The Bible sets forth as the object of our worship an infinite Being whose dwelling place is in heaven. That He is a personal Being, we have abundant evidence. As Creator, He made man in His own image. Jesus Christ came into the world to reveal to men His personality and His character. He Himself, as a man with our nature, prayed to the One who had sent Him on a mission of love to earth, and taught His disciples to address Him as Our Father which art in heaven.
Though the almighty God is beyond.finite comprehension, yet many seek unwisely to delve into the question of His personal nature and attributes. Especially in this age of great learning is there danger that men will, by so-called scientific methods, enter into speculations regarding the Infinite,speculations that will take away from their hearts that saving faith which is imperative for salvation.
In marked contrast to the Biblical view of a God infinitely greater than the creatures of His hand, One who is outside of and beyond us, is the teaching that God is a mysterious essence, or an impersonal influence, a mere force pervading all nature. Such a teaching is known as pantheism, though it is found in various forms and in sundry religious garbs. In India, it is found in Hinduism; in China, in Taoism and Confucianism; among the followers of Colonel Alcott and Annie Besant, it is named theosophy; with Mrs. Eddy and her followers, it constitutes the very heart of Christian Science; with Herbert Spencer, it is denominated the Unknowable Intelligence. Others designate it New Thought. This teaching is popular today.
The story of the insidious attempted entrance of pantheistic sentiments into the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and of the checking of the movement by messages from heaven through the gift of prophecy, is of thrilling interest to those who passed
through the experience herein narrated. The story is related briefly here, not for the purpose of reviving old controversies, but as a remarkable instance of the profound influence of the spirit of prophecy in restoring unity in the church, and in warning against subtle dangers unperceived by those being unconsciously drawn into a fatal snare. Some of those whose feet were slipping again planted their feet on the eternal rock of truth, while the few who persisted in their beliefs have disconnected themselves entirely from the organized body.
One whose indefatigable energy, whose scientific research, whose skill as physician and surgeon, and whose devotion to benevolent and humanitarian principles had greatly endeared him to the denomination was one of the chief exponents of what was sometimes termed the new philosophy. In defining God, he had reached the place where he actually said in 1897, before the General Conference:
Gravitation acts instantaneously throughout all space. By this mysterious force of gravitation the whole universe is held together in a bond of unity . We have here the evidence of a universal presence, an intelligent presence, an all-wise presence, an all-powerful presence, a presence by the aid of which every atom of the universe is kept in touch with every other atom. This force that holds all things together, that is everywhere present, that thrills throughout the whole universe, that acts instantaneously through boundless space, can be nothing else than God Himself. What a wonderful thought that this same God is in us and in everything!General Conference Bulletin, Feb. 12, 1897, p. 83.
After my return from Australia, and when I entered upon my official duties in connection with the General Conference, I made my home in Battle Creek. It was not long before I heard this new teaching, setting aside the personality of God and making Him merely a pervading essence. One of the illustrations used to furnish a supposed analogy was later printed as follows:
Suppose now we have a boot before us,not an ordinary boot, but a living boot, and as we look at it, we see little boots crowding out at the
seams, pushing out at the toes, dropping off at the heels, and leaping out at the top,scores, hundreds, thousands of boots, a swarm of boots continually issuing from our living boot,would we not be compelled to say, There is a shoemaker in the boot? So there is present in the tree a power which creates and maintains it, a tree maker in the tree.The Living Temple, J. H. Kellogg, p. 29. Battle Creek, Michigan: Good Health Publishing Company, 1903.
The logical conclusion was drawn that man, instead of looking to some great being sitting on a throne in some far-away heaven, should look within himself to find the God to whom he should pray.
Such teaching troubled me, and all the more as I found that it had to some degree been accepted by certain of the teachers in Battle Creek College, and was being taught to the students. A number of physicians, prominent in the denomination, were fascinated by this new conception of God, which made Him seem so near to the individual. Even ministers who were honored and revered by the church defended the doctrine when it was questioned. None of us, however, at that time realized fully the subtle danger that lay in such a conception of God.
