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Waggoner the Pantheist
The General Conference of 1897
E. J. Waggoner first expressed his pantheistic ideas in 1894. In 1895 and 1896 he did not significantly develop these ideas but repeated his thoughts on justification, the atonement and the incarnation. Then in 1897 Waggoner returned to the United States from England for the General Conference session.1 Here he presented a series of studies on the book of Hebrews. He ignored those chapters so vital to Adventist theology—apparently because he no longer believed in a literal sanctuary in heaven nor in its "cleansing" through the intercession of Christ.2 Rather than provoking a confrontation on something so vital to historic Adventism, however, Waggoner focused on the earlier chapters of Hebrews. We are tempted to say he used this scripture to promote his pantheistic sentiments.
Amazingly, none of the General Conference delegates
148or leaders of the church protested Waggoner's pantheism. In fact, his remarks were apparently well received. Furthermore, Robert Haddock is the only scholar we know who has detected Waggoner's pantheism at the 1897 General Conference session. Froom notes that Waggoner spoke at the session but makes no mention of his pantheism. He accuses Kellogg, however, of then introducing the theories which later had their effect on Waggoner.
In his lecture on February 11, 1897, Waggoner said:
As the last act of creation, God made man. And as in all creation we see the Word of God made trees, grass, etc., in man we see the Word of God made flesh....
So just as God made man, and crowned him with glory and honor, we now see the man Jesus, that Man who is in every man crowned with honor and glory; and he added all things unto him.3
In his following address Waggoner continued:
149done was God's power, and so God was in the Word, and the Word was in Adam, so that this power could be manifested in him, God dwelling in him and working in him; God taking this dust and using it to do these wonderful things. It is God that worketh in you to will and to do his good pleasure. Now, if God is there, and I am here, that is altogether too far away. It is God that worketh in me. The Word was made flesh, and the life of Adam was the life of God. He has no other life. Now the blessedness of this is, when man fell, the Word was made flesh. But suppose God had forsaken him, and had not been willing to make the Word flesh; what would have become of him? — He would have returned to dust. But God continues his life to man. So when man fell, God goes right down there with him. Is that so, or is it some fancy? Did God continue life to man, notwithstanding he had sinned? We are here, are we not? We are sinners. We are living, are we not? Whose life is it manifested in us?—It is God's life. Then God continues his life to sinful men. When sin entered, death came; so when man sinned, death came upon him. God stayed with him; therefore, in that he stayed with man, although man had sinned, God took upon himself sinful flesh. And so he took upon himself death, for death had passed upon all the world. Now, let us see further. All creation is continued until now "by the same Word." Everything in this world is kept by the same Word. Although everything is cursed, and everybody can see that, it is yet a fact that it continues; it is an evidence that God is there, Christ is there, the divine Word is there bearing the curse. But in what thing does Christ endure the curse? Where is that point where the curse falls upon Christ?—Sinful flesh. Not only sinful flesh, but that which stands as the symbol of the curse that falls upon Christ—the cross. What is the evidence that he bears the curse?—' 'Accursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." Death and the cross both together mean the curse; therefore wherever there is anything, there is the curse. Nevertheless, wherever there is anything, there is Christ. Wherever there is anything, then, that exists and bears the curse, there is Christ. But where Christ has the curse upon him, he bears the cross. Then do you not see the truthfulness of that statement
150which appeared from Sister White about a year ago, that "the cross of Christ is stamped upon every leaf in the forest?" And a little later than a year ago there appeared in a first-page article of the Review and Herald a statement that the very bread we eat is stamped with the cross. There is something wonderful in that. Perhaps when you read that in every blade, and every leaf, there is the cross of Christ, some of us read it over without thinking about it, and some of us simply said, with Nicodemus, how can this be? How soon do we find Christ crucified, then?—Just as soon as there was any curse. And he is risen again as well, because if you preach Christ crucified, his resurrection necessarily goes with that.
