Article by Pr. Larry Kirkpatrick published on November 26, 2003.1

QOD 2003 Annotated Edition Series

Walter Martin's Trump Card: Questions on Doctrine, Seventh-day Adventists, and the Atonement

Document Structure

Questions on Doctrine in a Nutshell
Second Angel's Message
The Atonement: When and Where Completed
     Concepts Not Parallel
     Context of Early Writings Forbids
     1911 Great Controversy Weighs In
Attempted Tampering With the Ellen White Books
QOD Offered as the Grand Interpreter
Proposed Changes Discovered
Walter Martin's Trump Card

In an exceeding beautiful garden near history's dawn, planet earth's first questions on doctrine were uttered. The serpent in the tree asked Eve, “Hath God said…?” (Genesis 3:1). There was a question concerning doctrine.

God had designed a platform for life. He set Adam and Eve upon it. But an outcast bent upon erecting his own platform worked to mislead. Lucifer wanted “improvements” made. Already the fallen angel had stepped off the platform. He sought to bring in what appeared as only minor changes, yet which were subtly wired to completely undermine Heaven's platform.

Yes, every religious reformation travelling through the ages and indited by God has faced the adversary's subtle schemes. The movement we know today as Seventh-day Adventism has also faced its forks in the road. Possibly its deadliest test came in the 1950s. At that time a small group of leaders—without General Conference Session approval—sought to introduce new teachings into the church. Today, almost 50 years out, those developments continue to divide the church. We are living in a contemporary 1888-like period when we may realize either heaven's greatest possibilities, or insubordination's most unspeakable disasters. A tragic book has been republished, and we need to examine anew the platform upon which we are standing, and critique the proposed improvements some in our midst insist upon pressing home. The ideological salesmen have come-a-knocking upon our door again. Let us examine with care the wares they would sell us; for in putting forth their book again in 2003, they have declared war upon God's truth.

Questions on Doctrine in a Nutshell

In the 1950s, after nearly a century of cleaving to the truth, a mistake was made. The history of the remnant church was impacted. For about one third now of our history as a people, we have been paying the price for a devastating detour into confusion. It all surrounds this book—Questions on Doctrine (QOD)—the most controversial volume ever published by the church. Let me give you the background.

In the 1950s a small group of Seventh-day Adventist leaders came into contact with “the Evangelicals,” i.e. Donald Barnhouse and Walter Martin. Barnhouse was the publisher of Eternity magazine, and Martin was a researcher on cults—non-mainstream religious movements held by sometimes self-proclaimed majority Christians to be heretical, error-teaching bodies. Already Martin had written a number of books excoriating other religious groups as cults.2 His latest project was a book on the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The introduction in QOD says that Martin's book had been planned to particularly emphasize “those areas wherein Adventist teachings differ from some other Christian groups.”3

A very small group of Adventist Church leaders met with Martin and Barnhouse. The evangelical visitants asserted that certain theological views expressed in several of our books in print were unacceptable if we expected to be viewed as orthodox Christians. The Seventh-day Adventists insisted to Martin and Barnhouse that this church was in the process of updating things, and that like every church, Adventists had our own “lunatic fringe” to deal with.4

Three main questions especially concerned the Evangelicals: (1) What we teach about the atonement, (2) What we teach about the role of works in salvation, and (3) What we teach concerning the nature of Jesus' humanity? Other teachings held by Adventists bothered them a great deal, but those three were the all-consuming ones. The Evangelicals communicated clearly to the Seventh-day Adventist leaders that their position on these views would be decisive. In QOD, that volume's authors wrote,

All this [attacks based upon “out of date” literature, the citing of statements “out of context,” and the fact that Adventists have “no formal creed”] has made it desirable and necessary for us to declare our position anew upon the great fundamental teachings of the Christian faith, and to deny every statement or implication that Christ, the second person of the godhead, was not one with the Father from all eternity, and that His death on the cross was not a full and complete sacrificial atonement.5

The handful of Adventist leaders agreed to receive the questions presented by Martin and his Evangelical friends. Martin came armed with dozens. The ensuing dialogue would result in the publishing of two books: one by the Adventist Church, with the working-title, Questions and Answers, and another by Martin, who would delay the publishing of his book, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism6 until after the Adventists had first published theirs.

Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine was the name of the Adventists' eventually-published book. It contained several good and helpful sections. Those are not the problem. But many truth-loving Adventists were especially concerned about the sections presenting Seventh-day Adventist teachings on the atonement and the nature of Christ. The liberties taken in the presentation of these teachings led some even to say that we, as a people, had been “sold down the river.”7 Whereas Adventists previously had taught that the atonement is being completed in heaven by Christ now, QOD taught that it was completed at the cross. Whereas Adventists had always taught that Jesus took the humanity of humankind after the fall, QOD said essentially the opposite.

M. L. Andreason, recently retired former dean of the SDA Theological Seminary, a leading denominational scholar on the sanctuary system and the book of Hebrews, author also of the SDA Bible commentary section on Hebrews, began to raise concern with church leadership about beliefs which were being revised without General Conference Session approval. A long series of interactions ensued before Andreason, after all his heartfelt pleas to Adventist leaders had fallen on deaf ears, published his six “Letters to the Churches.” When all had run its course, Andreason had had his credentials revoked. At last he died (the credentials were posthumously restored). The deep friction produced by the publishing of QOD led to a conscious decision by church leaders not to continue to publish it. After a short run, they allowed the book to go out of print, and kept it there (out of print).

Still, the church experienced years of relentless turmoil, battle over the conflicting teachings rising and ebbing. The doctrines espoused by what has come to be known as the New Theology advocates began to take a severe beating as works by Ralph Larson (The Word Was Made Flesh8) and J. R. Zurcher (Touched With Our Feelings9) traced out the factual position of the nature of Christ issue through our denominational history. Their work unmistakably revealed and inescapably bankrupted the QOD positions. Dennis Priebe wrote perhaps the clearest and most lucid book linking theological winds of change in the 1980's and 90's with their genesis in QOD, in his Face-to-Face With the Real Gospel10—unquestionably number one on the Adventist must-read book list.

Finally, in what appears to be a last-ditch effort to salvage the New Theology within the church, certain individuals sought to republish QOD. Ronald Knott at Andrews University Press, George R. Knight at the SDA Theological Seminary, and Woodrow W. Whidden III were some of those favoring or involved in the project. Whidden published an article in the August 2003 Ministry magazine announcing the imminent arrival of the new edition.11

Second Angel's Message

What those who originally published and now those who have republished QOD—the most controversial book in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church—fail to acknowledge is the second angel's message. The first angel's message was light sent from heaven—testing light. The prophetic period of the 2300 years until the cleansing of the sanctuary was a test. Were those professing Christianity willing to truly humble their hearts and let God change them? Were they truly ready inside to let God remove their sin? The message was widely rejected. Churches began to disfellowship members for believing in the near return of Jesus. Several months before October 22, 1844 the second angel's message began to be given. Babylon had fallen—in rejecting God's closing messages of truth, the churches had separated themselves from heaven, and the second angel of Revelation 14:8 so declared it.

The second angel's message was a warning from God to those who would follow Him. Trust no longer in the explanations of a Christendom permeated with rationalizations and theological improvisations explaining away present-truth! Why would we ever try to please these fallen churches, to meet the expectations of their theological measuring-stick? They rejected God's prophecies, rejected obedience to Him; how did our people, even if but a handful from among leadership, ever come to the place where they would answer Babylon's questions concerning our doctrine with anything less than the straightforward biblical views that for a century had sustained us as a people? But sad history records an attempted turning back, an attempted moving of the “blocks and pins,” of the making of “improvements” in our teachings.