On February 18, 1902, our sanitarium in Battle Creek burned to the ground. Not long after this, the medical superintendent met with the General Conference Committee to confer regarding plans for raising money to rebuild that large medical institution. At the time, we were in the midst of a great circulation campaign with a book on the parables of Jesus, entitled Christ's Object Lessons. Mrs. White, the author, had given the manuscript of this book for the benefit of our schools, and, at her request, the publishing houses had relinquished their usual profit. Our people everywhere were being asked to take a few copies and sell them to their neighbors. As a result of this concerted action, thousands of dollars were being realized for the purpose of paying off the indebtedness on our schools.
The success of this enterprise led me to suggest that a book be prepared dealing in a simple way with physiology and hygiene, and with home remedies for sickness, and that such a book be handled, for the benefit of the sanitarium, in the same way as Christ's Object Lessons was being used for the relief of the schools. This plan met with favor by the Committee, and the medical superintendent of the sanitarium was asked to prepare the manuscript for the book.
At the same time the plan was proposed, it was made very plain that the book was to be purely medical, and that none of the theology relating to the personality of God should be included, for it was evident that the inclusion of a controverted dogma would make impossible the united effort necessary for success. This was agreed to. Some months later, a few copies of galley proofs were distributed. The name chosen for the book was The Living Temple.
But some of us were appalled to find, on examination of these proofs, that the author had strongly set forth this new philosophy regarding the actual presence of God in all His works. There were such expressions as the following:
God is the explanation of nature,not a God outside of nature, but in nature, manifesting Himself through and in all the objects, movements, and varied phenomena of the universe.The Living Temple, p. 28.
Such teaching would make God personally responsible for all the temptations and unholy desires that move within the sinner, leading to the grossest sin.
Again, certain phenomena were spoken of as
a physiological proof of the existence within the body of some power superior to the material composition or substance of the body, which exercises a constant supervision and control whereby individual identity is maintained. This can be nothing less than the Power which builds, which creates,it is God Himself, the divine Presence in the temple [Italics mine].Id., p. 52.
In support of this conclusion, the author quotes a scriptural expression:
The apostle Paul in his declaration, Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, simply gave expression to a fact which the most profound scientific researches in the fullest degree corroborate.Id., Preface.
But it should be noted that Paul was addressing a company of believers in Christ, whose hearts were opened to the presence of the Holy Spirit. In the eighth chapter of Romans, the same writer draws a marked contrast between the natural man who walks after the flesh and the regenerate Christian who walks after the Spirit. That there is a distinction between those whose bodies are surrendered as temples of the Holy Spirit and those who are devoid of that Spirit as a controlling power is made very clear in the following verse:
Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. Rom. 8: 9.
After speaking of the mysteries connected with the thought processes of the body, the conclusion is drawn in the book under discussion:
The only explanation of the mysteries of the varied intellectual processes is the operation of a divine, ever-present, all-pervading Intelligence. The one explanation of nature which makes every mystery clear, is God, who both creates and maintains, who made all things and operates all things.The Living Temple, p. 398.
The logical conclusion of such a premise is that this all-pervading Intelligence is responsible for the operation of our mind, irrespective of the purity or the impurity of the thoughts that are generated.
One more brief quotation only will be given here of the pantheistic sentiments that were interwoven throughout the book which was seeking entrance into our denomination to mold its theology. Its full significance will be apparent:
Let us not forget that the sunlight is God's smile of benediction; that the sunshine is Heaven's light and life and glory, the true Shekinah, the real presence with which the temple needs most to be filled; that the cooling breeze is the breath of heaven, a veritable messenger of life, carrying healing on its wings.Id., p. 412.
This created a deplorable situation, which could but result in controversy between leading men. When the author of the book appeared before the Committee and asked for the promised co-operation in bringing out and circulating it as a relief agency for the rebuilding of the sanitarium, we could not give that co-operation. We could not conscientiously consent to giving our approval to the circulation of teachings that we believed dangerous and erroneous. On the other hand, the author was just as firm in his belief that his views were new light, and should be disseminated everywhere.
