top of page

What the Adventist Pioneers believed about the Trinity doctrine

It is well documented that the Seventh-Day Adventist church was non-Trinitarian from its original gathering and formation in the 1850's up until 1980 when the 'god of the General Conference' was brought in.  Sister White prophesied in 1903 that "our religion would be changed."  Trinitarian converts that had come in became the majority and it was only a matter of time before the new Theologians and Scholars would take over and change the doctrines that God gave to His remnant church.



“The way spiritualizers have disposed of or denied the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ is first using the old unscriptural Trinitarian creed, viz., that Jesus Christ is the eternal God, though they have not one passage to support it, while we have plain scripture testimony in abundance that he is the Son of the eternal God.” – James White, The Day Star, January 24, 1846


“Here we might mention the Trinity, which does away the personality of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, and of sprinkling or pouring instead of being “buried with Christ in baptism,” “planted in the likeness of his death:” but we pass from these fables to notice one that is held sacred by nearly all professed Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. It is, the change of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment from the seventh to the first day of the week.” – James White, Advent Review & Sabbath Herald, December 11, 1855, vol. 7, no. 11, page 85, par. 16


“The “mystery of iniquity” began to work in the church in Paul’s day. It finally crowded out the simplicity of the gospel, and corrupted the doctrine of Christ, and the church went into the wilderness. Martin Luther, and other reformers, arose in the strength of God, and with the Word and Spirit, made mighty strides in the Reformation. The greatest fault we can find in the Reformation is, the Reformers stopped reforming.  Had they gone on, and onward, till they had left the last vestige of Papacy behind, such as natural immortality, sprinkling, THE TRINITY, and Sunday-keeping, the church would now be free from her unscriptural errors.” – James White, Review & Herald, February 7, 1856


“Jesus prayed that his disciples might be one as he was one with his Father. This prayer did not contemplate one disciple with twelve heads, but twelve disciples, made one in object and effort in the cause of their master. Neither are the Father and the Son parts of the “three-one God.” They are two distinct beings, yet one in the design and accomplishment of redemption.” – James White, Life Incidents, p. 343, 1868


“We have not as much sympathy with Unitarians that deny the divinity of Christ, as with Trinitarians who hold that the Son is the eternal Father, and talk so mistily about the three-one God. Give the Master all that divinity with which the Holy Scriptures clothe him.” – James White, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald June 6, 1871 - James and Ellen White’s – Western Tour


“We invite all to compare the testimonies of the Holy Spirit through Mrs. W., with the word of God. And in this we do not invite you to compare them with your creed. That is quite another thing. The trinitarian may compare them with his creed, and because they do not agree with it, condemn them. The observer of Sunday, or the man who holds eternal torment an important truth, and the minister that sprinkles infants, may each condemn the testimonies’ of Mrs. W. because they do not agree with their peculiar views. And a hundred more, each holding different views, may come to the same conclusion. But their genuineness can never be tested in this way.” – James White, Review & Herald, June 13, 1871 (Mrs. W. is Ellen White)


“The inexplicable Trinity that makes the Godhead three in one and one in three, is bad enough; but that ultra Unitarianism that makes Christ inferior to the Father is worse. Did God say to an inferior, “Let us make man in our image?” - James White, Review and Herald November 29th article ‘Christ Equal with God’ 1877


“The Father was greater than the Son in that he was first. The Son was equal with the Father in that he had received all things from the Father.” - James White, Review and Herald, January 4, 1881, vol. 1, p. 244



“My parents were members of long standing in the Congregational church, with all of their converted children thus far, and anxiously hoped that we would also unite with them. But they embraced some points in their faith that I could not understand. I will name two only: their mode of baptism, and doctrine of the trinity.” — ‘The Autobiography of Joseph Bates,’ page 204, chapter 17, 1868


“Respecting the trinity, I concluded that it was an impossibility for me to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, was also the Almighty God, the Father, one and the same being. I said to my father, “If you can convince me that we are one in this sense, that you are my father, and I your son; and also that I am your father, and you my son, then I can believe in the trinity.” — Joseph Bates, Autobiography