Now, see how God has proclaimed the gospel for our encouragement everywhere. People are inclined to get discouraged; Christians are likely to think, Well, the Lord has forgotten us. Did you ever think that way, as though the Lord didn't care for you;—that he has left you alone? Is there any one who has not felt that way, discouraged, in short? I am not of much importance in this world, we sometimes say; I am of no consequence; I am only one very insignificant and despised, and justly despised; I could drop out, and it wouldn't make any difference. He said that not a sparrow can fall to the ground without his notice; and why?—Because the life of God is there, and there is nothing that can come upon anything in this world that God does not feel. It touches him personally, because his life is all the sensibility that there is in this world. You are struck, you are beaten; you feel it. What makes you feel it? If you were dead you wouldn't feel it. Why do you feel it?—Because you are alive. Where do you get life?—It comes from God. It is God's own life isn't it? Then is it possible for a human being to be touched, just touched—not beaten, bruised, or despised—and the Lord not feel it? Can it be so, whether saint or sinner? Can anything happen to any creature in this world does God not feel? Whither shall I go from his presence, and where shall I go to be away from the presence of God? We cannot get away, because God's power is in everything; and therefore a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the Lord knowing it. We live with all these infirmities. That is Christ in the flesh, then. Do you suppose that Christ
151would have endured all this, and stayed here all these years, with all this infirmity and wickedness and weakness and sin upon him, and then by and by step out and let it all drop? If he was to do that, he would have let it drop in the beginning; but the fact that he came in fallen humanity is an evidence of God's presence, and his presence to give life. And so God on everything has put the stamp of the cross,—upon every leaf, upon every blade of grass, upon everything that we have to do with. He simply means that everywhere we go, and everything we have to do, and everything we eat, and the air we breathe,— through these he is simply preaching the gospel to us, giving the gospel to us. Encouragement, strength, salvation!4
Waggoner's presentation on February 15 revealed the link between his pantheism and his view of the incarnation. He said:
Waggoner then removed the distinction between the
152Holy Spirit and the breath from God given to all mankind in creation.
God put his own breath into man's nostrils, in order that he might live. That is the way we continue to breathe. It is the breath of God that keeps us alive, the Spirit of God in our nostrils. Well, that man must acknowledge what is so patent that he cannot help but acknowledge it; namely, that he did not bring himself into existence, and that he cannot perpetuate his existence for one instant. He is brought face to face with the power of God in him, keeping him alive. It is Christ in fallen man, it is Christ in cursed man, it is Christ with the curse on him, it is Christ crucified. Christ taking fallen, sinful humanity upon him, is Christ crucified. Do not say in your heart, Who will ascend up into heaven to bring Christ down to me, that is to be crucified? No; he is here in the flesh.
"If thou wilt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus." What is it to confess him? To confess a thing is not to make it so, but it is to acknowledge that the thing is so. Now the fact that we are to confess is, that Christ is come in the flesh. 0, let me read a word here. Rom. 1:18-20: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness." What is the truth? Christ says, "I am the truth." Thus the truth that is stated is that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" who hold back Christ in them. "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them;" for ever since the creation of the world, the invisible things of God are clearly seen, "being understood by the things that are made."
Look at the trees; we see the power and the divinity of God in the trees and grass, and in every thing that God has made, and see it clearly, too. But I read that text for years, and forgot that I was one of the things that God
153made. Am I not one of the things of the creation, just as well as a tree? Then what is seen and understood in the things that God has made, even man not excluded?—His eternal power and divinity. So we are without excuse. Now if thou wilt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, that he is in your flesh,—but do not stop with that confession,—"and shalt believe in thy heart that God has raised him from the dead," lifted him up to his own right hand in the heavenly places, "thou shalt be saved." That is Christ crucified, and raised in every man. When he will confess the truth, and believe the truth, then he has Christ in him, crucified and risen, with the resurrection power, to do whatsoever God says.6
The next day Waggoner continued:
What is the word of faith which we preach?—"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Now, what is the great fact, the great truth, about the Lord Jesus that is to be confessed with the mouth? Why, that the Word was made flesh—that is the thing to be confessed, Confess the Lord Jesus. Why confess Christ?—Because to confess a thing is to say it is so. To confess the Lord Jesus in the flesh, is to confess that Christ is the power of God; and that is to confess that this is not of men at all. This life I have is not my life. It is God's.
It is God's in the most absolute sense. The breath of God, and the Word—these are even in thy mouth. It is the
154manifestation of God's power. Then when a man confesses that, he simply gives up, he renounces all his assumptions to power, and of right to rule; all ownership of himself that he has claimed to have, he gives up, and he is the Lord's because this life is the life that God has given. It is the breath that God has lent. I am living upon his bounty; not only so, but it is his life within.
Knowing that fact—that Christ, the Lord, the power of God, is in my flesh—now I will believe in my heart that God has raised him from the dead; that is, gives him the victory over the infirmity of the flesh, even over death. Then I have Christ crucified and risen again in the flesh, and when I believe in that Christ risen to the right hand of God, that lifts me up so long as I believe. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness....
