Haskell’s Eye Witness Report
Steven N. Haskell and Elder A. J. Breed were sent by the General Conference to investigate what was going on in the Indiana Conference. They were also to be guest speakers at the 1900 Indiana camp meeting.
“The camp meeting at which this experience took place was held in Muncie, Indiana, while Ellen White was on board ship returning to the United States,” Arthur White wrote. “When James Edson White journeyed to the West Coast to greet his mother, he handed her a letter from Elder Haskell in which he described some of the things that had taken place.” The Early Elmshaven Years, 101, 102.
Haskell had written a second letter to Ellen White describing in more detail the teachings of the Holy Flesh advocates. This second Letter Haskell mailed from Battle Creek, Michigan, the same day he handed Letter #1 to Edson White to deliver to his mother in person. This document is known as the Haskell Letter #2, September 25, 1900.
Arthur White did not refer to the second Haskell letter in his narration of the history of the Holy Flesh Movement. Why? Could it have been because the second letter revealed what the Holy Flesh advocates really taught about the human nature Christ assumed while in the flesh? This second Haskell letter proves that the contemporary Seventh-day Adventist Church is now teaching the same false doctrine on the human nature of Christ as it was taught by the Holy Flesh advocates!
The Erroneous Holy Flesh Teaching of the Human Nature Of Christ
The Holy Flesh advocates taught that Jesus came to earth in a nature like that which Adam possessed before the fall in the Garden of Eden. Note carefully Haskell’s clear eye-witness description of this false teaching in his second letter to Ellen White.
“When we stated that we believed that Christ was born in fallen humanity, they would represent us as believing that Christ sinned,” Haskell wrote, “notwithstanding the fact that we would state our position so clearly that it would seem as though no one could misunderstand us.” Haskell Letter #2.
“Their point of theology in this particular respect seems to be this,” Haskell continued. “They believe that Christ took Adam’s nature before he fell; so He [Christ] took humanity as it was in the garden of Eden, and thus humanity was holy, and this is the humanity which Christ had; and now, they say, the particular time has come for us to become holy in that sense, and then we will have ‘translation faith’ and never die.” Ibid.
Notice the two important points in the above statements. Haskell stated that:
“When we stated that we believed that Christ was born in fallen humanity, they would represent us as believing that Christ sinned, notwithstanding the fact that we would state our position so clearly that it would seem as though no one could misunderstand us.” This problem still exists today. When anyone states that “Christ was born in fallen humanity,” he or she is accused of believing that Christ sinned.
The Holy Flesh advocates “believe that Christ took Adam’s nature before he fell; so He took humanity as it was in the garden of Eden, and thus humanity was holy, and this is the humanity which Christ had.”
Ellen White had just returned from several years in Australia, and as she came ashore, the Haskell Letter #1 was handed to her in person by her son, James Edson White. Haskell’s Letter #2, arrived in the mail a few days later. Ellen White confronted the false teaching of the Holy Flesh Movement with dispatch. At the close of the 1901 General Conference session, on Wednesday morning, April 17, Ellen White arose and presented a testimony directly to the General Conference. R. S. Donnell, President of the Indiana Conference, and S. S. Davis, the Conference evangelist, who had led out in the false teachings, were present at this meeting.
Ellen White stated in part: “Instruction has been given me in regard to the late experience of brethren in Indiana and the teaching they have given to the churches. Through this experience and teaching the enemy has been working to lead souls astray.” General Conference Bulletin, 1901, 419–422: Selected Messages, Book 2, 31–35.
At the early morning workers’ meeting the following day, Elder R. S. Donnell, Indiana Conference President, confessed that he was wrong. (See “Confession, Donnell,” General Conference Bulletin, vol. IV, Extra No. 18, April 23, 1901, 422.)
Following the General Conference session in 1901, a local Conference session was convened in Indianapolis, Indiana, May 3–5, 1901, to elect new officers. Attending this conference business meeting were Elders A. G. Daniells, W. W. Prescott, A. T. Jones, P. T. Magan, and W. C. White. Ellen White also attended this meeting and addressed the delegates. At the close of her address Ellen White stated: “When I am gone from here, none are to pick up any points of this doctrine and call it truth. There is not a thread of truth in the whole fabric.” G. A. Roberts, The Holy Fanaticism, Ellen G. White Estate, Document File #190.
Notice that Ellen White warned that “none are to pick up any points of this doctrine and call it truth.” And further that, “There is not a thread of truth in the whole fabric.” Not a thread of truth in any point of the Holy Flesh doctrine. Not in their “celebration” type of music—not in their pre-fall of Adam human nature of Jesus Christ doctrine. Yet the contemporary Seventh-day Adventist Church is vigorously promoting both “celebration” music worship services, and the pre-fall nature of Christ, (as used by the Holy Flesh advocate)!