At length a committee of five was appointed to bring in a report on the teaching of the manuscript, and on its suitability for the purpose for which it had been planned. But the subcommittee was itself divided. Three were in favor of its publication, and two were opposed. After hearing their report, the General Conference Committee voted against the majority report, and accepted that of the minority.
Then a public hearing was demanded by the disappointed author. This was granted, with the inevitable result that the issue became more involved, and as the controversy became more widely known, strong men were taking sides.
Despite the advice of the majority of the General Conference Committee that the book be dropped, an order was sent to the Review and Herald Publishing House to print five thousand copies at once. Then there came, what seemed to some, a divine interposition to avert the open rupture that must inevitably follow its publication and its attempted circulation in the church. Just as the book had received its final corrections and was about to be run through the press, the factory was destroyed by fire and the plates were ruined.
The copy, however, was immediately sent out to another publisher. A few months later a large edition of The Living Temple was printed. It was placed on the market, and energetic efforts were made to enlist our young people in its circulation.
Up to this time I had made no public statement, either through the press or on the platform, in opposition to some of my brethren who were working most earnestly to leaven the denomination with what I believed to be veiled heathenism. But I spent many sleepless nights, as I reviewed the situation, and sought to be true to the trust that had been committed to me, while avoiding a controversy that I feared would bring confusion and pain to our people. I saw seeds being sown among the hundreds of young people in our leading institutions that I firmly believed would produce results heartbreaking to hundreds of our brethren.
Men of prominence in ministerial, medical, and educational circles openly took their position in favor of the book and of its teachings. A campaign of correspondence encouraging the young people to come to Battle Creek to obtain an education that was made to seem very promising was carried forward by the advocates of the new teaching.
The crisis came in the month of October, 1903. The headquarters of our denominational work had been moved from Battle Creek to Takoma Park. We had appointed a council of our leading workers, and were hoping to lay broad plans for advance moves. But our proposed plans were interrupted when a group of about ten men came to our meeting and introduced points of controversy, which soon focused in a discussion of the teachings to be found in the book to which we have referred, The Living Temple. It was a painful session to us all.
One evening a prominent worker accompanied me from the meeting to my home. He believed the new views, and was doing all in his power to uphold and to circulate the book which was the cause of our controversy. As we stood under a street lamp on the corner near my home, he said to me, You are making the
mistake of your life. After all this turmoil, some of these days you will wake up to find yourself rolled in the dust, and another will be leading the forces.
To this I replied: I do not believe your prophecy. At any rate, I would rather be rolled in the dust doing what I believe in my soul to be right than to walk with princes, doing what my conscience tells me is wrong.
We parted and, with a heavy heart, I entered the house. There I found a group of people who were very happy. One of them said: Deliverance has come! Here are two messages from Mrs. White.
No one can imagine the eagerness with which I read the documents that had come in the mail while we were in the midst of our discussions. There was a most positive testimony regarding the dangerous errors that were taught in The Living Temple.
The timeliness of this testimony will be appreciated the more by quoting from two of the documents received. In one of them, we read concerning the book in question:
Be careful how you sustain the sentiments of this book regarding the personality of God. As the Lord presents matters to me, these sentiments do not bear the endorsement of God. They are a snare that the enemy has prepared for these last days .
The track of truth lies close beside the track of error, and both tracks may seem to be one to minds which are not worked by the Holy Spirit, and which, therefore, are not quick to discern the difference between truth and error .
In the visions of the night this matter was clearly presented to me before a large number. One of authority was speaking . The speaker held up Living Temple, saying, In this book there are statements that the writer himself does not comprehend. Many things are stated in a vague, undefined way. Statements are made in such a way that nothing is sure. And this is not the only production of the kind that will be urged upon the people. Fanciful views will be presented by many minds. What we need to know at this time is, What is the truth that will enable us to win the salvation of our souls?E. G. White Letter 211-1903.