One of the major elements of the Adventist mission is the second angel's message and its warning about the fallen churches. Revelation 18:1-4 is connected to this message, and God makes the call to “Come out of her [Babylon] My people.” Adventists must join Him in this call—unpopular or unkind though it may seem to make us. We are, by our DNA, our nature, a church calling Christians out of error and into truth. Some might then call us a proselytizing church, a sheep-stealing church. If they mean that we are freeing sheep from wolves, then we will not argue. But the sheep are not ours; they are our Father's, and the wolves are those unwilling today to sustain God's teachings and who present as spiritual food smooth things. They leave God's people unprepared.

A part of our task is, by its very nature to call God's people out of fallen churches. While this is not calculated to make us popular, it does alert us that our task is to give presently highlighted truths special prominence in our proclamation. There is precious truth, material that we can teach that is truthful and important but not as critical for our time as what we might call present-truth. Our task is to especially give a message of present-truth. We must do that in a kind and generous way; yet do it, we must.

Questions on Doctrine, unfortunately, stated the following: “Today [1957] the primary emphasis of all our denominational literature, as well as the continuous presentation over radio and television, emphasizes the historic fundamentals of the Christian faith”12—precious truth only. Something very wrong had happened. We had lost our emphasis. It is in this light that there arose questions on doctrine.

The reason there were questions on doctrine was because some among us wished to make friends with the evangelicals. These wanted to avoid the cult label, and very badly. The Evangelicals realized this, and understood that it gave them leverage to do something very unusual: to attempt to reshape the theological direction of a whole denomination. The opportunity was historic. L.E. Froom, R.A. Anderson, R.R. Figuhr, and a few others grasped at the proffered bait, and Walter Martin kept letting out the line.

How substantial were the meetings and dialogue that resulted in the publishing of QOD? “He [Martin] came not just for a single visit, but in company with other scholars made a number of trips to the General Conference covering a period of almost two years. Hundreds of hours went into his research, and hundreds of books and pamphlets, both Adventist and non-Adventist, were examined. In addition there were a large number of interviews.”13

All our sorrow cannot be laid at the feet of the Evangelicals however; they were only taking advantage of the opening the Adventist QOD authors had already made. Hear Walter Martin:

The principal problem facing us is how to achieve fellowship between Adventists and non-Adventists who recognize their common Christian faith but apparently cannot attain spiritual communion interdenominationally. They are separated by the wall of prejudice erected by the Orthodoxy [read, Evangelicalism] vs. Adventism conflict of the last hundred years. We need only turn to the new Seventh-day Adventist volume, Questions on Doctrine, which represents the current position of the denomination, to see that Seventh-day Adventists today eagerly desire and encourage fellowship with Christians of other communions who love the Lord Jesus Christ and are seeking a common basis of fellowship.14

How eagerly? Eagerly enough to repudiate the second angel's message itself? In The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism, Martin wrote, “This and many similar declarations in the Adventist volume indicate that Seventh-day Adventists have repudiated the concept that all who disagree with them are a part of apostate ‘Babylon’ and that they are the only ones who‘have a corner on heaven.’”15

Martin's representations were unfairly skewed. We have never said that “all” who disagree with us are apostate Babylon. Nor have we claimed to have a “corner on heaven.” We have proclaimed our understanding that religious bodies that rejected God's present-truth message in 1844 were declared “fallen” by heaven. We have openly indicated that God is raising up a remnant today to keep His commandments and live the faith of Jesus. We can gladly repudiate the stretchy little straw men like those created by Martin, as long as it is clear that we have not backed away one notch from the truths that stand behind his misrepresentations.

The apparent base-line, take-home idea accepted by Martin, was that we had repudiated the second angel's message. Such was a grievous misconception. A perusal of the QOD discussion of the topic suggests where Martin obtained his mistaken notion. The answer given is long on history and short on specific Adventist usage of Revelation 14:8 and 18:1-4, the key second angel's message passages.16 Particularly lacking is any straightforward discussion of decline of Protestant churches who presently constitute Babylon.

The Atonement: When and Where Completed?