"The doctrine of the Trinity which was established in the church by the council of Nice, A. D. 325. This doctrine destroys the personality of God, and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The infamous, measures by which it was forced upon the church which appear upon the pages of ecclesiastical history might well cause every believer in that doctrine to blush." — J.N. Andrews, Review & Herald, March 6, 1855,vol. 6, no. 24, page 185


"The great mistake of Trinitarians, in arguing this subject, seems to be this: They make no distinction between a denial of a Trinity and a denial of the divinity of Christ. They see only the two extremes, between which the truth lies; and take every expression referring to the pre-existence of Christ as evidence of a Trinity. The Scriptures abundantly teach the pre-existence of Christ and his divinity; but they are entirely silent in regard to a Trinity." —  J. H. Waggoner, The Atonement, 1872 ed, chapter 4, "Doctrine Of A Trinity Subversive Of The Atonement" p. 165.  


“Many theologians really think that the Atonement, in respect to its dignity and efficacy, rests upon the doctrine of a trinity. But we fail to see any connection between the two. To the contrary, the advocates of that doctrine really fall into the difficulty which they seem anxious to avoid. Their difficulty consists in this: They take the denial of a trinity to be equivalent to a denial of the divinity of Christ. Were that the case, we should cling to the doctrine of a trinity as tenaciously as any can; but it is not the case. They who have read our remarks on the death of the Son of God know that we firmly believe in the divinity of Christ; but we cannot accept the idea of a trinity, as it is held by Trinitarians, without giving up our claim on the dignity of the sacrifice made for our redemption.” — J. H. Waggoner, ‘The Atonement in Light of Nature and Revelation’, 1884 Edition, chapter ‘Doctrine of a Trinity Subversive of the Atonement’

"As before remarked, the great mistake of Trinitarians, in arguing this subject, is this: they make no distinction between a denial of a trinity and a denial of the divinity of Christ. They see only the two extremes, between which the truth lies; and take every expression referring to the pre-existence of Christ as evidence of a trinity. The Scriptures abundantly teach the pre-existence of Christ and his divinity; but they are entirely silent in regard to a trinity. The declaration, that the divine Son of God could not die, is as far from the teachings of the Bible as darkness is from light. And we would ask the Trinitarian, to which of the two natures are we indebted for redemption? The answer must, of course, be, To that one which died or shed his blood for us; for “we have redemption through his blood.” Then it is evident that if only the human nature died, our Redeemer is only human, and that the divine Son of God took no part in the work of redemption, for he could neither suffer nor die. Surely, we say right, that the doctrine of a trinity degrades the Atonement, by bringing the sacrifice, the blood of our purchase, down to the standard of Socinianism." — J. H. Waggoner, Review & Herald, November 10, 1863, vol. 22, page 189


“The 'Athanasian creed'...was formulated and the faith defined by Athanasius. Previous to that time there was no settled method of expression, if, indeed, there was anywhere any uniformity of belief. Most of the early writers had been pagan philosophers, who to reach the minds of that class, often made strong efforts to prove that there was a blending of the two systems, Christianity and philosophy.  There is abundance of material in their writings to sustain this view. Bingham speaks of the vague views held by some in the following significant terms: "'There were some very early that turned the doctrine of the Trinity into Tritheism, and, instead of three divine persons under the economy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, brought in three collateral, coordinate, and self-originated beings, making them three absolute and independent principles, without any relation of Father or Son, which is the most proper notion of three gods. And having made this change in the doctrine of the Trinity, they made another change answerable to it in the form of baptism.' - Antiquities, book 11, chap. 3, & 4. "Who can distinguish between this form of expression and that put forth by the council of Constantinople in A.D. 381, wherein the true faith is declared to be that of 'an uncreated and consubstantial and co-eternal Trinity?' The truth is that we find the same idea which is here described by Bingham running through much of the orthodox literature of the second and third centuries. There is no proper 'relation of Father and Son' to be found in the words of the council, above quoted...Bingham says this error in regard to a Trinity of three coordinate and self-originated and independent beings arose in the church very early; and so we find it in the earliest authors after the days of the apostles...We leave it with the good judgment of every unprejudiced reader that three baptisms are more consistent with the idea of “three collateral, co-ordinate, and self-originated beings”, than with the idea of baptism into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in the likeness of the Saviour’s death and resurrection.” — J. H. Waggoner, Thoughts on Baptism, 1878


