In the providence of God, the year 1988 was set aside as the Centennial of the Minneapolis General Conference Session. What was once either a virtually unknown subject or a no-no has now become a familiar topic of conversation worldwide. Thank God for this aroused interest. Large numbers of our people will not rest satisfied now until they ferret out the full truth.
Since the first printing of this book in August 1987, several significant publications were issued as part of the 1988 Centennial “Celebration”:
(1) The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials (Ellen G. White Estate, 1987). In releasing this vast collection of 1,812 pages in full context, the Ellen G. White Trustees are to be commended. They obviously have no intention of withholding anything significant. Ellen White is at last permitted to speak unhampered on these issues. Had this been published decades ago, much of the present confusion regarding 1888 would by now be resolved. Since the Holy Spirit has always confirmed the “testimony” of Ellen White, this publication must prove in His providence to be a giant step toward ultimate revival and reformation.
Reading these documents gives one a feeling of satisfaction like that of enjoying a square meal. One has no lingering doubts or unsatisfied questions about what might be lurking unseen within the withheld confines of this or that ellipsis, for there are no ellipses.
The truth is here disclosed that the leadership of this church did in fact “in a great degree” reject the beginning of the latter rain and the loud cry while stoutly professing to accept “righteousness by faith.” Further, the post-Minneapolis “confessions” are seen as in no way reversing that tragedy. And Ellen White’s unqualified endorsements of the doctrinal content of the message turn out to be far more numerous and emphatic than anyone appears previously to have realized. Such multiple endorsements in these 1,812 pages may perhaps approach the better part of a thousand.
It is a solemn experience to read these unedited documents, often photographed from awkwardly typed originals with her emendations in her handwriting. How could that little woman stand almost alone against almost the entire leadership of this church, writing that vast amount of correspondence without saying at least something in the heat of controversy that would prove embarrassing a century later? She emerges from this 1888 saga vindicated both in her positions and in the spirit which she demonstrated. Nothing ever published by the White Estate does such credit to her as this ingenuous outpouring of her heartfelt zeal.
She never expresses any criticism of the righteousness by faith theology of Jones and Waggoner from 1888 on through 1895 and 1896. Those who in our Centennial denigrate the 1888 message rely exclusively on one sentence that appears to be critical, but it is possible that they wrest it from its context and may even misquote it as well. In that one lone sentence stenographically reported in 1888 she says, “Some interpretations of Scripture given by Dr. Waggoner I do not regard as correct” (Ms. 15, 1888).
The stenographer could not record the emphasis Ellen White might have given to that “I”, but it is clear in her immediate context that she finds no fault with his doctrinal message. Rather, she is willing to surrender her personal opinions for greater light to be received through Waggoner: “I would have humility of mind, and be willing to be instructed as a child. The Lord has been pleased to give me great light, yet I know that He leads other minds, and opens to them the mysteries of His Word, and I want to receive every ray of light that God shall send me, though it should come through the humblest of His servants [an obvious reference to Waggoner]. … Some interpretations of Scripture given by Dr. Waggoner I do not regard as correct. But … I see the beauty of truth in the presentation of the righteousness of Christ in relation to the law as the doctor has placed it before us. … That which has been presented harmonizes perfectly with the light which God has been pleased to give me during all the years of my experience. If our ministering brethren would accept the doctrine which has been presented so clearly, … their prejudices would not have a controlling power. … Let us pray as did David, ‘Open thou mine eyes’” (Ms. 15, 1888, emphasis added).
For a decade Ellen White expresses only consistent, often joyous, recognition that the Holy Spirit was endorsing Waggoner’s and Jones’s doctrinal message, while the unreasonable opposition they suffered isolated them and at times drove them to unwise expressions, as ancient Israel drove Moses to a rash word and act. Her famous April 9, 1893 letter to Jones unequivocally commends his theology while cautioning him against being pressured into extreme expressions to defend it.
Although the 1888 messengers were human, as are we all, there is here no Ellen White hint that they showed a lack of Christian spirit toward their brethren during these early years, no evidence that harshness or an abrasive spirit on their part gave just cause for their brethren to oppose them so. These four volumes seem to make clear that our published Centennial criticism of Jones and Waggoner perpetuates the 1888 unbelief. This is phenomenal—after a century of our history, like the Jews’ continued rejection of Christ and His apostles after nearly 2000 years of their history.
But “the entrance” of truth “giveth light.” With the publication of these four volumes we have at last turned on to the right runway, and we can expect the Lord to begin to work henceforth. Any scholar will now hesitate to publish misrepresentations of Ellen White’s 1888 testimony, for the humblest layman can check the sources for himself.