“Listen to the music, to the language, called higher education,” Ellen White counseled. “But what does God declare it?—The Mystery of Iniquity.” (An Appeal for Missions, 11.)
False Concept of Christ’s Human Nature
As noted above, S. N. Haskell, in a second letter, wrote to Ellen White that leaders of the Holy Flesh Movement in Indiana were teaching the false doctrine that Christ came to earth in the human nature of Adam before he fell in the garden of Eden. Ellen White stated that “none are to pick up any points of this doctrine and call it truth.” Why? Because, “There is not a thread of truth in the whole fabric.” White Estate Document, File #190. According to this statement, if one was to teach that Christ came to earth in the human nature of Adam before he fell in the garden of Eden, he would be teaching a doctrine held by the Holy Flesh Movement! Or if one was to teach the “celebration” music concepts in worship, they would also be teaching a doctrine held by the Holy Flesh Movement. If she were alive today, what would Ellen White say about the contemporary Seventh-day Adventist Church teaching both Holy Flesh concepts on music and the human nature of Christ?
Holy Flesh False Doctrines Taught Today
“He [Christ] was like Adam before his fall,” Leroy Edwin Froom wrote, “who was similarly without any inherent sinful ‘propensities.’ ” L. E. Froom, Movement of Destiny, 428.
“He [Christ] was perfect in His humanity, but He was none the less God, and His conception in His incarnation was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit so that He did not partake of the fallen sinful nature of other men,” Dr. E. Schuyler English, noted Evangelical leader wrote. (Froom, op. sit., Dr. E. Schuyler English, editor Our Hope, MD, 469.) In his reply letter to Dr. English, Froom stated, “That, we in turn assured him, is precisely what we [Seventh-day Adventists] likewise believe.” Ibid., 470.
“Although born in the flesh, He was nevertheless God, and was exempt from the inherited passions and pollutions that corrupt the natural descendants of Adam.” Questions on Doctrine, 383.
“Jesus was not like you and me when He was here upon earth, for He was never a sinner,” Donald Reynolds wrote. “He came to this earth as Adam before Adam fell.” Donald G. Reynolds, “Adam and Evil”, Review and Herald, July 1, 1965.
The Church is now officially teaching a cardinal doctrine held by the Holy Flesh Movement in direct opposition to the Spirit of Prophecy which stated clearly that, “When I am gone from here, none are to pick up any points of this doctrine and call it truth,” for, “there is not a thread of truth in the whole fabric.”
Falsifying History To Sustain A Doctrinal Position
In 1958, Arthur White, then chairman of the Ellen G. White Estate, wrote a Compiler’s Note in Selected Messages, book 2. The Note is found on page 31, before the chapter titled, “The Holy Flesh Doctrine.” The statement in the Compiler’s Note that “during Christ’s agony in Gethsemane He obtained holy flesh comparable to that possessed by Adam before his fall,” is erroneous. The correct teaching of the Holy Flesh advocates was that “Christ came to earth [when He was born] in the nature of Adam before he fell in the Garden of Eden.”
“They [Holy Flesh advocates] believe that Christ took Adam’s nature before he fell,” Haskell had written to Ellen White, “so He took humanity as it was in the garden of Eden.” Haskell Letter #2.
The deception can be very subtle and confusing. An easy way to separate the confusion is to think of, 1) “the Garden of Eden,” versus, 2) “the Garden of Gethsemane.” The Garden of Eden was before man fell—the Garden of Gethsemane was after man fell.
Arthur White’s Historical Source For the Compiler’s Note
Arthur White’s source for the position in the Compiler’s Note was taken from a letter written by Burton Wade. The letter was dated January 12, 1962, and addressed to Arthur White. Wade had “attended the camp meeting held in Muncie, Indiana, in September of 1900.” Although Burton Wade was 86 years old at the writing of this letter, and was recalling an event that took place 62 years prior, he claimed to have a vivid and clear memory of that camp meeting. Wade stated that the Holy Flesh advocates “believed that, when Christ suffered in Gethsemane, he obtained ‘Holy Flesh’ such as Adam had in the beginning before the fall.”
“This position is a bit at variance with those of G. A. Roberts and S. N. Haskell,” Kenneth Wood wrote, “but how do we know which of these men was capable of making a definitive theological statement?” Kenneth Wood Letter, to William Grotheer, dated at Takoma Park, Maryland, March 13, 1968.
Think for a moment, dear reader, about Kenneth Wood’s question, “but how do we know which of these men was capable of making a definitive theological statement?” Three men gave eyewitness accounts of what the Holy Flesh advocates were teaching on the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ. Let us consider the relative theological background of each of these three men carefully.