“The distinction between Christ and the true God is most clearly shown by the Saviour's own words in John 17:3: "That they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Much stress is laid on Isa. 9:6, as proving a trinity, which we have before quoted, as referring to our High Priest who shed his blood for us. The advocates of that theory will say that it refers to a trinity because Christ is called the everlasting Father. But for this reason, with others, we affirm that it can have no reference to a trinity. Is Christ the Father in the trinity? If so, how is he the Son? or if he is both Father and Son, how can there be a trinity? for a trinity is three persons. To recognize a trinity, the distinction between the Father and Son must be preserved. Christ is called "the second person in the trinity;" but if this text proves a trinity, or refers to it at all, it proves that he is not the second, but the first. And if he is the first, who is the second? It is very plain that this text has no reference to such a doctrine.” — J. H. Waggoner, ibid, pp. 168, 169


"We will make a few extracts, that the reader may see the broad contrast between the God of the Bible brought to light through Sabbath-keeping, and the god in the dark through Sunday-keeping. Catholic Catechism Abridged by the Rt. Rev. John Dubois, Bishop of New York. Page 5.

Q. Where is God? Ans. God is everywhere.

Q. Does God see and know all things? A. Yes, he does know and see all things...

Q. Are there more Gods than one? A. No; there is but one God.

Q. Are there more persons than one in God? A Yes; in God there are three persons.

Q. Which are they? A. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.

Q. Are there not three Gods? A. No; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, are all but one and the same God'...These ideas well accord with those heathen philosophers...We should rather mistrust that the Sunday God [the Trinity] came from the same source that Sunday-keeping did." — J. B. Frisbie, Review and Herald, Feb. 28, 1854, The Sunday God, p.50. [emphasis supplied].




Bro. White: The following questions I would like to have you give, or send, to Bro. Loughborough for explanation.    W. W. Giles, Toledo, Ohio.

     QUESTION 1. What serious objections is there to the doctrine of the Trinity?

ANSWER. There are many objections which we might urge, but on account of our limited space we shall reduce them to the three following: 1. It is contrary to common sense. 2. It is contrary to Scripture. 3. Its origin is pagan and fabulous.

     These positions we will remark upon briefly in their order.  And 1. It is not very consonant with common sense to talk of three being one, and one being three.  Or as some express it, calling God, “the Triune God,” or “the three-one-God.”  If Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are each God, it would be three Gods; for three times one is not one, but three.  There is a sense in which they are one, but not one person, as claimed by Trinitarians.

     2.  It is contrary to Scripture.  Almost any portion of the New Testament we may open which has occasion to speak of the Father and Son, represents them as two distinct persons.  The seventeenth chapter of John is along sufficient to refute the doctrine of the Trinity.  Over forty times in that one chapter Christ speaks of his Father as a person distinct from himself.  His Father was in heaven and he upon earth.  The Father had sent him.  Given to him those that believed.  He was then to go to the Father.   And in this very testimony he shows us in what consists the oneness of the Father and Son.  It is the same as the oneness of the members of Christ’s church.  “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one even as we are one.”  Of one heart and one mind.  Of one purpose in all the plan devised for man’s salvation.  Read the seventeenth chapter of John, and see if it does not completely upset the doctrine of the Trinity.

     To believe that doctrine, when reading the scripture we must believe that God sent himself into the world, died to reconcile the world to himself, raised himself from the dead, ascended to himself in heaven, pleads before himself in heaven to reconcile the world to himself, and is the only mediator between man and himself.  It will not do to substitute the human nature of Christ (according to Trinitarians) as the Mediator; for Clarke says, “Human blood can no more appease God than swine’s blood.”  Com. On 2 Sam. xxi, 10.   We must believe also that in the garden God prayed to himself, if it were possible, to let the cup pass from himself, and a thousand other such absurdities.