(2) Manuscripts and Memories of Minneapolis 1888 (Pacific Press, 1988). This further 591 page collection includes documents from other contemporaries of Jones and Waggoner. They reveal that many of “the brethren” leave a record of spiritual blindness and resistance to the Holy Spirit in a time of unprecedented eschatological opportunity. All were hardworking men consecrated to the cause of the church, professing to believe the gospel, while with few exceptions they reveal an insensitivity to the actual leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit in “the truth of the gospel.” And the most prominent among them were absorbed in heart-opposition to Ellen White.
Further, in these documents none of those who confess rejection of the 1888 message cite as an excuse that Jones’s or Waggoner’s personality provoked them to reject it. Selfjustifying human nature would exploit significant failure on their part if it had been prominent.
Two brethren who do express criticism of Jones’s 1888 personality wait until 42 years later to do so, but one (W. C. White) in 1889 strangely contradicts his disparaging 1930 testimony with an opposite view of warm commendation. In 1931 A. T. Robinson recalls Jones’s sharp Minneapolis remark to Uriah Smith concerning the “ten horns,” but at the time it apparently did not impress Ellen White enough to mention it in her diaries or extensive reports of the Minneapolis story, nor do any of the others in this collection do so.
This isolated incident apparently made little impression in 1888 against the backdrop of a steady, unequivocal Holy Spirit endorsement. Either the lapse of time superimposed the image of the post-1903 Jones onto Robinson’s earlier memories, or Jones’s spirit in that remark was not as severe as he assumed.1
There is something pathetic in reading this vast correspondence of leaders of the church who conduct business as usual in a time which we now know was one of unprecedented eschatological opportunity.
(3) From 1888 to Apostasy—The Case of A. T. Jones, by George R. Knight (Review and Herald, 1987). This special “1888 Centennial Series” volume appears to be a transparent effort to discredit both Jones and the message which the Lord gave him for this church. The book gives clear recognition that the message was rejected at Minneapolis and thereafter, a step toward reality; but it confuses the picture by presenting a bungling God who made a poor choice of a messenger and His naive prophet who was over-enthusiastic about the message and messenger.
Capitalizing on every possible defect in Jones’s personality and ministry, real or imagined, and often imputing evil motives gratuitously, the author pictures him as a man of “careless mouth and harsh speech,” using “sensational language” with “pompous attitudes,” “self-confident,” “egotistic,” a man who “never mastered the art of … Christian kindness,” who had an “abrasive and cocksure personality.” Even as he arose from the baptismal waters in Walla Walla the youthful Jones is saddled with this “perennial problem of extremism.” Why would the Lord specially choose such a man?
Jones’s gospel message is dismissed as having “error mixed” in it; thus it is clearly implied that it is dangerous to accept it. Specifically, he is charged with heavy responsibility for fathering both the “holy flesh” and pantheism heresies of the turn of the century.
Many readers who are unable to check the original sources will conclude that nothing such a quixotic figure as Jones says is worth serious attention today. This appears to be the thesis of the book.
But if one pursues Ellen White’s contemporary accounts of Jones’s character and message, a problem comes into focus. She describes him as one who “bears the word of the Lord,” “Christ’s delegated messenger,” a “man whom God has commissioned … [with] the demonstration of the Holy Spirit,” a “chosen servant … whom God is using.”He is one of only two Seventh-day Adventist ministers in history who she said had “heavenly credentials.”2 Is it not strange that such a villification of Jones is published and endorsed in our Centennial Celebration? Do nations or churches normally villify the principals whom they celebrate in centennials?
Our author endorses the popular misconception that the 1888 message itself is lost. But Ellen White’s enthusiastic endorsements of both Jones’smessage and manner of presenting it continue for nearly a decade following 1888, indicating that the “message” was more than the supposedly lost presentations at Minneapolis. Years later she says in the present tense, “The message given us by A. T. Jones … is a message of God to the Laodicean church.” “God has upheld [him], … given [him] precious light.”(Letter S24, 1892; Letter 51a, 1895).
During this decade she even speaks with enthusiasm of Jones’s personality and method of speaking, directly contradicting the impression of gauche abrasiveness: he “set forth [the message] with beauty and loveliness,” “with light, with grace, and power.” Listening to him, the people “saw the truth, goodness, mercy, and love of God as they never before had seen it.” She considers “it a privilege to stand by the side of [Jones] and give my testimony with the message for this time” (Review and Herald, May 27, 1890; February 12, 1889; March 18, 1890; Letter, January 9, 1893). It is difficult to relate these words to the “cocksure,” “harsh” personality which our Centennial writers attribute to him. Would she not consider it embarrassing to “stand by” such a man?