In another of the documents received during this conference session occurred this solemn charge:
After taking your position firmly, wisely, cautiously, make not one concession on any point concerning which God has plainly spoken. Be as calm as a summer evening; but as fixed as the everlasting hills. By conceding, you would be selling our whole cause into the hands of the enemy. The cause of God is not to be traded away. We must now take hold of these matters decidedly. I have many things to say that I have not wanted to say in the past, but now my mind is clear to speak and act.
I am sorry to be compelled to take the position that I am forced to take in behalf of God's people. In taking this position, I am placed under the necessity of bearing the heavy burden of showing the evil of the plans that I know are not born of heaven. This is the burden that many times in the past the Lord has laid upon me, in order that His work might be advanced along right lines. How much care and anxiety, how much mental anguish and wearing physical labor might be saved me in my old age! But still I am under the necessity of going into the battle, and of discharging in the presence of important assemblies the duty that the Lord has laid upon me,the duty of correcting the wrong course of men who profess to be Christians, but who are doing a work that will have to be undone at a great loss, both financially and in the shaking of the confidence of the people.E. G. White Letter 216-1903.
The next morning we assembled again for our council. After prayer, I arose and told the brethren that we had received two very important messages from Mrs. White. This aroused the attention of all, and they sat in thoughtful silence while i read the documents.
It would be impossible to find language to state as clearly and as forcefully as I wish I might all the facts relating to the reception, presentation, and influence of these testimonies, and others received during that council. Never had I seen such signal evidences of the leadership of an all-wise Being as in connection with these experiences. Only the divine mind could have foreseen our condition and our needs, and have sent us the exact help we needed at precisely the right moment. We had come to the parting of the ways. It was evident that we were facing a complete
division of leading men, and soon the people would have been called upon to choose sides.
As I read to the assembly statement after statement setting forth the falsity of the teachings in the book The Living Temple, many loud Amens broke forth, and tears flowed freely. From that hour light came into the council, and the presence of God was clearly felt through the day. When I had finished reading, the brethren immediately began to express their gratitude to God for this clear voice that had spoken to us. So precisely did these messages point out the situation that everyone who spoke at all was obliged to say that it was the voice of God speaking to us. Before the council closed, the author of the book stated that he would take it from the market.
I wish that it might be truthfully said that all present accepted these powerful messages. A number, indeed, of those who had been in confusion were led back into the light. A few maintained their opposing positions, but they soon took their stand so decidedly against the church that they had no further influence in spreading their teachings.
These plain, positive messages regarding the specious errors taught in The Living Templeerrors which a number of our brethren had more or less fully acceptedwere a great blessing. They brought both unity and separation,unity among those who accepted the counsel given, and separation on the part of a few who still maintained their position, even though it meant a repudiation of the gift so closely related to the church.
This narrative would not be complete without relating briefly why these messages came just when they did at the peak of the crisis. The timeliness of their arrival was so impressive that I wrote a letter to Mrs. White, telling her that they had come just in time to give us the light we needed. In answer to this letter, she wrote me under date of November 1, 1903, explaining why the documents were hastened to me at the particular time they were sent. Her own words follow:
Shortly before I sent the testimonies that you said arrived just in time, I had read an incident about a ship in a fog meeting an iceberg. For several nights I slept but little. I seemed to be bowed down as a cart beneath sheaves. One night a scene was clearly presented before me. A vessel was upon the waters, in a heavy fog. Suddenly the lookout cried, Iceberg just ahead! There, towering high above the ship, was a gigantic iceberg. An authoritative voice cried out, Meet it! There was not a moment's hesitation. It was a time for instant action. The engineer put on full steam, and the man at the wheel steered the ship straight into the iceberg. With a crash she struck the ice. There was a fearful shock, and the iceberg broke into many pieces, falling with a noise like thunder upon the deck. The passengers were violently shaken by the force of the collision, but no lives were lost. The vessel was injured, but not beyond repair. She rebounded from the contact, trembling from stem to stern like a living creature. Then she moved forward on her way.