We often speak of the third angel's message going with power, or with a loud voice, "the loud cry." What have we here?—"Lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid." Then this is the loud cry of the third angel's message. This is what we have here in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah. It is the last message going with a loud cry, saying, "Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God." Where? says one. I cannot see him; where is he? Get your eyes open then. That is the last message, Behold your God. Where? — In the things which he has made.
We may learn lessons from the grass. How often we have gone out just as the grass or the Indian corn was beginning to spring forth, and as we passed along we noticed a big clod of earth detached and rising up. It might weigh several pounds. And then we had the curiosity to look under it; and what did we see?—just a little blade of grass, perhaps a blade of wheat, so tiny and small it had no color to it yet;—just a little white mass of fiber and water; that is all, nothing to it. It was just standing upright, and not only standing upright under that clod of earth, but it was steadily pushing it out of the way, and was just keeping its place and going right along, regardless of this clod. It is safe to say that a blade of grass pushes away a weight ten thousand times its own weight. If a man had as much power according to his size and weight, he could lift a mountain; he could take up Pike's Peak, and throw it off as a lad would a football.
155But when you take it out of there, it will not hold itself up. It just yields—it is gone. If you even remove the clod, it cannot stand. That blade of grass is not such a little thing after all, but it is undeniable that there was a wonderful power manifested in that blade of grass. But what was that power?—God's own life, his own personal presence there, doing in the grass just what he designed for the grass; it was God that was working in it, both to will and to do of his own good pleasure....
What life therefore is manifested everywhere in the universe?—The life of Christ. Christ in the flesh crucified and risen, Christ in the flesh crucified in me, because if Christ is crucified some distance from me, even though it be close beside me, it is far away. I cannot make the connection. But when I know that that life which was offered, and which was powerful enough to gain the victory over sin and death, that very same life is in me, and confess it and believe it, everything that that life can do is mine....
So we see that the law is one, and that it is God's life, and it is not an arbitrary arrangement, but God is the author and source of life, and his life works in all his creatures so far as they let him.7
On February 17 Waggoner completely dehistoricized the atonement and replaced it with the sin bearing of Christ in every man.
156things, because he is in them. He is cohesion even to inanimate nature. It is the personal, powerful presence of God that keeps the mountains together, and the stones from crumbling to pieces; because God is there with his personal power. And we saw yesterday about the grass, and the trees, and the rootlets,—that they take up the nourishment that is adapted to them, and leave to one side that which is not fitted for them. That fine discrimination which takes what is necessary for them, and leaves the other aside, we saw was nothing but the power of God doing for them just what we say is instinct in the animals; and when it comes to man, we call it reason. That is God's personal presence. Now if we acknowledge that he is in us, that we are as grass and plants, and acknowledge that as truly as the grass itself does, then this power of God will lead us to make just the same right choice as does the grass, the rootlet, and the tree, in choosing that which is necessary for them....
When we believe that all flesh is grass, we simply allow God in us to choose for us as he chooses in the rootlet and the plant, to select that thing which is necessary. The rootlet will go a long distance in search of what it needs, and will find it every time. It will go a long distance to find moisture, and leave the dry place alone. It is passive in the hands of the Lord, and the Lord chooses for it, and it is simply right.
We are to learn this truth, to behold God in the things he has made. Thus we are to behold God in us....
Crucified and risen in the flesh, in every man's flesh, I carry to the people that message, Behold your God, crucified and risen, not far from you, but in your mouth and heart; believe that he is your life, that he was crucified and has risen to deliver you from death and sin. When we recognize that, then he will fill us.8
157not only physically, but spiritually, we should be much more alive than we are....
The life that God breathed into man was God, and so long as man continued to acknowledge that his life, his breath, came from God, he remained good.9
Waggoner logically combined his pantheism with his view of sanctification.
Then, when Christ in us obeys,—mark, when Christ in us obeys,—how much power has the devil against us?— None. When we allow Christ to fill us through the Spirit, so that we are filled with all the fullness of God, then we have power "over all the power of the enemy." What is our part? — Submission.
Now, that same work of submission is enough for you and me all the rest of our lives. To submit, to give up, and to keep giving up, or rather, to keep given up, as new experiences arise, is all we have to do; and it will occupy all our time. There is work enough for us, then, to hold still, and let the Lord fill us with his Spirit, and work us. That does not mean laziness; it is passive activity, if you please; it means being just as active as the Lord himself was; because Christ himself living in us will be just the same as he was when he was here on the earth..