But this book does not create its disparaging view of Jones from modern imagination. There are indeed historical sources critical of him. He had enemies in his day who taunted him “with being a fanatic, extremist, and enthusiast,” who “criticized and depreciated, and even stooped to ridicule the messenger through whom the Lord has wrought in power” (cf. Testimonies to Ministers, p. 97). But these were unbelieving opponents fighting the Holy Spirit’s leading. Why is their judgment superior to that of Ellen White?
The Lord’s endorsements of Jones are pretty serious, for she says that those who “accuse and criticize [Jones] … accuse and criticize the Lord who has sent” him. Opposers “will be asked in the judgment, 'Who required this at your hand, to rise up against the message and the messenger I sent to My people with light, with grace, and power?'” (Ibid., p. 466; Letter, January 9, 1893).
The charge that Jones virtually fathered the “holy flesh” fanaticism rests literally on one word that he used in an 1898 editorial, which turns out to be a direct quotation from the apostle Paul. The context of the November 22 editorial is health reform, having nothing to do with “holy flesh.” Likewise, the charge that Jones taught or believed pantheism rests on the assumptions or prejudices of others. Not one sentence is quoted from him as objective evidence that he believed or taught pantheism.
This may seem like an unimportant detail, but the integrity of the “most precious message” the Lord sent this people is the issue at stake. If that message led its believers into pantheism, Ellen White must be seriously wrong because the message was most dangerous, not “most precious.” But in Jones’s case it did not lead him into pantheism, proving thus that it could not have been a factor to lead Waggoner into pantheism. What led to the pantheism (or pan-entheism) problem was the climate of rejection of their 1888 message, not its acceptance.
But Knight justifies his charge by suggesting a novel definition of pantheism. Its true definition is an impersonal “God” dwelling in grass and trees. For Knight, the dangerous source of pantheism is the 1888 concept of a personal God in close fellowship with us, linking the experience of righteousness by faith in the believer’s heart with “the doctrine of the heavenly sanctuary and its cleansing.” “The concept of the indwelling power of Christ … inherent in the 1888 message … when pushed too far … easily crosses the border into pantheism.”
But this contrived definition creates insurmountable problems, for it logically suggests that the author of Hebrews was also a pantheist, as was Ellen White. And Jesus also pushes the concept very far, assuring His followers that the Holy Spirit, His Vicar, will not only “abide with you forever,” but “shall be in you.” That which proves too much proves nothing.
There is indeed evidence that at one period of his life Jones became harsh and abrasive. He lost his hold on the grace of meekness and became a bitter critic of his former brethren. But this was more than a full decade after Minneapolis. There are “two” Jones’s: (a) the 1888-1903 “servant of God” who in general honored his commission and justified his “heavenly credentials,” albeit at times exhibiting human weaknesses; and (b) the post-1903 Jones who lost his way tragically. Modern opponents of Jones confuse the two. And the really critical years were 1888-1893, for the opposition had so hardened by that time that our long wandering became inevitable after 1893. Jones’s record during those early years seems clear.
The Centennial literature about Jones fails to give attention to a missing ingredient in the fascinating story. During those early years of his faithfulness, he suffered severe “unchristlike” “persecution,” to borrow Ellen White’s phrases (General Conference Bulletin 1893, p. 184). Its cumulative impact unsettled and deranged his spiritual faculties. The Lord could not have made a mistake in selecting him for his unique role—heralding “the beginning” of the loud cry message. Neither did Ellen White err in supporting him. “To a great degree” his later failure is the consequence of “our” uncharitable rejection of his message, which Ellen White often likened to the spirit of the ancient Jews in rejecting Christ.
Jones’s failure thus had something to do with the consequence of what she said was our brethren insulting the Holy Spirit. When He comes in the form of the latter rain blessing and is “insulted,” in that unique sense He has to leave. The latter rain blessing has to be withdrawn in the very time when it is desperately needed. Yet the ferment of time can not be halted; history must go on, and then all kinds of bad things develop. This is our denominational story.
Knight insists that Ellen White was not concerned about the doctrinal or theological aspects of Jones’s and Waggoner’s message. But her own writings demonstrate a keen concern for the same. He urges the church to “start living the caring Christian life now,” but without benefit of the “most precious message” that the Lord sent which alone can make such a reformation a reality. Thus his position logically sets the clock of reformation back and vitiates a hundred years of history.