Elder Stephen N. Haskell
Elder Stephen N. Haskell was a well-known Seventh-day Adventist pioneer and writer. Four of his most famous works were, The Cross and Its Shadow, The Seer of Patmos, Daniel the Prophet, and, Haskell’s Handbook (a doctrinal study guide for the layman, published in 1919). Ellen White cited Haskell for his stand on truth in 1888. (Ellen G. White, Ms. 15, 1888, See Through Crisis to Victory, 301). He had been sent to the Indiana Conference to investigate the teaching of the Holy Flesh advocates by the General Conference and was a speaker at the 1900 camp meeting at Muncie, Indiana. Haskell was 67 years old at the time. Burton Wade was a young man of 24 years. Haskell wrote his account two days after the Muncie camp meeting. Burton Wade wrote his letter, recalling the event, 62 years later, and he was 86 years old at the writing of his letter. At this conference, Haskell had discussed doctrinal concepts directly with the leaders of the Holy Flesh Movement. Two days after returning to Battle Creek, Haskell wrote two letters to Ellen White reporting the teachings of the Holy Flesh advocates. One letter he mailed, the other he gave to Edson White, who was passing through Battle Creek on his way to meet Ellen White at the docking of the ship from Australia. Again, both Letter #1 and #2 are on file at the Ellen G. White Estate, of which Kenneth Wood was a trustee.
Elder G. A. Roberts
Elder G. A. Roberts, who later served as President of the Inter-American Division (1936–1941), was also an eyewitness of the Holy Flesh Movement. He had attended their meetings at Indianapolis. Roberts was also a close friend of R. S. Donnell, one of the leaders of the Holy Flesh Movement. Twenty-three years later he wrote his observations of the experience. About the position held by the Holy Flesh advocates on the doctrine of the Incarnation he stated in part: “It was taught that Jesus had holy flesh, and that those who followed Him through this garden experience would likewise have holy flesh; that the text, ‘A body hast thou prepared me,’ showed that Christ had a specially prepared holy body. The Scripture, Hebrews 2:7–14, was used to prove that Christ was born with flesh like ‘my brethren’ and ‘the church’ would have after they had passed through the garden experience.” G. A. Roberts, The Holy Flesh Fanaticism, June, 1923, Document File #190.
Notice that Roberts stated the Holy Flesh advocates believed that:
- “Jesus had holy flesh”
- “Christ had a specially prepared holy body” when He came to earth
- “Christ was born with flesh like My brethren,”
- “the church would have after they had passed through the garden experience.”
This statement clearly shows that the Holy Flesh advocates believed that Jesus came to earth in the nature of Adam before the fall, and that the Church would obtain this same flesh after passing through the “Garden of Gethsemane” experience. Then they would no longer sin and would be fit for translation.
Burton Wade, the person who Kenneth Wood and other Seventh-day Adventist leadership depended on for their historical source, was a lay member from Denver, Indiana. In order for Kenneth Wood and the Adventist leadership to accept Wade’s testimony, they had to cast aside the testimony of the three reliable General Conference men, S. N. Haskell, A. J. Breed, and the testimony of G. A. Roberts. Haskell, Breed, and Roberts all agree. Burton Wade gave a different account. It will be left with the reader to decide which of these four men were capable of making “a definitive theological statement.”
Jesse Dunn, an older man who also lived at Denver, Indiana, and was the State Agent at the time, “understood the doctrine as taught by the Holy Flesh advocates in harmony with Haskell and Roberts.” William A. Grotheer, The Holy Flesh Movement, 59. Why did the compilers of the book Selected Messages, Book 2, choose the testimony of Burton Wade over Jesse Dunn, the other eyewitness from Indiana? More important, why did they choose Wade’s testimony over S. N. Haskell and A. J. Breed, the two men sent by the General Conference to investigate the teachings of the Holy Flesh advocates? Why did they ignore the testimony of G. A. Roberts, another reliable General Conference eyewitness?
Startling Discrepancy In Source Dates
The Burton Wade letter was stated to be the source for the Compiler’s Note in Selected Messages, Book 2. However, the book was copyrighted in 1958 and the Wade letter was dated 1962, four years after the book Selected Messages, Book 2, was published!.
“What then is the source of the Compiler’s Note?” Grotheer asked. “Or worse yet, perish the thought, were the first two paragraphs of the Wade letter `planted’ to give substantiation to the basic error in the Compiler’s Note?” William Grotheer, Letter to Kenneth Wood, dated at Florence, Mississippi, March 15, 1968. Grotheer stated further that, “Unless other proof can be offered to the source of the note, this last idea needs to be investigated further, for it would then have validity.”