Then God will live in us, and will choose for us just the same as in the tree. We do not know anything, but he will think for us....
... but he will think in us everything that he desires us to think, and will work in us perfectly to will and to do his good pleasure. Then we will be organized, reorganized,
158made new. It is God thinking and acting in us.10
Waggoner expressed his pantheistic perfectionism in a sermon to the conference on Sabbath morning, March 6.
159consistent with that character. And this is not true of the preachers only, but of every child of God. And this life can only be lived through the power of the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us....
The power of God is in the truth. We do not seek for miracles, but we should seek for the transforming power of the Spirit of God. The power of God in us seeks for utterance and expression. It has been too long repressed. The Lord still waits for us. He does not become impatient with us; and bears with us because he has his character at stake. The only way in which he can demonstrate the perfection of his character, and take away his reproach, is in perfecting a people to his praise. He is able to accomplish this in us. Shall we let God have a chance? Shall we let the people know that God is with us, that they may see him and know him?13
E. J. Waggoner was a key speaker at the General Conference again in 1899.14 Here he carried his pantheism into the area of health reform.
On February 19 Waggoner affirmed that the energy and cohesion in the natural world is "the life of the Lord Jesus Christ,—the Spirit of God."15
On the morning of February 21 Waggoner confessed that in the last few months the Lord had taught him "how to live forever."16 Then he announced, "I expect to live forever."17 He was not talking about possessing
160eternal life by faith but about possessing it in reality. Waggoner had lost the distinction between faith and reality. If Christ lived in our sinful flesh just as He had lived in Palestine, the life of Christ in us would live as sinlessly and as free from disease as when He lived in Palestine. Thus Waggoner's reasoning was consistent with his extreme view of sanctification and perfectionism. He said:
In the afternoon of February 21 Waggoner began to argue that simple health agencies like air, water and food have healing power because they contain the life—or blood—of Jesus Christ by which sin is cleansed and disease overcome. Waggoner said the breath of life which God gives to every man is the Holy Spirit. If a man will only believe that God's life is in the air, he will surely be filled with the Spirit.
161life. You take in the life, and live by it; thus we see the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses from all sin. He gives us life, to keep us going. So then, if we shut out the air, we shut out, unconsciously, the fullness of the Spirit of God. But if we receive it,—let the air come in full and free, and take it as the gift of God,—we get life. It is God that gives us this life, and we live by him. It is the same with eating. We live by the food that he gives to us; but it is his own life that he gives to us, and there is no other. If we take that by faith,—and "the just shall live by faith,' '—we are receiving the life of God.19
Waggoner argued that the life of Christ is literally in food. When Christ said, "The seed is the Word," Waggoner removed the distinction between a figure of speech and literal speech. When corn is sown, he said, the Word of God is sown. Christ's life—His Word, His blood—is in the corn. So when Christ said of the sacramental bread, "This is My body," Waggoner claimed it was literally true.
Here Waggoner introduced a view on the words of institution of the Supper which he later repeated in his book, The Everlasting Covenant. He said the papacy pretended to change the bread into the body of Christ. Waggoner argued that the bread was already the body of Christ. In fact, all food contains the body of Christ. Waggoner acknowledged, however, that it is better to eat good food because it contains the body of Christ in a purer form.
162A voice: Is the life of God in the bread?
E. J. Waggoner: Yes.
A voice: What is the difference, then, between this and the position taken by the priest?
E. J. Waggoner: They are diametrically opposite. Christ said, when he took bread, and broke it, "This is my body;" but the priest says, "I will take this bread, and make it the body." The priest denies the truth of God. The Lord's Supper is simply the model meal. Christ is the bread of life,—the bread that came down from heaven. But when I said that, I was not speaking of manna. The Jews said: "Our fathers had manna." What did God say before he gave the Israelites manna?—He said, "I will rain bread from heaven for them." "I am the bread that came down from heaven." Yet in that day they said to Jesus, We would like to see a miracle. What had he done?—He had brought the bread from heaven for them. He had given them bread,—himself,—and they had all been feeding upon spiritual meat.
Christ took the piece of bread, and said, "This is my body." Whoever really recognizes Christ in the bread, ought to cut off everything from his table that which is not purely of Christ, and that does not have the pure life of Christ in it. He should cut off everything from it that is corrupted, because Christ is a Lamb without blemish or spot.