In pre-Minneapolis times Ellen White often urged the church to start living “the caring Christian life now.” But she complained that her exhortations were largely ineffective. When the message of Jones and Waggoner came, she rejoiced because she saw how it could transform Adventist imperatives into joyous enablings. Knight’s position logically reiterates the 1888 opposition, holding to the popular legalistic imperatives while denigrating the God-given gospel enablings implicit in the actual 1888 message itself.
(4) The Adventist Review of January 7, 1988, the “Centennial Edition,” honors the 1888 message while in fact disparaging it, saying that “Jones and Waggoner had error mixed in their message.” In other words, be afraid of their message! Significantly, the entire issue does not permit them to say a word, rendering them virtually persona non grata even more effectively than did the Review editor of a century ago. The unique essentials of their message find no place in this issue. Yet Luther, Paul Tournier, and even Uriah Smith, the foremost opponent of their message, are allowed to speak.
(5) Ministry, International Journal for Clergy, February 1988, the “Righteousness by Faith—Special Edition.” The main points as set forth by the various writers can be briefly summarized in italics. Our comments which follow in indentation are not intended to be critical or fault-finding. It is a blessing that this magazine was published for it has directed many thoughtful minds to study into the issues. These comments are offered in view of the shortness of time while the Lord still commissions the four angels to hold the four winds a little longer:
(a) The 1888 Session was marked by open rebellion against Ellen White on the part of a large number of our ministers. She even wondered at one point whether God might have to call out another movement, but her confidence in God’sleading of the church was restored. Most of the delegates, “the ministers generally,” “nearly all,” were opposed to the beginning of the glorious loud cry message (cf. pp. 4, 6).
This first article is a radical departure from decades of leadership insistence on an opposite view—that nearly all the 1888 delegates accepted the message. It is cause for rejoicing that the truth of the 1888 history is now being acknowledged, and in the fulness of the time the Lord can add His blessings to that. We heartily agree with the hopeful assurance of this article that in the end truth will be triumphant and that the church will yet respond to the leading of the Lord. Knowing the truth of our history must prepare the church for repentance and reconciliation with the Holy Spirit.
(b) We don’t really know what was the 1888 message because Jones’s and Waggoner’s Minneapolis presentations were not taken down in shorthand. We have to rely on Ellen White’ssermons and writings and what modern expositors assume is the message (cf. pp. 15, 16, 23-33).
The message of Jones and Waggoner was not confined to the supposedly unrecorded presentations at Minneapolis. Ellen White’sendorsements relate to their on-going presentations through 1896, and even beyond. For example, her famous statement that the message is “most precious” does not mention either Minneapolis or 1888, but is dated 1896. (L. E. Froom says that Waggoner’s widow told him that she did record her husband’s 1888 presentations in shorthand, and that he adapted and expanded the material for his 1889 Signs editorials, his 1890 Christ and His Righteousness, and The Glad Tidings.)
Ellen White’s books such as Steps to Christ and Desire of Ages are wonderful. Yet she never claimed that her writings made the 1888 message of Jones and Waggoner passé. Neither did she ever claim that her books presented the message of the latter rain or the loud cry, yet she did make that claim regarding the 1888 message. Millions of copies of Steps have been widely circulated, yet the latter rain has not come. Why? Another millenium of receiving the early rain will not bring the grain to harvest because the latter rain is essential. Is it wise to disparage the message that Ellen White said marked its beginning?
(c) The message of righteousness by faith as presented by Jones and Waggoner contained error. It led to “holy flesh” and pantheism heresies. Ellen White criticized their message and found fault with it (cf. p. 13, 61).
Every writer who portrays the message as erroneous relies on that one lone exceptional Ellen White sentence—“Some interpretations of Scripture given by Dr. Waggoner I do not regard as correct” (Ms. 15, 1888). To wrest this from its context denies literally hundreds of other statements that express unqualified endorsement. Only a flawed methodology can interpret it as a criticism of Waggoner’s theology when she says on the same page, “That which has been presented harmonizes perfectly with the light which God has been pleased to give me.” A few days later she adds, “When I … had heard for the first time the views of Elder E. J. Waggoner, … I stated that I had heard precious truths uttered that I could respond to with all my heart.” “Every fiber of my heart said amen” (Ms. 24, 1888; Ms. 5, 1889). If we italicize her “I” as she may well have emphasized it in that Ms. 15, 1888 sentence, all contradiction is removed. She says that she is ready to exchange personal preconceived opinions for greater light.
The ultimate test of Jones’s and Waggoner’s unique message is the witness of Scripture. Here the evidence is also solid.
