Touched With Our Feelings
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad! A distinguished, Seventh-day Adventist scholar, Dr. Jean Zurcher, whose spiritual and academic credentials are impeccable, has conducted a full and complete investigation of the origin and progress of a totally false teaching about the nature of Christ (Christology) in the Seventh-day Adventist church, and has reported his findings in the book Touched With Our Feelings. This is only one of his notable achievements. In a second, and no less impressive achievement, he has succeeded in getting his book printed by the Review and Herald press, which has rejected all such manuscripts for years.
Dr. Zurcher has taught in various Seventh-day Adventist colleges, and is presently the chairman of the Biblical Research Committee of the Euro-African Division. He has written a previous book on the nature and destiny of man which is widely acclaimed as the best treatment of that subject by an Adventist writer.
In the present volume, he carefully chronicles the historical data and analyzes the Christological positions reached in the unanimous testimony of all Seventh-day Adventist witnesses for a period of one hundred years (1850Ė1950). He then turns his attention to the false Christology that was introduced in the 1950s, and the incredible actions and arguments of those who introduced it. This makes his work the most exhaustive and comprehensive treatment of the subject that has yet appeared. The results are, in a word, devastating to the false Christology, which teaches that Christ came to earth in the human nature of unfallen Adam, rather than in manís fallen nature, as our church has always believed and taught.
This book is not to be read and laid aside. It is a veritable library, containing a wealth of information that needs to be studied and restudied. The idea that the subject is unimportant, or is of interest only to theologians, is firmly rejected. Zurcher maintains, with full documentary support, that the subject of the human nature of Christ is of vital importance to every Christian.
The truth that Christ came to earth in the fallen nature of man was described as vitally important by a host of Seventh-day Adventist witnesses before the 1950s. This group consisted of Adventismís first line of leadership. It included:
General Conference pesidents
James White, A.G. Daniels, C.H. Watson, W.H. Branson and J.L. McElhany;
General Conference vice presidents
W.W. Prescott, I.H. Evans and H.L. Rudy;
E.F. Hackman, W.G. Turner, C.B. Haynes, J.E. Fulton, A.V. Olson and L.H. Christian;
General Conference secretaries
G.B. Thompson and F.C. Gilbert;
R.A. Underwood and E.K. Slade;
A.W. Semmens and J. McCulloch;
R.S. Owen, H.E. Giddings, W.E. Howell and M.L. Andreason (who was also a seminary professor);
S.N. Haskell, C.P. Bollman, J.L. Schuler, A.T. Robinson and C.L. Bond;
Review, Signs and Bible Echo editors
A.T. Jones, Uriah Smith, F.M. Wilcox,
J.H. Waggoner, E.J. Waggoner,
E.W. Farnsworth, W.H. Glenn,
M.C. Wilcox, F.D. Nichol, A.L. Baker,
O. Tait, C.M. Snow, G. Dalrymple,
R. Hare, M. Neff and G.C. Tenny.
All of these illustrious leaders of Adventism published, in articles and books, their strong convictions that Christ came to earth in the human nature of fallen man. In addition there were many writers who did not hold high positions in the church, but who did have enough stature to be considered eligible to write the same thing in our publications a total of 1200 times, before the 1950s. (See The Word Was Made Flesh by this author.) And all of them were contemptuously dismissed by L.E. Froom, the leading promoter of the false Christology in the 1950s, as Adventismís "lunatic fringe"!
How he would dare to publish such a monstrous misrepresentation is an incredible mystery. How he could get so many Seventh-day Adventists to accept the misrepresentation as fact is an even greater mystery. It would appear to be a classic case of putting blind confidence in a leader. Froom was, at this time, enjoying the confidence of most church members because of the six volumes that had appeared over his name on The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers and The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers. This had apparently led many to accept anything he wrote without question.