Then we are to take that by faith unto life. Are we to live by faith?—"This is my body." But let every man stop, and examine himself. "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." What was the trouble with the Jews in the desert?—They had spiritual meat; but the very best food in the world will not save a man if he does not see the Lord in it. The infidel can not preach the gospel of health, because when one takes these things apart from Christ, he is not made the underlying principle.
What do we put into the ground when we want corn?— We plant the seed. But what did God put there to bring forth the first corn? "The seed is the word of God." He sowed the seed of his own word. Now when you have a handful of good seed, that seed has the life of God in it.
163You have got the same thing that God put into the ground when corn first grew. When this is made into bread, life is in it still. We do not see the life, but it is there, and it is the life of God. It is his body, and we take his body and get life. But if we take it, not discerning his body, we reject that, and really say we can live without him. We do not pay attention to his laws, and so die. But if you see in it his body, then in every meal to which we sit down, we see the body of Christ; and we take it, and we live by it. In every meal we eat without recognizing the Lord's body, we eat and drink condemnation to ourselves.20
We have a drink of water here,—living water. Where does it come from?—The throne of God, where Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain, is. It flows from his heart. It is the blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin. The blood of Christ is a real thing.
That water which flows from the throne of God is his life, and his life is the light. "If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another; and
164the blood of the Son of God cleanses us from all sin." Is that a real thing? or is it only a figurative expression,—a mere form of words? Can we actually bathe in the blood of Christ, and live by it?—Yes; for what is the blood?—It is the life. The life is in the blood. By whatever means Christ conveys the life to us, that is the blood, the life. He gives it to us. It does not necessarily have to be always in one form. There are innumerable forms in which life is conveyed to us; but it is all the one life. Remember, the Spirit and the water and the blood agree in one; they all come to one.
Water is life, and it has life-giving powers.22
Let us drink in the water every day. Then we are living in the presence of God.23
165between the righteousness of faith and sanctification. Being logical to his premise, he proceeded to remove every vital distinction in every area of his theology. By 1899 he had lost the distinction between figure and fact. He could see no difference between literal water and spiritual water. He had become thoroughly mystical. For him all the great objective truths of Christianity, such as the incarnation and atonement, were dehistoricized and internalized.
Waggoner's heresy at the General Conference of 1899 was so outrageous that someone should have exposed it. But there is little evidence that any of the leading brethren were alarmed. In fact, W. W. Prescott was moving in Waggoner's current.24 Although A. F. Ballenger seemed troubled by the direction he felt Waggoner was taking,25 the only significant indication of concern was a letter Ellen G. White sent from Australia to be read at the session. She warned the delegates of subtle theories about God and nature.26
The General Conference of 1901
Waggoner was a speaker at the General Conference again in 1901. Mrs. White had returned from Australia and was present. W. A. Spicer had also returned from India and was alarmed to find Kellogg and others talking like Hindus. Spicer described the crisis as follows:
166center of the universe, with heaven and the throne of God in the midst, but disclaimed any attempt to fix the center of the universe astronomically. But I was urged to understand that heaven is where God is, and God is everywhere in the grass, in the trees, in all creation. There was no place in this scheme of things for angels going between heaven and earth, for heaven was here and everywhere. The cleansing of the sanctuary that we taught about was not something in a far-away heaven. The sin is here (the hand pointing to the heart), and here is the sanctuary to be cleansed. To think of God as having a form in the image of which man was made, was said to be idolatry....
It seemed to me these ideas set all earth and heaven and God swirling away into mist. There was in it no objective unity to lay hold of. With scripture terms and Christian ideas interwoven, it seemed the old doctrine of the Hindus—all nature a very part of Brahma, and Brahma the whole.27
167says, "God is light," and I believe it. Believing that to be so, has revealed to me many things that I never would have known if I had not believed it. Is it the glory of God that he has placed upon the heavens? The heavens declare it. The sun, the moon, and the stars give light to this earth; but whose light are they giving?—The light of God. Christ is the light of the world, and when, on one occasion, he made that statement, he immediately demonstrated it so that we can see how real his light is, because he found a man born blind, and made him see. Then when your eyes look out on such a day as today, and see the light covering the whole earth as with a garment, what are you looking at?—Life. Whose life?—Why, the only life there is—God's life; we are seeing his life. We are too much afraid of coming into touch with realities. Let it be fixed in our minds everlastingly, that when we look out and see this glorious light, we are seeing God's face,— really seeing the light that shines from God's face.