(d) A significant share of the blame for the church leadership rejecting the message between 1888 and 1896 lies with Jones and Waggoner, who were basically unconverted men at that time, “proud, opinionated.” They showed an unsanctified spirit in presenting their righteousness by faith message (cf. pp. 11, 13, 61).
No evidence from Ellen White supports these dark allegations. Neither do we find it in the newly published correspondence of contemporaries from 1888 to 1896. It is difficult to understood how the Lord would select two messengers for a special work in 1888 if they were at that time unconverted, harsh, obnoxious, arrogant, proud, opinionated, cantankerous, or abrasive.3
(e) Several writers suggest that personal experience and winsomeness are more important than truth. Another counters this by saying that true experience cannot take place without comprehending true doctrine. But the emphasis of this Ministry is that we do not need the doctrine or theological teachings of the 1888 message itself and that it is wrongheaded to give serious credence to them (cf. pp. 16, 61).
Biblical righteousness by faith says the “gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” There is in it a doctrinal “truth of the gospel” which contradicts the falsehood of “another gospel.” “The truth shall make you free.”Doctrinal error corrupts and paralyzes the gospel, even when presented in small amounts. A correct “experience” in the time of the final issues is impossible without the full truth of the gospel which communicates a saving knowledge as its built-in feature.
(f) There is no difference between “translation faith” and “resurrection faith.” Those who stand in the final time of trouble will not overcome or reflect Christ’s character more significantly than those who have lived in past ages (cf. p. 42)
This seems to be a contradiction of the following: “Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. … There is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people on earth” (The Great Controversy, p. 425; see also p. 623). Since the beginnings of the Advent Movement our people have recognized the unique nature of the mature faith of those who are ready to welcome Christ at His return; if this were not clearly supported by many Bible and Spirit of Prophecy statements, it should be discarded as Ministry recommends. But the inspired support is voluminous.
(g) What we say is less important than how we say it In other words, true doctrine seems less important than a pleasant personality (cf. p. 61).
Carried to its logical conclusion, this position could give credence to the mark of the beast instead of to the seal of God provided the proponent shows what appears to be a more pleasant, winsome spirit. “Many a man of cultured intellect and pleasant manners … is but a polished instrument in the hands of Satan” (Great Controversy, p. 509). The New Testament teaches that while the truth as it is in Jesus will always make the believer Christlike in spirit, it will also make one aggressive for truth in a sanctified sense; and the 1888 messengers notably demonstrated this.
(h) The apostasy of Jones and Waggoner is a warning not to trust their message. In other words, it cannot be “most precious” if it led to their downfall (cf. pp. 13, 61).
This does not harmonize with Ellen White’s several statements that the messengers' failure or apostasy will in no way invalidate their message, but that those who think so will be under “a fatal delusion” (Letter S24, 1892).
(i) Being a reformer is a bad idea because it is dangerous. Reformers are generally held in low esteem (cf. p. 62).
Being a self-appointed, fanatical “reformer” is indeed dangerous; but cooperating with the Holy Spirit in reformation cannot be dangerous. The church desperately needs genuine revival and reformation, and it may not be safe to wait for another generation to effect it.
(j) Adventist theology and preaching are more Christ-centered today than before 1888. This indicates commendable spiritual progress since 1888 (cf. p. 62).
This may be quite true, but whether or not it is depends more on the judgment of Christ than upon our own. Is not His message in Revelation 3:14-17 still applicable? For sure, the essential elements of the 1888 message are still opposed and even silenced a hundred years later, and worldliness and lukewarmness abound. This would not be true if the pure gospel were clearly proclaimed, for it is “the power of God unto salvation.” Careful motif analysis may reveal that there is far more legalism still implicit in our current teaching than we care to recognize.
(k) The 1888 message was well accepted in the decade following Minneapolis, and the new General Conference president, O. A. Olsen (not A. V. Olson) supported it “enthusiastically” (cf. p. 62).
This is refuted by Ellen White’s 1896 testimonies which represent Olsen acting “as did Aaron” in weakly submitting to the driving influence of determined opponents of the message. See her clear statements cited in this book, pp. 178, 179.
(l) Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9 does not express corporate repentance, but intercession, nor does it support the idea that one generation can repent for the sins of a previous one. The idea of corporate repentance is also confused in this magazine, assuming that it means a formal action of the General Conference in session acknowledging the wrong of a century ago, and voting “official” regret for it (cf. pp. 34-36; 7,8).