Well I knew the meaning of this representation. I had my orders. I had heard the words, like a living voice from our Captain, Meet it! I knew what my duty was, and that there was not a moment to lose. The time for decided action had come. I must without delay obey the command, Meet it!
This is why you received the testimonies when you did. That night I was up at one o'clock, writing as fast as my hand could pass over the paper.
We have all stood at our posts like faithful sentinels, working early and late to send to the council instruction that we thought would help you.E. G. White Letter 238-1903.
The fact should be repeated that the introduction of the controversy over pantheism in this council came as a complete surprise to the brethren in Washington, and there was no possible way in which Mrs. White could have known of this from any human source. The angel of the Lord aroused her at exactly the right time to write and mail these messages so they might be received at the very moment when they were needed.
Mention should also be made here of the part that the spirit of prophecy acted in defeating a related movement planned by the same group of leading workers who had so stoutly defended
the teachings found in The Living Temple. In order to comply with the instruction that had been given regarding the advantages of a country location for our educational institutions, the large college that had been operated in Battle Creek had been moved to Berrien Springs, Michigan. The buildings in Battle Creek were later secured by those who controlled the sanitarium. They were used in connection with the medical school, which was then conducted in Battle Creek.
Far-reaching plans were then laid for the establishment of a great educational center in Battle Creek. Attractive circulars were printed and widely circulated among the young people of the denomination, setting before them the great advantages of training in this re-opened Battle Creek College.
Had this enterprise succeeded as its promoters hoped, the flower of Seventh-day Adventist youth would have been called to this great center, contrary to the plain counsels of the spirit of prophecy calling for decentralization. In this college the students would certainly have become indoctrinated with the subtle teachings of the new philosophy, which was prominently advocated by leading members of the faculty.
But the Lord, through His servant, sent most solemn warnings against this movement. Our youth were emphatically admonished that they should not go for their education to Battle Creek, where their faith in some of the fundamentals of God's word would be undermined. These messages published in the Review were loyally accepted by nearly all our people, and the proposed college received but little support.
A few months later, Testimonies for the Church, Volume 8, appeared, and much of the instruction that had been sent to our leading brethren was thus made available to the church members everywhere. Eighty pages of this book (255-335) are devoted to a refutation of the views that were set forth by the author of The Living Temple. By this clear, forceful presentation of the essential knowledge regarding the personality of God, the
church is now fortified against a recurrence of such pleasing but subtle teachings.
In concluding this account of a memorable experience, illustrative of the great blessings of the gift of prophecy, I quote from a letter that I addressed to Mrs. White on October 20, 1903.
We are in the midst of our council, and I am terribly pressed with work, but I must take a minute this morning to tell you what a wonderful blessing your communications have been to our council. Never were messages from God more needed than at this very time; and never were messages sent from Him to His people more to the point than those you have sent to us. They have been exactly what we have needed, and have come at just the right time from day to day in our council. You can never know, unless the Lord Himself causes you to know it, what a great blessing your communication regarding The Living Temple has been to us. It came at just the right time exactly. The conflict was severe, and we knew not how things would turn. But your clear, clean-cut, beautiful message came and settled the controversy. I do not say that all parties came into perfect harmony, but it gave those who stood on the right side strength to stand, and hold their ground .
These messages you are sending are so clear, so pointed, so applicable, that everyone can see that God has revealed the situation clearly to your mind. Great confidence is being established in the hearts of our workers in the spirit of prophecy. This is true not only of our ministers, but of all our people. From the day we began to move out of Battle Creek, faith and confidence and assurance in the spirit of prophecy began to come to this denomination. I believe God is preparing for a great work, and I believe that in the closing, struggle the great masses of this denomination will stand by your side, and walk in the light God gives them through you.
The messenger of God to whom these words were addressed is
dead. It seems to be His will that I, too, shall go to rest before the work is
finished. Yet the messages given to guide God's people still live, and it is
still my firm conviction that in the closing struggle God's people
need as never before to walk in the light that has been given to direct them
all the way to the city of God.