Light is one manifestation of God's life, but in the first chapter of John we have reference to a cleansing fluid as well. We have something that cleanses us from all sin, and that is the life of the Lord, for we are "saved by his life." Turn to the thirty-sixth psalm: "How excellent is thy loving kindness, 0 God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasure. For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light."
So here we have water, the fountain of life. But life is light, and the river of life, clear as crystal, that flows sparkling from the throne of God, is but another manifestation of that life which is light. And so we have water as a manifestation of that one life. Water cleanses impurity; and by the daily washing of our hands, by the washing of our clothes, by the water that washes the impurities from the earth and carries them away to the sea, by that running water which will take impurities that are cast into the stream and swallowing them up, so that in the course of a few miles' running, the water will be pure again, the Lord is showing us the cleansing power of his life, so that we may know that if we simply let ourselves be lost in
168that life, we shall be cleansed and kept free from sin. This is a reality.29
By 1901 Waggoner had so internalized the Christian religion that he had lost sight of the transcendent God.
169The throne of God was man.32 Waggoner's concept of the human nature of Christ was prominently bound to his pantheistic sentiments.33 He obviously did not understand the error in Rome's doctrine of the "immaculate conception." He thought Rome mistakenly attributed a sinless human nature to Christ.34 In reality, however, this is the faith of historic Christianity. Rome erroneously ascribes Christ's sinless nature to the supposed sinlessness of Mary rather than to the power of the Holy Spirit which sanctified Christ's human nature in the womb of the virgin.
One more point in Waggoner's thought of 1901 must be noted because it represents a prominent school of thought we will again encounter in this decade of the 1970's. That is Waggoner's perfectionism applied to the final generation.
Waggoner again expressed his extreme view of sanctification, which he linked to his view on "Christ in sinful flesh." Christ has demonstrated, he said, that God can live a sinless life in sinful flesh. We cannot live a sinless life, but God can do it in us just as He did it in the historic Jesus. This is what God will do in the final generation. Then Waggoner added:
When man, who is the throne of God, has the Spirit of God fully dwelling in him, that one universal, undivided Spirit thinks God's thoughts in him, just the same as when my brain thinks, my foot moves....
The perfect man is the man who does not think for him
170self, but lets God do his thinking for him.35
To say believers today live exactly the same life that Jesus lived removes the distinction which must ever remain between Christ and the believer. We may copy Christ's life, but we can never equal it. His sinless life of infinite perfection may be faintly reflected by the saints. But His unique life cannot be duplicated. Waggoner's view of the final generation would make 144,000 little Christs. He said:
171God apart from man, but as God in man, suffering all that man suffered, subject to everything that man is subject to, what greater power can be manifested in the universe than that?37
In Waggoner's thinking, as in Romanism, the incarnation is extended throughout the church. It is then said we are not saved by faith in the historical acts of God in Christ but by a reenactment of these events in mystical experience. The historical Jesus merely serves as a Model of what God wants to do now and will do again in the final generation. One struggles in vain to find any real distinction between the sinless Christ and the final-generation saint. Waggoner was determined to remove all such distinctions. That is why he had to logically and inevitably go into pantheism.
Waggoner's The Glad Tidings
In 1900 the Pacific Press Publishing Association published Waggoner's commentary on Galatians under the title, The Glad Tidings. The material appeared originally as a series of articles in the Signs of the Times between November 24, 1898, and May 17, 1899. These articles on Galatians contained all the principal
172ingredients of Waggoner's declining theology:
1. Justification was confounded with sanctification as in Roman Catholicism.38
2. An extreme sanctification had God or Christ or the Spirit doing the believing and obeying in and for the believer.39
3. It was said that Christ not only came in sinful flesh, but is come in sinful flesh—all sinful flesh.40
4. In a mystical view of the atonement, Christ was said to be crucified and risen in every man. A man only has to confess what is already a fact within him in order to be saved.41
5. The Glad Tidings was the product of a pantheistic theology.
173In 1972 the Pacific Press republished The Glad Tidings with a foreword by R. J. Wieland. The foreword and the comments on the book cover promote a dangerous myth about this book. They present The Glad Tidings as a true representation of the 1888 message with the theological endorsement of Ellen G. White. Wieland even makes the amazing claim that "the message of this book was in reality a transcript of studies that Dr. Waggoner gave personally to a gathering of ministers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the fall of 1888."42
The fact is that The Glad Tidings was written over ten years after 1888. There is a vast difference between Waggoner's theology in this book and the theology of his first treatise on Galatians written in 1887 in answer to
174Elder Butler and published in December, 1888. In 1888 Waggoner taught that justification was forensic. When he wrote The Glad Tidings, he had abandoned the Protestant doctrine entirely.