Something further needs study—the reality of the guilt the whole world shares for the murder of the Son of God (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 38; Desire of Ages, p. 745; Romans 3:19). Should only the ancient Jews and Romans repent for that sin? Calvary sums up the world’s corporate guilt—guilt for sins that we may not have personally committed but would commit except for the grace of God because of our natural human enmity against Him (Romans 8:7). This guilt is shared by every human being, apart from specific repentance. Ministry must also recognize Christ’s experience of corporate repentance in behalf of the world, as His baptism demonstrates (In Heavenly Places, p. 252; Review and Herald, January 21, 1873; General Conference Bulletin, 1901, p. 36). Biblical corporate repentance is personal, individual repentance for the sins of others as though they were our own, which they would be but for the grace of Christ. We all need Christ’s righteousness imputed 100%. Confusion in realizing the true depths of corporate repentance frustrates the message of Christ’srighteousness, implying that we do not need its complete imputation.
No responsible minister or scholar, to our knowledge, has ever been so naive as to recommend a formal vote by a General Conference in session, or even by a committee, as a method of righting the wrong of 1888. “Corporate confession” has always been a misnomer. “Corporate repentance” is the proper term, and thank God it has now been recognized as worthy of serious study.
(m) God has predetermined the time for Christ’s second coming. Therefore to avoid “a skewed picture” we must discount inspired statements which say that we have delayed it by our unbelief or that we can hasten it by repentance and true faith. It is assumed that Christ has delayed His coming, but it would follow logically that it is “wicked” to suggest that we have delayed it (cf. pp. 41-45).
This is the opposite of what Christ says in His parable. This thesis hangs on two isolated Ellen White statements, both misapplied and one actually misquoted. While it is true that Christ’s return has been delayed, it is not He who has delayed it, but we:
(i) “Like the stars in the vast circuit of their appointed path, God’s purposes know no haste and no delay” (Desire of Ages, p. 32). Here Ellen White discusses the first coming of Christ, not His second. Note the context: “The hour for Christ’scoming had been determined. When the great clock of time pointed to that hour, Jesus was born in Bethlehem.” The author assumes that because there was a predetermined time for the first coming of our Lord, there must be the same for the second. The first was set by Daniel’s time prophecies; the second is in a different category: “In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound” there shall be kronos no longer (Revelation 10:7, 6). In other words, since 1844 there are no more predestined, predetermined times.
(ii) “The apparent tarrying is not so in reality, for at the appointed time our Lord will come” (Letter 38, 1888). Our author later misquotes this as “His ‘appointed time,’” when our Lord Himself explains what is “the appointed time”— not predeterminism but “when the grain ripens, [when] immediately He puts in the sickle.” “The time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe” (Mark 4:39; Revelation 14:15). Our author makes no reference to these two key Bible passages, but causes Ellen White virtually to contradict both. He further remarks that “Ellen White did say that Christ has delayed His coming,” but causes her to use the language of the unfaithful servant in the parable. In reality it is we who have delayed it.
This thesis introduces an element of Calvinism into Adventist thinking, disparaging the reality of the 1888 event in relation to the timing of the second advent. The Father’s infinite foreknowledge allows not a thread of Calvinistic predeterminism.
(n) “The Dynamics of Salvation” is recommended as a statement on righteousness by faith so complete and effective that it virtually renders unnecessary the publication of the 1888 message itself. Here is evidence that leadership understands, believes, and preaches the message. The preface deplores the fact that some charge the leadership of the church today with holding the righteousness by faith views of those who opposed the 1888 message a century ago (cf. pp. 22-28).
(i) It is obvious that this has become a sensitive and emotionally charged issue. It is true that the present authors have indeed taken the position for years that our popular “righteousness by faith” today is largely a combination of that of the Sunday-keeping churches and of what those taught who opposed the 1888 message a century ago.
(ii) The present authors must confess that they believe the evidence indicates that our long wilderness wandering for a century and the world-wide lukewarmness of the church are indeed evidence of rejecting the 1888 message and starving our people for it. We do not wish to antagonize our brethren; we wish only to be honest in stating our convictions as conscience requires, and to state them in a spirit of Christlike love and loyalty.
(iii) This issue is so vitally important that the world church must consider it candidly. If our position is wrong, the world church must reject it decidedly. If we are right, nothing could be more important to settle on the side of truth. We must honestly analyze the 1888 message in the extant writings, and compare with it our contemporary presentations of the gospel. The predominant views of the church can be motif-analyzed in our denominational publications. We shall find that the 1888 messengers achieved a breakthrough in doctrinal and practical understanding that bridged Calvinism and Arminianism and went far beyond both. This was the reason for Ellen White’s decade of enthusiasm for their message. A message that more clearly recovers the full truths of the gospel than did the 16th century Reformers or our own exegetes today must lighten the earth with glory.
