Resistance to Truth Spawns Five Heresies
Following the 1888, Minneapolis crisis, Ellen White often warned that resisters of light were in darkness and in grave danger; for to resist light is to invite heresies. Concerning Waggoner-Jones’ opponents she wrote, “To Brethren in Responsible Positions,” in March, 1890:
There are those who have prided themselves on their great caution in receiving new light, as they term it; but they are blinded by the enemy, and cannot discern the work and ways of God. Light, precious light comes from heaven, and they array themselves against it. What next? These very ones will accept messages that God has not sent, and thus will become even dangerous to the cause of God ... (1888 Materials, V. 2, 722).
In the same letter she explains:
The Lord has presented before me that those who have been in any measure blinded by the enemy, and have not fully recovered, will be in peril because they cannot discern light from heaven, and will be inclined to accept a falsehood. ... because they have blinded their own eyes by choosing darkness rather than light. Then they will originate something they call light, which the Lord calls sparks of their own kindling, by which they will direct their steps. (ibid, 727).
On the same page, she warns: “By many the words the Lord sent will be rejected, and the words that man may speak will be received as light and truth.”
Minneapolis Resistance Intensifies Kingly Power
Testimonies against “kingly power” multiplied through the 1890s and continued into the next decade. Though not itself a theological issue, authoritarian control may result in heresy. Moreover, it seriously violates Minneapolis principles. In answer to her own question: “What is justification by faith?”Ellen White declares, “It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust" (TM 456; 20 MR p. 117). The Minneapolis principles not only require individual humility in serving the Lord, but deny to anyone, whatever his position, authoritarian control over others.
Authoritarianism, a natural instinct of sinful man, can be overcome only by the aid of the Spirit, Whom our leaders resisted. The result of resisting Christ Himself, Who spoke through His Spirit, increased pride and self-will and intensified the tendency to control. Nor were theological heresies long in bursting forth, after incubating for varying amounts of time. At least two of the five post-Minneapolis heresies relate directly to “kingly power.”
Summary of the Five Heresies
1. Time Setting: The first heresy, that of applying Daniel's day for a year time prophecies to the future on a day for a day basis, grew rapidly and was met by Ellen White while the conflict following Minneapolis was still at its height. On March 22, 1892 she repeated her former warning, that “There will never again be a message for the people of God that will be based on time.”
2. Holy Flesh: Eight years later God instructed Ellen White to return to America to deal with a second heresy that began in embryo form several years before, but was by then embraced by the Indiana president, his pastors and entire Conference committee. Known as the “cleansing message” and also as the or sealing and latter rain message, it was held that God was even then perfecting the 144,000, whose very flesh would become holy, so that they were physically as well as spiritually perfect, with even the color restored to gray hair.
3. Panentheism: Even before the holy flesh doctrine, Kellogg and Waggoner were nurturing the doctrine that God is in all nature and in all men, whether converted or not. This doctrine began to be publicly proclaimed in 1897, but was unrecognized and came to a head five years later.
4. Individualism & False View of the Holy Spirit: As early as 1894 Waggoner and Jones were reproved for undermining organization. Claiming that the Holy Spirit is the only organizer, they equated all human organization with Babylon and the Papacy. Jones began making this a major issue at the General Conference sessions as early as 1897. His drive for four years was to get rid of the office of president -- even as he himself exercised authoritarian control as California Conference President
5. Repudiation of Sanctuary Message & 1844: While the Panentheism heresy was at its height and the conflict over individualism, with its repudiation of organization, was still raging, Ballenger developed the fifth heresy, denial of our sanctuary/judgment message. Christ, he insisted, began His Most Holy Place, Day of Atonement ministry upon His ascension in AD 31. Repudiating the very basis for our movement, he declared that Daniel 8:14 has nothing to do with 1844 and that the little horn prophecies of Daniel refer not to the Papacy but to Antiochus the Great, who persecuted the Jews two centuries before Christ's ministry began.
Resisting Light: Result of Violating Priesthood Principles
Resistance to Minneapolis light thus led to a rash of heresies, none of which would have developed had priesthood of believers principles been practiced. Note the vicious cycle: violation of these principles produced resistance to Minneapolis light; and this resistance resulted in the further violation of priesthood of believers principles that left even proclaimers of the Minneapolis message vulnerable to heresy.
