jesus in the flesh for Jesus in the Spirit. Through the operation of the Holy Spirit there is established a closer union, a more intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ than was possible to those who knew Him in the flesh.’ 16
‘Brother White, what do you think about the Trinity?
‘The Trinitarians have not one passage to support that Jesus Christ is the eternal God, while we have plain Scripture testimony in abundance that He is the Son of the eternal God’. 17
‘So you don’t believe in the Trinity?’
‘No, not at all; it is an unscriptural absurdity’. 18
‘Brethren, we are in total conflict without any harmony whatever.’ **
Obviously, the pioneers studied the Scriptures on the subject, but we know their conclusions were no different than this imagined discussion, for they said at the end of their studies, ‘We can do nothing more’.
(The conversation is taken from the words of those below. Brethren giving a positive message against the Trinity are actual quotations, although the beginning of some sentences have been slightly altered to make them more fitting as a conversation, but the main portion of the quotation remains untouched)
1. D.W. Hull. Nov 10.1859. Review & Herald. Vol 14 p193-195. Sermon candidly analysing all the important passages claimed by Trinitarians.
3. Review & Herald. Mar 6. 1855. J.N. Andrews.
Based on ‘Christ and His Righteousness’ by E.J. Waggoner. p9.
5. W.W. Prescott. Apr 14. 1896. Review & Herald. p232.
6. ‘Christian Perfection’ A T Jones. Review & Herald. Jul 7- Aug 1. 1899. Also found in Lessons on Faith p154.
7. J.M. Stephenson. Nov 21. 1854. Review & Herald. Vol 6. No.15. p113.
9. ‘Looking unto Jesus’ p10. Uriah Smith.
10. ‘The Story of the Seer of Patmos’ J.N. Haskell. p98.99. 1905.
11. ‘Christ and His Righteousness’ E J Waggoner p9. 1890.
12. Review & Herald. Oct 28. 1890. Uriah Smith.
13. Discussion between Summerbell and Flood on Trinity p38. Sent to J.N. Loughborough to explanation by W.W. Giles. Toledo. Ohio.
14. Sermon by Uriah Smith General Conference Daily Bulletin.. Vol 4. p146.147.
15. Radio Talk. Feb 5. 1928. W.W. Prescott.
16. Radio Talk. Feb 12. 1928. W.W. Presscott. Archives of The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Springs. Maryland. USA.
17. ‘The Day Star’ Jan 24. 1846. James White.