     Read carefully the following texts, comparing them with the idea that Christ is the Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Supreme, and only self-existent God:  John xiv, 28; xvii, 3; iii, 16; v, 19, 26; xi, 15; xx, 19; viii, 50; vi, 38; Mark xiii, 32; Luke vi, 12; xxii, 69; xxiv, 29; Matt. iii, 17; xxvii, 46; Gal. iii, 20; 1 Jno. Ii, 1; Rev. v, 7; Acts xvii, 81.  Also see Matt. xi, 25, 27; Luke I, 32; xxii 42; John iii, 35, 36; v, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26; vi, 40; xiii, 35, 36; xiv, 13; 1 Cor. xv, 28, &c.

     The word Trinity nowhere occurs in the Scriptures. The principal text supposed to teach it is 1 John i, 7, which is an interpolation.  Clarke says, 'Out of one hundred and thirteen manuscripts, the text is wanting in one hundred and twelve.  It occurs in no MS. before the tenth century.  And the first place the text occurs in Greek, is in the Greek translation of the acts of the Council of Lateran, held A.D. 1215.” —Com.  on John i, and remarks at close of chap.

     3. Its origin is pagan and fabulous.  Instead of pointing us to scripture for proof of the trinity, we are pointed to the trident of the Persians, with the assertion that “by this they designed to teach the idea of a trinity, and if they had the doctrine of the trinity, they must have received it by tradition from the people of God.  But this is all assumed, for it is certain that the Jewish church held to no such doctrine.  Says Mr. Summerbell, “A friend of mine who was present in a New York synagogue, asked the Rabbi for an explanation of the word ‘elohim.’  A Trinitarian clergyman who stood by, replied, ‘Why, that has reference to the three persons in the Trinity,’ when a Jew stepped forward and said he must not mention that word again, or they would have to compel him to leave the house; for it was not permitted to mention the name of any strange god in the synagogue.” (Discussion between Summerbell and Flood on Trinity, pg. 38).  Milman says the idea of the Trident is fabulous. (Hist. Christianity, p. 34).

     This doctrine of the trinity was brought into the church about the same time with image worship, and keeping the day of the sun, and is but Persian doctrine remodeled. It occupied about three hundred years from its introduction to bring the doctrine to what it is now. It was commenced about 325 A.D., and was not completed till 681. See Milman's Gibbon's Rome, vol. iv, p. 422. It was adopted in Spain in 589, in England in 596, in Africa in 534. —Gib. vol. iv, pp. 114, 345; Milner, vol. i, p. 519.” — J. N. Loughborough, Review & Herald, Nov. 5, 1861.



"…We understand that the term trinity means the union of three persons, not offices, in one God: so that, The Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Are three at least, and one at most.

      That one person is three persons, and that three persons are only one person, is the doctrine which we claim is contrary to reason and common sense. The being and attributes of God are above, beyond, out of reach of my sense and reason, yet I believe them": But the doctrine I object to is contrary, yes, that is the word, to the very sense and reason that God has himself implanted in us. Such a doctrine he does not ask us to believe. A miracle is beyond our comprehension, but we all believe in miracles who believe our own senses. What we see and hear convinces us that there is a power that affected the most wonderful miracle of creation. But our Creator has made it an absurdity to us that one person should be three persons, and three persons but one person; and in his revealed word he has never asked us to believe it. This our friend thinks objectionable... "But to hold the doctrine of the Trinity is not so much an evidence of evil intention as of intoxication from that wine of which all the nations have drunk. The fact that this was one of the leading doctrines, if not the very chief, upon which the bishop of Rome was exalted to the popedom, does not say much in its favor. This should cause men to investigate it for themselves; as when the spirits of devils working miracles undertake the advocacy of the immortality of the soul. Had I never doubted it before, I would now probe it to the bottom, by that word which modern Spiritualism sets at nought." — R. F. Cottrell, Review and Herald, July 6, 1869, 'The Trinity.' 