We have yet much to learn regarding how God intends those to whom He gives light to relate to the priesthood -- as well as how the priesthood is to relate to claimants of new light. The message God sent was not primarily a theology, but a practical remedy to our underlying problem of self-righteousness, based on instinctive self-centeredness that continues to hinder the Holy Spirit in His commission to lead us into all truth.
Jones and Waggoner, as well as Smith and Butler, represent our corporate, Laodicean weakness, which message Ellen White also equated with the message of righteousness by faith. Both pairs violated priesthood of believers principles that call for humility in subjecting ourselves one to another, a humility that alone can conquer the self-righteousness depicted by “the faithful and true Witness” to Laodicea (Rev 3:14-22).
The Minneapolis message was thus a call to restore priesthood of believer principles that characterized the origin of our movement, where the vertical privilege of personal access of each to God was united to horizontal accountability to each other. God revealed Himself to each pioneer personally, but led them corporately as they prayerfully struggled together to know His Word. He then confirmed or corrected their findings by vision. But, significantly such confirmation came only after the body struggled earnestly together over His Word, humbling themselves one to another in a manner to prepare to hear His voice.
So important was this process, that at the 1905 conference where Ballenger rejected the corporate attempt to help him, Ellen White reviewed how God established our pillars of faith, referring especially to the sanctuary doctrine. She rehearsed how they united individual responsibility to seek God in study, prayer and surrender with corporate subjection to one another as they studied and prayed together. By this two-fold process alone were they spared the confused ideas and heresies that then sought entrance as they established our pillars of faith.
Neither the vertical nor the horizontal alone is adequate. Though absolutely essential, when the vertical is over-focused upon it results in the individualism that shipwrecked Jones, Waggoner, Ballenger, and Kellogg; for, whether theoretical or merely practical, individualism causes each to assume he is Spirit-led when actually driven by his own spirit of independence and pride. By contrast, over-focus on the horizontal results in group-think in which one or a few become mind for the group, thus preventing the Spirit from leading into all truth.
Individualism, as identifiable in all five heresies that resulted from resistance to light, is especially dangerous when it involves false concepts of the role of the Holy Spirit, as characterized four of the heresies. This danger is further intensified when united with confusion regarding the nature of God Himself (Kellogg) and/or the nature of Christ's ministry (Ballenger). (See: “Advent Twins.” & “Kingly Power, Its Cause and Cure.”)
Meanwhile, let us be clear: the Waggoner and Jones heresies were not caused by their message, but by failure to persistently internalize its principles, designed to humble their own pride and independence and to correct their false concepts as well as those of their brethren.
God does not select faultless men with faultless concepts through whom to proclaim His message. He gives to men who are earnest and committed, as were Jones and Waggoner, messages designed to develop their own characters and concepts, as well as others. And he intends to refine and remove the deficiencies of all through a priesthood process, as new light is humbly examined together. Nor does He set aside His servants because they fail in this process. Failure is part of the learning process and is a vital factor in teaching us to humble ourselves. By our very failures He seeks to instill distrust of self and dependence upon Himself.
He thus bore long with Waggoner and Jones who often succeeded, but in the end surrendered to the independence and pride revealed in their initial failure to consult with the brethren of experience, a pride over which their message was designed to give them victory.
Meantime, that independence was intensified by the older men who turned their guns upon them. Yet their fall was not necessary. For the principles in their own message of self-distrust and dependence on God would have triumphed had they kept their focus upon Christ-crucified and by His grace followed the example of the One Whom they proclaimed.
Thus, more serious than opposition was the pride and independence fostered by praise from those who tended to look to them as having all the answers. Many even aped Jones’ style of preaching. It was not helpful that key leaders such as Prescott and Ballenger joined Jones in his emotional attempts to induce the Spirit. Meanwhile, exalting the men rather than the One to Whom the message pointed thus fostered in both Waggoner and Jones a view of themselves as special agents of the Spirit who could depend upon the views as truth.
Their message, as Ellen White indicated, was of character formation more than a theology. “Justification by faith,” she declared, “is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust" (TM 456). But for this to happen, it must be internalized by its proclaimers as well as by its hearers. Ceasing to internalize its principles of humility thus ultimately produced apostasy.