Those days of discussion with the Evangelicals were frought with potential not only for good but for evil. Let us turn now mostly to one crucial topic. As we said, the main issues for Barnhouse and Martin especially included the atonement and the nature of Christ. We will proceed to focus on the atonement—namely, where was it/is it, completed? At the cross or in the heavenly sanctuary? And, how did the QOD authors deal with the dilemma they faced?

Questions on Doctrine was notorious for bending Ellen G. White statements on the main questions. Regrettably, this is what happened with the doctrine of the atonement. The atonement topic is especially prominent in pp. 341-390 of QOD, containing nearly threescore pages of response to five questions provided by Dr. Martin. For example, Martin asked,

Question 29: Seventh-day Adventists have frequently been charged with teaching that the atonement was not completed on the cross. Is this charge true?17

Rather than simply answering, “Yes, by all means it is true—we teach that the atonement was not completed at the cross,” the answer our people gave wove through nine pages of blurry discussion. The reader is told that the answer to the question is all a matter of definition (and in measure, it is). Next, the reader is told that there is a general understanding current in Christendom of what the atonement is—mostly limited to Jesus' death on the cross. Pages of discussion follow, with several interesting and illuminating biblical examples of atonement pointed out. But at the close of these pages the QOD authors have failed to make any satisfying answer why Adventists should change their viewpoint on this topic. At last, inexplicably they surrender to a termonology they have just shown is biblically insufficient!

The progression of thought through those nine pages was (A) the atonement is broader in meaning than popularly understood, (B) Here is evidence for that, (C) Early Adventists therefore held this position, but (D) inexplicably we have surrendered it. At the last a concessionary answer is given that boils down to the QOD authors agreeing with Evangelicals that the atonement was completed at the cross. True, this is accompanied by a feeble plea that the benefits of the atonement should still be applied, but at the end of the section the reader is again reminded that in any case, “…the question after all is a matter of definition of terms.”18 The overall effect comes out as a combination of obscuration and fear. Why else force the enemy King into mate in one and then resign (concede the game)? Something is very wrong when you would successfully make your case that the conventional terminology is unbiblical, and then say, OK, we agree to use that same terminology anyway.

Martin asks the same question over again in several different ways, only to have the QOD writers return with similar non-answers. Hear him:

Question 30: Seventh-day Adventists are frequently charged with minimizing the atoning sacrifice completed on the cross, reducing it to an incomplete or partial atonement that must be supplemented by Christ's priestly ministry; perhaps it might be called a dual atonement. Is this charge true? Does not Mrs. White state that Christ is now making atonement for us in the heavenly sanctuary? Please explain your position, and state wherein you differ from others on the atonement.19
Question 31: Does your teaching of the sanctuary service mean that the work of Christ on Calvary was not an all-sufficient, complete, once-for-all sacrifice—a sacrifice that obtained for us eternal redemption? Or was something subsequently necessary to make the sacrificial work of Christ effective for the salvation of man?20
Question 33: Since Adventists hold that complete sacrificial atonement was made on the cross, what do you teach concerning the ministry of our Lord as high priest in heaven?…21

The answer of QOD to Evangelicals seems to be that Adventists believe as you do—atonement was completed at the cross—but atonement means more than most people think—so we also should have the benefits of the atonement applied to us—but we will go ahead and trade-in our terminology for yours. That the answers given by the QOD men were unpersuasive to the Evangelicals will become exceedingly plain later in this document where we quote Walter Martin's own analysis of the situation our people finally found themselves in, and what he called its “saving grace”!

In any case, at this point we want to consider the main argument put forth in defense of the “Adventist” view of the atonement offered to the world via the new QOD volume. The approach taken on behalf of Adventists by the QOD authors was to agree with the evangelicals in limiting the atonement to the act of sacrifice at the cross, and to consider the work presently underway in the heavenly sanctuary not as a part of the atonement itself but as the “application of the benefits of the atonement.”22 The basis for this bifurcation was developed through a careful presentation of Ellen G. White quotations—and the ignoring of their context.