The Doctrine of the Trinity—

“This has been a popular doctrine and regarded as orthodox ever since the bishop of Rome was elevated to the popedom on the strength of it. It is accounted dangerous heresy to reject it; but each person is permitted to explain the doctrine in his own way. All seem to think they must hold it, but each has perfect liberty to take his own way to reconcile its contradictory propositions; and hence a multitude of views are held concerning it by its friends, all of them orthodox, I suppose, as long as they nominally assent to the doctrine.

        For myself, I have never felt called upon to explain it, nor to adopt and defend it, neither have I ever preached against it. But I probably put as high an estimation on the Lord Jesus Christ as those who call themselves Trinitarians. This is the first time I have ever taken the pen to say anything concerning this doctrine.

       My reasons for not adopting and defending it,  are:  1. Its name is unscriptural—the Trinity, or the triune God, is unknown to the Bible; and I have entertained the idea that doctrines which require words coined in the human mind to express them, are coined doctrines.  2. I have never felt called upon to adopt and explain that which is contrary to all the sense and reason that God has given me. All my attempts at an explanation of such a subject would make it no clearer to my friends.” — R. F. Cottrell, Review and Herald, June, 1, 1869 ‘The Doctrine of the Trinity’



“And then the Bible never uses the phrases, "trinity,” "triune God," "three in one," " the holy three,” “God the Holy Ghost," etc. But it does emphatically say there is only one God, the Father. And every argument of the Trinitarian to prove three Gods in one person, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, all of them of one substance, and every way equal to each other, and all three forming but one, contradicts itself, contradicts reason, and contradicts the Bible.”

— D. M. Canright, Review and Herald, August 29th 1878, ‘The personality of God’



“What a contradiction of terms is found in the language of Trinitarian creed: “In unity of this head are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” There are many things that are mysterious, written in the word of God, but we may safely presume the Lord never calls upon us to believe impossibilities. But creeds often do.” — A. J. Dennis, May 22, 1879, Signs of The Times



“The idea of Father and Son supposes priority of the existence of the one, and the subsequent existence of the other. To say that the Son is as old as his Father, is a palpable contradiction of terms. It is a natural impossibility for the Father to be as young as the Son, or the Son to be as old as the Father”.  — J. M. Stephenson, Review & Herald, vol. 6, #14, pg. 105, November, 14, 1854



“The doctrine called the trinity claiming that God is without form or parts; that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the three are one person, is another [false doctrine].” — Uriah Smith, Review and Herald, July 10th 1856, ‘Communications’



“Protestants and Catholics are so nearly united in sentiment, that it is not difficult to conceive how Protestants may make an image to the Beast. The mass of Protestants believe with Catholics in the Trinity, immortality of the soul, consciousness of the dead, rewards and punishments at death, the endless torture of the wicked, inheritance of the saints beyond the skies, sprinkling for baptism and the PAGAN SUNDAY for the Sabbath; all of which is contrary to the spirit and letter of the new testament. Surely there is between the mother and daughters, a striking family resemblance.” — M. E. Cornell ‘Facts for the Times’ page 76, 1858



“The inconsistent positions held by many in regard to the Trinity, as it is termed, has, no doubt, been the prime cause of many other errors.” — D. W. Hull, Review and Herald, November 10, 1859, ‘Bible doctrine of the divinity of Christ’



“Having noticed some of the evil effects of the doctrine of immortal soulism, and the errors growing out of it, we propose to refer briefly to another erroneous belief, equally popular and quite as unscriptural, if not fully as mischievous in its tendency, namely Trinitarianism.” — W. C. Gage, Review and Herald, August 29th 1865, ‘Popular errors and their fruits No.5’



“We are well aware that there has been much disputation on the subject of the sonship of Christ in the religious world, some claiming that he is nothing but a man as to origin, being only about eighteen hundred years old; others that he is the very and eternal God, the second person in the trinity. This last view is by far the most widely entertained among religious denominations. We are disposed to think that the truth lies between these views.” — H. C. Blanchard, Review and Herald, September 10th 1867, ‘The Son’



“The doctrine of the Trinity is a cruel heathen monstrosity, removing Jesus from his true position of Divine Savior and Mediator.” — Judson Washburn, letter to General Conference, 1940

bottom of page