In any case, did Adventism ever have a lunatic fringe? Unfortunately, the answer is "Yes." And that lunatic fringe believed exactly what Froom believed about the nature of Christ, that Jesus came to earth in the human nature of unfallen Adam! This group was first identified as the "holy flesh" movement of Indiana. You may read about these people in Selected Messages, vol. 2, 31Ė39. The movement began in Indiana, in 1889. When Ellen White, who was in Australia, was informed about it, she returned and strongly denounced it at the General Conference of 1901. She described it as "cheap, miserable inventions of menís theories, prepared by the father of lies." The conference discussed and condemned the teaching as false. (Zurcher, 276.)
And Froomís cohorts were too small a group to even be called a fringe. Their names have been, and still are to some extent, a closely guarded secret. But in various ways that secret has been "leaked," so that we now understand that a group of four persons entered into conversations with certain non-Adventist theologians, and then took upon themselves the awesome responsibility of changing our Christology. This was a challenging task. It meant that the uniform testimony of our cloud of witnesses, for one hundred years, had to be set aside, and an alien interpretation had to be placed on the writings of Ellen White, forcing her to say what she actually never said. Why would such a thing be attempted?
To gain the favor of the world. More specifically, to gain the favor of certain Calvinistic theologians who were threatening to describe us as a cult, if the changes were not made, and offering to "accept" us as true Christians if the changes were made. This still leaves us gasping. Since when have we submitted our doctrines for approval to theologians who hold false doctrines on the Sabbath, the law of God, the immortality of the soul, hell fire, baptism, health reform and so on? Nevertheless, it was done. As nearly as we can ascertain, through the curtain of secrecy that was employed, the four Adventists who made the fateful decision were L.E. Froom, Roy Alan Anderson, W.E. Read and J. Unruh.
Roy Alan Anderson was then secretary of our ministerial association and editor of Ministry magazine. If Froomís description of virtually all of our leaders before the 1950s as a "lunatic fringe" is stunning, Andersonís contribution is no less stunning. He published to all of our ministers in Ministry magazine that Ellen White had written only three or four statements that could be understood to mean that Christ had come in fallen human nature, but that these were "strongly counter-balanced" by her many other statements that He had come in unfallen human nature. (Zurcher 158, 159.) This statement is the precise opposite of the truth in both of its parts. Her statements that Christ came in fallen human nature actually number more than four hundred. And the "counter-balancing" statements simply do not exist. Andersonís reference to them is pure fiction. Ellen White never wrote even a single time that Christ came to earth in unfallen human nature.
W.E. Read made an equally facile contribution in proposing that Christ took our fallen human nature vicariously, in the same way that He paid the price for our sins. But this argument collapses on its own weight. Another person can pay a debt for you, but he cannot take a drink of water for you. If something is done for you vicariously, that means that you do not have to do it. Christ has paid the price for our sins, so we do not have to pay it. If Christ had taken our human nature vicariously, we would not have to take it. But alas, we still have it. Many more serious problems could be pointed out, but I refer you to Zurcher.
So, the false Christology has made its way into our church through monstrous isrepresentations, misleading manipulation of evidence and ludicrous puerile propositions. Tragically, those who have tried to defend this monstrosity have not departed far from the methods of its originators. The misstatements, the false reasoning and the self-contradictions still continue. Witness the writings of Adams, Ford, Heppenstal, Ott, etc.
These grim revelations confront us with two difficult questions. First, how should we relate to the appalling misrepresentations of the originators of the false Christology? Intellectual integrity permits only one choice. We must repudiate them. To defend such methods would be utterly unthinkable.
Second, how should we relate to those among us who are continuing to promote false Christology? Zurcher, although he is clearly appalled by what he has found, carefully refrains from bringing railing accusations against anyone. We must follow his good example. We cannot judge motives, but we must judge actions. Those who defend the false Christology may not be aware of the methods they are defending. We must seek to inform them. If the Lord should stir the heart of any of you to give this book to a pastor of your acquaintance, that would be a good beginning. And if the Lord should lay a larger burden upon your heart, so be it. In any case, praise God for this book and praise God for our truth!
Ralph Larson has retired from forty years of service as a pastor, evangelist, college teacher and seminary professor. He writes from his home in Cherry Valley, California.
January 2000 Table of Contents