The authors of QOD represent Ellen G. White as teaching that the atonement was completed at the cross, and they reach into Early Writings to pluck out of it one golden quotation. The selected sentence says,

The great Sacrifice had been offered and had been accepted, and the Holy Spirit which descended on the day of Pentecost carried the minds of the disciples from the earthly sanctuary to the heavenly, where Jesus had entered by His own blood, to shed upon His disciples the benefits of His atonement.23

But what was meant by this? Although pointing to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as completed and accepted in the past tense, after which Christ had entered into the heavenly sanctuary, we should be careful just what we make of the last phrase. Jesus entered, we are told, “to shed upon His disciples the benefits of His atonement.” Atonement here does not stand in for sacrifice. Sacrifice and atonement are not exclusive and interchangeable here.

Concepts Not Parallel

Sacrifice and atonement, as concepts, are not even parallel. The sacrifice, the death of the sacrificial victim, is not in itself the atonement; it is a necessary component of the atonement. The point of a life being offered is to provide life for life (Genesis 9:5, 6). Sin committed bears irrevocable result: in order to atone for sin, another life must be ended; the blood representing that life must be ministered (Leviticus 17:11). It must be captured in a cup by the priest, carried into the sanctuary itself, and sprinkled where the law demands (Leviticus 4:1-7). The sanctuary itself must be contaminated with the blood—the sin of the repentant sinner must be recorded inside the tent. All this is but the stage of recording and contamination. This process continued throughout the year; it was the regular, daily ministration.

Once a year came the yearly ministration. The high priest then and only then went through the services of the Day of Atonement in order to cleanse the sanctuary and the people and the camp from sin. This was the reverse of the daily process. It was the process of decontamination. The high priest removed sin from the sanctuary. It was the cleansing of the sanctuary. In this setting the high priest accomplished a series of actions that led to atonement being made in the most holy place of the sanctuary. Meanwhile the whole nation stood by silently, each individual afflicting his own soul, quietly praying as the service went forward (Leviticus 16:30, 31). It was their duty to cooperate with God in putting away all sin.

Thus we have two processes involved, one which defiles and one which cleanses. There is a human component in each; there is a divine component in each. In the daily service, the repentant sinner brought the sacrifice, confessed over it his sins, and slew it in accordance with God's instructions. The priest then ministered the blood through the sanctuary system, applying it to the appropriate part of the sanctuary. God then in figure transferred that sin to the sanctuary, defiling it, even as He recorded that sacrifice as having in symbol been made in order to atone for the deed. In the yearly service, the repentant sinner stood in his own tent door, praying and afflicting his soul, seeking for purity of heart, while the high priest came into the most holy place in the people's behalf in accordance with God's instructions and in order to cleanse the sanctuary.

Providing sacrifice and making atonement are actually two different phases of a whole system. The process of defiling the sanctuary and of cleansing it are two distinct things. The work that is accomplished by man and by God in each part of the process is different. Closely connected, yes; but sufficiently identical to hold as completely interchangeable terms? No. Providing sacrifice is just one phase of making atonement.

Context of Early Writings Forbids

Another reason we cannot accept the “sacrifice = all the atonement” formula as presented by the authors of QOD, is that the quotation from Early Writings, p. 260 has been removed from context and a different meaning than that which harmonizes with its original setting has been injected into it. The meaning of Mrs. White's statement in its original context is exactly the opposite of the meaning suggested by the authors of QOD.

Reading Early Writings through the eleven pages leading up to and including the page where the detached QOD statement is found, three sections are discovered. Pages 250-253 are headed “The Sanctuary,” pages 254-258, “The Third Angel's Message,” and pages 258-261, “A Firm Platform.” These three sections constitute the most elaborate discussion of the sanctuary theme in all of Early Writings.