For Wieland to say The Glad Tidings reflects Waggoner's theology presented ten years earlier is bad enough. For him to claim it was a transcript of Waggoner's presentation in 1888 is even worse. There is no transcript of Waggoner's presentation at the conference of 1888. And Wieland has produced no evidence to support his claim that The Glad Tidings is an authentic representation of Waggoner's 1888 lectures. We protest the garbling of historical facts to support the tenuous claim that The Glad Tidings is an "Adventist Classic" containing the 1888 message endorsed by Ellen G. White.
Too many have failed to look objectively at Waggoner's history because they have theories of the incarnation, perfectionism and effective justification which coincide with his later teachings. They are really appealing to Waggoner, and through Waggoner to Ellen G. White, to support their theories. They are like the liberal Protestants and Roman Catholics now appealing to the early Luther of 1515-1516 for support in repudiating the Protestant doctrine of forensic justification.43 The early Luther was a Roman Catholic not yet purged of his Catholic ideas on justification. It is a grievous error to project the theology of the early Luther into the
175teachings of the mature Luther. Likewise, it is a monumental mistake for Adventists today to project the theology of the later Waggoner into the theology of the early Waggoner. It would be just as consistent for Wieland to take the pantheism of The Glad Tidings and project it back on the Waggoner of 1888.
Does Wieland realize that The Glad Tidings contains pantheism? Yes, in private correspondence he does.44 And in preparing his revised edition of The Glad Tidings he editorially removed Waggoner's more blatant pantheistic statements.45 See chart below in footnotes.) In his foreword, however, Wieland gives no hint that he has done this.
By his editing Wieland implicitly admits we cannot project Waggoner's pantheism back to 1888. Then how does he know we can project Waggoner's views on effective or Roman Catholic justification, the sinful human nature of Christ and sanctification by faith alone back to 1888?
Careful historical investigation establishes a vast difference between Waggoner's theology of 1888 and his theology of 1898. Wieland cannot truly claim that
175[note on book paging. pp.175 - 178 is almost completely devoted to the text of footnote #45.]
178Waggoner's pantheism in The Glad Tidings was only a parasite rather than a vital and inherent part of his basic understanding of righteousness by faith.46 We believe we have clearly demonstrated that Waggoner's thinking on justification, sanctification, the atonement and the incarnation was integral to his pantheism. Moreover, historical theology proves that the ideas Waggoner taught in all these areas logically lead to pantheism. His theology of 1898-1899 was so thoroughly contaminated that nothing could possibly be salvaged from it. Yet the Pacific Press presents it today as though it contained the holy delicacies of 1888 itself.
179Wieland is not alone in this historical misunderstanding of Waggoner. The myth extends to men like A. G. Daniells, who commended E. J. Waggoner's book, The Everlasting Covenant, as one which would "place a flood of light in the homes of our people."47 Furthermore, The Glad Tidings had to pass official editorial inspection in 1900. So Wieland is not the only one who could see little wrong and much to laud in the book.
Waggoner's The Everlasting Covenant
In 1900 the International Tract Society, a Seventh-day Adventist publishing house in London, published Waggoner's largest work, The Everlasting Covenant. Most of the book first appeared as a series of articles in the British Present Truth, beginning in May, 1896. In some respects it was the later Waggoner's best work. It dealt largely with gospel lessons from Abraham and the history of Israel. Waggoner's concept of the unity of God's covenant was probably a first in Adventist literature. It did not forcefully appear again until Dr. Edward Heppenstall's work on the one everlasting covenant in the 1950,s.48
Waggoner's work, however, was thoroughly marred by pantheism. He repeated in great detail his pantheistic ideas on the life of Christ in all creation and in all men.49 He declared that ordinary bread is the real body
180of Christ50 and that the real presence of Christ is in ordinary water.51 He spiritualized the temple of God "in heaven" and said it is composed of living people.52 Of course, this involved an understanding of "the cleansing of the sanctuary" entirely contrary to historic Adventism.53 Waggoner also repeated Westcott's theory of the mystical atonement.54
The Everlasting Covenant is devoid of the great biblical and Protestant doctrine of forensic justification—a salvation by imputation, representation and substitution. Salvation is reduced to a purely subjective process. The book is entirely consistent with the other material of Waggoner's declining years.