(iv) The claims made for this document are like those of the 1952 General Conference president at the Sligo Bible Conference. He claimed that the message presented there surpassed the 1888 message. It is futile for Ministry to claim that our scholars do the same today, and it is equally futile for these present authors to maintain that they do not. Let the world church consider the objective evidence by comparing the two.
(v) The following are some of the 1888 concepts that are unique: legal justification and the effectiveness of that which is by faith; the glorious good news of the two covenants; the mighty power of Christ to save from continuing sin; His nearness in taking our fallen sinful nature; the initiative of the Holy Spirit in saving the lost; the Good Shepherd’s initiative in seeking His lost sheep; the possibility of overcoming all sin even as Christ overcame in our behalf; the certainty of a final generation reflecting the perfection of Christ’s character; the practical relation of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary to the cleansing of human hearts; the motivation of concern for Christ’s honor that transcends self-centered seeking of reward or avoiding punishment; the reality of the lost taking the initiative to be lost; and the truth that the sacrifice of Christ accomplished far more than making a mere provision that does nothing unless we do something—He gave His blood for the world, therefore the world owes its present life to Him. The 1888 message probed the depths of the atonement in a way that must yet capture the attention of the world.
With the exception of a few brief excerpts one writer cites from Waggoner, neither of the 1888 messengers endorsed by Ellen White is allowed to speak in Ministry. The 64-page magazine is devoted to 1888, yet the reader catches no glimpse of the authentic message itself as “the Lord in His great mercy” sent it. Undoubtedly the reason is that the editors know that every unique element of that message is controverted today, so that the 1888 message itself has now become the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as Christ became such to the ancient Jews.
(6) Perfect in Christ by Helmut Ott (Review and Herald, 1987) is recommended in the Adventist Review, January 7, 1988, p. 21. It “focuses upon two themes of the 1888 session: Christ’s work today in securing salvation of those who accept Him, and the all-sufficient righteousness of Christ imputed to mankind through faith.”
In fact, the basic thesis of this book is a direct contradiction of the 1888 message of Christ’s righteousness. But the author has so skilfully manipulated Scripture and Ellen White statements that the Review editors assumed that the manuscript taught a valid righteousness by faith. The basic idea is that our mighty Saviour is so weak that He never enables “believers to develop perfect righteousness or attain spiritual wholeness” or demonstrate His righteousness “in their personal historical lives.” Their continued sinning and practical unrighteousness is conveniently covered by the legal substitution of Christ’s perfect righteousness. The author creates a straw man that he can ridicule by the derogatory use of his own verb: “Believers” do not “actually achieve” “perfect righteousness … in their personal historical lives.”
But the true, issue is not whether believers will achieve a Christlike character but whether through faith in Him they will demonstrate such a character “in their personal historical lives.” Scripture overwhelmingly says they will.
The volume misses the point of the 1888 concept of justification by faith. The legal declaration of justification that results from Christ’s sacrifice applies to the “whole world,” to “all men” (Romans 3:23, 24; 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 2:2; John 1:29, etc.). But those who respond to the Good News, who believe, experience justification by faith, and are thus made truly obedient to all the commandments of God. The instrumentality which accomplishes this miracle is “faith which worketh by love.” Thus God’s people will demonstrate “in their personal historical lives” a true obedience.
The White Estate Staff in early 1988 released an “Analysis” of Ott’s book which concludes that it is incomprehensible that it could have been published by a Seventh-day Adventist press. The analysis demonstrates that it makes “of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God” as presented in the writings of Ellen White, and that the arguments used are supported by the same misuse and misinterpretation of Ellen White statements that were characteristic of Desmond Ford. (January 20, 1988).
(7) Grace on Trial by Robert J. Wieland is a book manuscript that was requested in 1987 by the editors at the Pacific Press who planned to market the volume for the 1988 camp meeting season. It was duly submitted to the editors according to normal denominational procedure. After examining the manuscript, the editors voted to publish it and proceeded to edit it. When it was in the early production process, the General Conference intervened and forced them to reject it.
If it had been published by Pacific Press, it would have been the first book of the Centennial Series that allowed the 1888 messengers to present their message in their own words.
(8) What Every Adventist Should Know about 1888 by Arnold V. Wallenkampf (Review and Herald, 1988) is a milestone in our denominational history. An expanded version of four unpublished articles Dr. Wallenkampf wrote in 1979, this book thoroughly contradicts the rich-and-increased-with-goods thesis of the major works about 1888 that have been authoritatively published for the past forty years.