The Compiler’s Note in the book Selected Messages, Book 2, was published in 1958. The Evangelical Conferences with Dr. Donald Barnhouse and Walter Martin took place two years prior in 1955–56. It was at these Evangelical Conferences that concessions were made on the “Atonement” and the “Human Nature of Christ.” The book Questions On Doctrine, in which these concessions were stated, was published the previous year in 1957.
The Objective Of the Compiler’s Note
Why does the leadership of the contemporary Seventh-day Adventist Church aspire to teach that the Holy Flesh advocates believed that Christ obtained the nature of the pre-fall Adam “during His agony in Gethsemane”—rather then “Christ obtained Adam’s unfallen nature when He came to earth”? Is it that the leadership now teaches that “Christ obtained Adam’s unfallen nature when He came to earth,” the very same false doctrine as the Holy Flesh advocates taught?
If the Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders accepted Haskell’s and Roberts’ testimony, they would have to concede that they are now teaching a doctrine held by the Holy Flesh advocates. Then the Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership would have to explain why they are teaching a doctrine in direct opposition to the Spirit of Prophecy. They would have to negate the statement by Ellen White that: “There is not a thread of truth in the whole fabric,” and again, “when I am gone from here, none are to pick up any points of this doctrine and call it truth.” Is it not curious that the Church leadership cannot see the truth on this point as both the G. A. Roberts’ document and the Haskell letters are in the files of the Ellen G. White Estate and are available for research?
In a letter to William Grotheer, Arthur White stated that to him the teaching of the Holy Flesh advocates on the human nature of Christ was, “a matter of little importance.” He added further that, “Except as there may be lessons in the experience for us today, it is not a matter of great interest or consequence to the church now.” Arthur L. White, Letter to William H. Grotheer, dated at Takoma Park, Washington D. C., December 13, 1968.
This, of course, is not true. Thirty years after Arthur White made this statement, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is divided in a debate over the human nature Christ assumed while in the flesh and the “celebration” music style of worship now prevalent throughout Adventism. Both of these false concepts were first advocated by the Holy Flesh movement. There are tremendous lessons for the Church today in relation to the Holy Flesh Movement of Indiana.
“We have nothing to fear for the future,” Ellen White counseled, “except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” Life Sketches, 196.
In his letter, Arthur White admitted that the truth on this matter could not be determined “without thorough, painstaking research (which seemed uncalled for in this case)” because only a brief historical note was being written. Ibid., White Letter, December 13, 1968. This statement reveals that historical inserts to the writings of Ellen G. White were made, “Without thorough, painstaking research.”
After Arthur White’s attention had been directed to the Haskell statement he admitted that, “Elder Haskell saw it differently than I have reported.” White observed further that, “The Wade testimony is interesting. I felt it was corroborative.” But what was it corroborative to? It was corroborative to the position White had presented in the Compilers Note! As an after thought, White admitted that the Wade letter “is not conclusive because of the time lapse (62 years).” He concludes the paragraph by stating, “One is led to say, ‘So what?’ ” Ibid.
So what? The Wade letter was written in 1962, four years after the Compiler’s Note was published in Selected Messages, book. 2, in 1958. How could Arthur White use the information in the Burton Wade letter, written four years after the Compiler’s Note was written?
In his letter, Arthur White promised to restudy the issue “and if I am convinced that the note does not correctly represent the facts, I shall request the Board of Trustees of the Ellen G. White Estate to approve a rewording which we will ask the publishers to place in the next printing of the book.” Ibid. The book has been reprinted since this letter was written by Arthur White in 1968. Over 30 years have passed, and the Compiler’s Note remains unchanged.
Still Ignoring the Haskell Letter #2
In 1983, fifteen years after his letter to William Grotheer, Arthur L. White wrote a six volume set of books on the life of Ellen White. In volume 5, The Early Elmshaven Years, 1900–1905, pages 100-107, White covered the history of the Holy Flesh Movement of Indiana. On pages 101 and 102, White quoted from the Haskell Letter #1. Although for the past fifteen years he was aware of, and had access to, the Haskell Letter #2 in the Ellen G. White Estate Document Files, White still chose to ignore this second Haskell Letter. Why? It seems very probable to this author that it was because the second Haskell letter was theologically opposed to the present Seventh-day Adventist position on the human nature of Christ, and to the Compiler’s Note that White had written in Selected Messages, Book 2.
Today, in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, we see not only the very same false doctrine of Christ’s human nature as taught by the Holy Flesh advocates, but also the very same “celebration music” services of the Holy Flesh advocates in many Seventh-day Adventist Churches. It is past time that we consider the seriousness of this matter and where it is leading us.
Note: If you would like more information about the danger of the Celebration movement in Adventism today, call Steps to Life and order our booklet titled No Time to Celebrate. Available in English and Spanish for $1.00 per booklet. Call for bulk prices.