Nor dare we judge them. For we now, over a century later, have yet to adequately internalize the message of complete surrender and focus on Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Our only hope is to see our own failure to humble ourselves before Him and to subject ourselves one to another, seeing our own failure in that of Waggoner and Jones, as well as of Smith and Butler. Thus alone can we permit the Spirit to lead us into all truth and write His law of self-sacrificing love in our minds and hearts, thus preparing us to act the part He intends in proclaiming His final message to the world, concerning Which Ellen White says:
The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to
the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God
are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to
reveal what the character of God has done for them (Christ's Object Lessons,
What has kept us from this experience, which the Minneapolis message was to have produced? It was neglect of the horizontal, corporate principle of priesthood of believers that produced resisting that light. And this resistance produced darkness that breeds false light. The Spirit Who guides in our personal, vertical relation to God, places us in the corporate body of Christ, to teach us humility and thus to develop characters patterned after Christ's humility and love. To neglect or resist corporate discipline of the body is to resist the Spirit through Whom the Head directs His body. Thus we confuse our own impulses with the voice of the Spirit, as did all leaders in the heresies, not merely Jones and Prescott who promoted Anna Phillips as a prophet by reading her statements and Ellen White’s and asking, “What voice to you hear?”
In view of this resistence to the Spirit, it should thus be no surprise that the heresies involved confusion regarding the role of the Holy Spirit, Whose disciplinary function in training and developing characters through the priesthood of believers was resisted by strong minded men who presumed only to defend and/or to proclaim truth. Only restoration of priesthood of believers will permit the Spirit to work in us to internalize the Minneapolis principles and thus receive within ourselves the light and love that must lighten the earth with Christ’s glory.
Impact of Over-literalism and Mysticism on Heretical Development
We now need to note the role of over-literalism that stimulated mysticism and bred both holy flesh and Pantheism, a mysticism which priesthood of believers practices would have checked, had we been following its principles.
Symbolic language and idioms play a role in every language and culture. It is humorous when learners of a new language take idioms or symbols literally. But it is no laughing matter when Bible symbols or idioms are taken literally in theological formation. This at best results in confusion; but it is likely to become the basis for heresy -- such as in Panentheism.
When Bible idioms designed to reveal intimacy between us and Christ and/or His Spirit were taken literally, even key leaders became vulnerable to Panentheistic mysticism, a Pagan philosophy then penetrating evangelical churches. For example, Paul is not stating spatial relations when he says, “Christ liveth in me.” He, rather, testifies to intimate, dependent relations, such as Christ symbolized by the essential relation between the vine and the branch.
I have recently had to wrestle extensively with readers enamored and confused by Waggoner's 1900 Everlasting Covenant. Over-literal interpretations of such expressions as, “in Him” and “in Christ,” etc., as well as, Christ or the Spirit “in you,” which inducted him into Panentheism is even now attracting many SDAs, as it did our leaders a century ago.
To an even greater extent we are now surrounded by a sea of mysticism and Pentecostalism, the product of over-literal interpretation of Scripture that proliferates in evangelical churches which emphasize verbal inspiration. Over-literalism reveals confusion regarding both the nature and function of the Holy Spirit, Whose personality is denied even by some SDAs who assume that “the Spirit of Christ” means an essence of Christ Who is literally “within” us.
By God’s grace, we defeated Pentecostalism and mysticism a century ago and most denominations ultimately pushed it back, thus isolating its hard core. But a vastly greater Pentecostal invasion characterized by an inadvertent tuning to mystical Pagan philosophies in a Christian garb is leading directly into the spiritualism predicted in Revelation 16:13-15).
And again, in numerous seemingly benign ways, such as mantra type prayer, Adventism is being invaded by this counterfeit Evangelical wave. Well meaning leaders seeking revival are reaching out for something that will produce an effect. And various Pentecostal, new age forms, are now perceived to be moved by the Spirit – just as our forebears reached out to this in Pentecostalism’s early development as they sought to induce the latter rain, which the resisted Minneapolis message was designed to bring.
Various avenues of penetration are not only overtly religious, but they increasingly involve natural health modalities that eastern religions are rapidly taking over. Part of our vulnerability stems from opening ourselves to mega church mania, with its focus on numbers rather than calls to take up the cross with emphasis on solid conversions and Bible training. We will again consider these as we bring our history up to date.
Meanwhile, our next episode is the “daily” controversy that burst forth almost as soon as the five heresies were quelled. This will demonstrate a different danger implicit within over-literalism. Not only does the “daily” debate in many ways reflect that of Minneapolis, but over-literalism was a common key in precipitating both conflicts.