One statement in The Everlasting Covenant should be familiar to those acquainted with certain concepts taught in Adventism in the 1970's. It expresses Waggoner's perfectionism relating to the final generation. He said:
181"The Lord wants all to understand that the new birth puts men in the same position that Christ occupied on this earth, and He will demonstrate this before the world."56
In his book, Through Crisis to Victory, A. V. Olson quotes from a letter written by A. G. Daniells to W. C. White on May 12, 1902. In this letter Daniells stated: "I am deeply convinced that something ought to be done to place a flood of light in the homes of our people. I know of no better book to do this, outside of the Bible, than Brother Waggoner's book."57
It is uncertain whether Daniells was referring to Waggoner's The Glad Tidings or to his book, The Everlasting Covenant, since both were published about this time. Olson assumes Daniells was referring to The Everlasting Covenant since the covenants were an issue at that time. Olson, however, wrongly ascribes its authorship to J. H. Waggoner, E. J. Waggoner's father. Apparently Olson overlooked the evidence that The Glad Tidings was the work to which Daniells referred in his letter to W. C. White.
Early in 1902 three articles by William Brickley appeared in the Review and Herald. These articles upheld the view that the ceremonial law was the law that Paul considered in the book of Galatians. This view created some agitation. Writing to Butler on April 11, 1902, Daniells stated that these articles, published with Uriah Smith's approval, "were openly and squarely against the message that came to this people at Minneapolis and that has been embraced by thousands of our people and openly and repeatedly endorsed by the Spirit of prophecy. These articles," he continued, "have caused a great
182deal of trouble and dissatisfaction among our brethren in different States."58
For our present purposes it matters little whether Daniells was referring to The Glad Tidings or The Everlasting Covenant. It is disturbing, however, that either of Waggoner's works should have received unqualified endorsement by such leading brethren.
Waggoner's View of the Blotting Out of Sin
On September 30, 1902, the Review and Herald published Waggoner's article entitled "The Blotting Out of Sin."59 In recent years this article has often been cited by those holding views similar to Waggoner's.
Waggoner's article is consistent with the tenor of his later theological thinking. It shows he had entirely lost the forensic categories of biblical thought. Like a Roman Catholic, he regarded sin primarily as a disease. He said sin is blotted out by being erased from the nature. Waggoner had lost the true Protestant faith that views sin primarily as guilt. Guilt is not erased by inner renewal. It is a legal debt. It can be erased only by Christ's substitutionary death and the application of the merits of that blood by the high-priestly intercession of Christ.
But Waggoner made no distinction between the work of the interceding priest in heaven and the work of the Spirit in the heart. Mediatorial cleansing by blood is instantaneous and complete, for it is a judicial cleansing (1 John 1:9) done for the believing sinner. This is justification.
183The cleansing of the Holy Spirit is a process which begins at conversion. This is sanctification, which is never complete until glorification.
Waggoner's statement on the blotting out of sins significantly illustrates that blurring the distinction between justification and sanctification leads to blurring the distinction between the Creator and the creature. That is to say, it leads to pantheism. Waggoner wrote:
The Closing Years
1841901, he apparently voiced certain views on "spiritual affinity" which he had espoused earlier in Great Britain. In essence these views stated that although one is not rightfully a marriage partner in this life, a present spiritual union is allowed on the basis that he or she might be married in the life to come. Later, in 1908, Ellen
G. White called these views "dangerous, misleading fables" she had been forced to confront following 1844. She clearly recognized that "Dr. Waggoner was then departing from the faith in the doctrine he held regarding spiritual affinities."61
We do not sit in judgment on Waggoner's character or destiny. To his credit he behaved himself like a gentleman in the face of bitter opposition. He never showed bitterness against the church or his former brethren. Waggoner appeared to be a humble man, and his last Confession is written in the spirit of a Christian believer. His faith was certainly not perfect, but we fondly believe he died trusting in a perfect Saviour. If that be the case, Waggoner's decline was not the end of the story. Although his great enemy must have rejoiced at his fall, that fall was not the final end. "Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise" (Micah 7:8, NIV).
1 Held in College View, Lincoln, Nebraska. [back]
46 "The pantheism was not inherent in his understanding of RbF
[righteousness by faith], but a parasite. Hence I wished to restore the
message as nearly as I could to its original purity as he gave it in the
early 1888 era" (Wieland to Tarling, 14 July 1977). [back]
52 Ibid., pp. 357-64. [back]