The author makes abundantly clear that the gracious message was resisted and rejected by “the majority of the ministers at the  conference,” and that the resistance continued “with the passing of the years.” He says that we have been in a “state of rebellion against God.” Seventh-day Adventist leaders “cruelly treated” the Holy Spirit with “hard words … aimed at Christ Himself.” Our true history is a “groupthink” “betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus” which “staggers one’s imagination.” We must learn “not to follow leaders blindly.” “If the majority of the delegates to the Minneapolis conference had not followed their leaders in rejecting the 1888 message, Ellen White would not have implied that Christ was figuratively crucified at the conference.”
Further, he notes that the repentance of the most influential of the opponents of the message “was not wholehearted and complete.” “A largely imperceptible ground swell of opposition was rising against it” in the decade following Minneapolis. “By 1899 the church’s righteousness had become nauseating to our Saviour.” Ellen White’s exile to Australia was related to the 1888 unbelief: “It was largely discomfort among certain influential leaders with her and her messages that had spawned the plan that took her to Australia in 1891.” Little improvement followed 1901: “Apparently, by 1902 to 1904 the church was in danger of sliding back to the same state that had existed prior to the Minneapolis conference.” Ellen White did not believe “that the majority of Seventh-day Adventists had accepted the 1888 message as a personal experience before her death in 1915.” In 1926, A. G. Daniells “believed that the Adventist Church was still waiting for the experience that God had hoped to introduce at Minneapolis.”
According to Wallenkampf, we have created tragic unbelief today by “pretending” that initial rejection turned into later “enthusiastic acceptance.” “If we do not forthrightly present the history of the 1888 General Conference session and its aftermath, we as a denomination perpetuate the sin committed at Minneapolis in 1888. By doing so, we join our spiritual forefathers and virtually crucify Christ anew in the person of the Holy Spirit.”
A General Conference leader is speaking forthrightly at last: “It is incumbent on us as a people to confess that for a long time we have largely glossed over the virtual rejection of the 1888 message. … God wants all His followers to be truthful and honest.” “Our present responsibility is to tell the truth about the Minneapolis conference of 1888 and its aftermath. There is no virtue in saying that all has been well when this is not so.” These are his words, not ours.
May the Holy Spirit in great mercy enable us all to be honest in this Centennial year! He can grant revival, reformation, and repentance if we will simply tell the full truth and stop repressing or denying it. This will bring reconciliation with Christ and heal our internecine alienations. Surely 100 years is time enough to face the reality of Christ’s call to “the angel of the church of the Laodiceans” to repent. (Wallenkampf recognizes that this “angel” is the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and that our decades of denial have produced world-wide lukewarmness and lethargy in the church). The evidence is now clear that Christ has had enough. He cannot forever endure His nausea.
There is definitely progress in the 1988 Centennial. Focusing denominational attention on 1888, its history and its message, even by misinformation, can be blessed of the Lord to the awakening of many minds. Especially youth who are confused by contemporary Adventism will be intrigued by the new candor. And the Holy Spirit permits even the publication of falsehood to be overruled by sharper delineations of truth. (Wallenkampf attacks the idea of corporate repentance but gives clear evidence he sincerely does not understand it. The widespread 1988 ridicule of corporate and denominational repentance will be overruled by the Holy Spirit to stir up many serious minds to ponder more deeply Christ’s call in Revelation 3:19. It is abhorrent for Adventist leaders to heap-scorn on His call).
Hopefully, this generation will come to realize our true spiritual need as a people, and experience a hunger and thirst for the righteousness (by faith) that the Lord in His great mercy tried to give us. Repentance cannot be worked up by ourselves or forced even by the publication of overwhelming documentary evidence. It remains a precious gift from God.
We hope and we pray that He will graciously give it to this generation.
1 J. S. Washburn told these authors of the incident in 1950, but his context also is highly supportive of Jones as demonstrating his “heavenly credentials” at that time. See transcript of June 4, 1950 interview as published in the 1888 Message Study Committee Newsletter, 2934 Sherbrook Drive, Uniontown, Ohio 44685. [return to text]
3 In a letter to Jones long after he had “apostatized” Ellen White said he had “never yet been thoroughly converted” (November 19, 1911). If the “never yet” goes back to the time when the Lord sustained him in his labors, we have a serious problem with Ellen White’s endorsements and with Jones’s obviously contrite experience at that time. The phrase “never yet” more likely has reference to the timing of her appeals to him in the post-1900 period when he was a man who had “lost his bearings,” and thus lost his conversion. [return to text]