In “The Sanctuary,” we have Ellen White shown the experience of God's people at the time of the great disappointment. Jesus' work in the heavenly sanctuary is also here introduced. “Jesus sent His angels to direct the minds of the disappointed ones to the most holy place where He had gone to cleanse the sanctuary and make a special atonement for Israel”24 We find that the parallel for cleansing the sanctuary is not the sacrifice of Christ but the making of a final atonement. We also learn that “In the wisdom of God the particulars of this work were given us that we might, by looking to them, understand the work of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary”25

Further, “As the priest entered the most holy place once a year to cleanse the earthly sanctuary, so Jesus entered the most holy of the heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14, in 1844, to make a final atonement for all who could be benefited by His mediation, and thus to cleanse the sanctuary”26 Thus, the question Mrs. White proceeds to address is, Who can be benefited by Christ's mediation?

In Early Writings, pp. 254-258, “The Third Angel's Message,” Ellen White continues to present apparently visionary material, carefully drilling down through the history of those early years of the movement. This section outlines numerous actions that are necessary for God's people, including being upon their guard, overcoming temptation, engaging in close combat with the beast and his image (the Papacy and apostate Protestantism), remaining steadfast, holding fast the truth, observing the seventh day Sabbath, following Jesus into the most holy place by faith, returning confessions and prayers to the Father, and actively proclaiming the third angel's message.27 That is quite a list for us! Far from being a passive experience, our part as the people of God who live in the time while Jesus is cleansing the sanctuary, is filled with activity.

We want to highlight two more points from this section. First, the Sabbath is a test and this test for God's people and for the world is introduced after Jesus' transition from His holy place ministry in heaven to His most holy place ministry there: “After Jesus opened the door of the most holy, the light of the Sabbath was seen, and the people of God were tested, as the children of Israel were tested anciently, to see if they would keep God's law.”28 If, as the authors and proponents of QOD (whether in the 1950s or in the 2000s!) want us to do our living and our salvation theology as though everything was finished at the cross, then why does inspiration present the Sabbath test as especially coming to God's people after Jesus moves His ministry to the most holy place? Obedience is exactly our test, but New Theology proponents in the church today in places both high and low want to limit the atonement to what Jesus did at the cross, and our role to being saved apart from our obedience.

Finally, one more important point in this section. We need to compare the removed-from-context quote from Early Writings, p. 260, that “The great Sacrifice had been offered and had been accepted, and the Holy Spirit which descended on the day of Pentecost carried the minds of the disciples from the earthly sanctuary to the heavenly, where Jesus had entered by His own blood, to shed upon His disciples the benefits of His atonement,” with a very similar representation on p. 254: “The minds of all who embrace this message are directed to the most holy place, where Jesus stands before the ark, making His final intercession for all those for whom mercy still lingers and for those who have ignorantly broken the law of God. This atonement is made for…”

Notice. What is Jesus doing here? He “stands” before the ark. This is an active, current, continuous situation. Jesus is presently doing something. What is He presently doing? He is “making His final intercession for all those for whom mercy still lingers…” He is currently, presently “making.” What is He “making;”? He is “making” … “this atonement.” With all the plainness possible, Mrs. White under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is telling us that the atonement was not “made” back at the Cross, but that it is currently, presently, being made as Jesus is “making His final intercession for all those for whom mercy still lingers…”

If these words were the only ones available to us we would still have demonstrated the truth of the matter—that atonement was not completed at the cross but continues to be made via Christ's current mediation in heaven. Mrs. White also listed many activities that it is necessary for us to be accomplishing at this time, and has even placed the Sabbath test as arising after Jesus moves into the most holy place in 1844.

Finally, the section “A Firm Platform” pp. 258-261 concentrates on two ideas. First, the basic correectness of our understanding of the sanctuary system and of the three angels' messages. Ellen White affirms that we are on sound footing here. No need to make any slippery improvements. Second, a major focus of the chapter is to discuss who can benefit from the angel messages. Notice that, concerning these messages and their full integration with the heavenly sanctuary concept and an atonement presently being made, she repeats to us a warning from one of God's angels: “Woe to him who shall move a block or stir a pin of these messages. The true understanding of these messages is of vital importance.”29 She also presents a most dire warning to those who would take the message that God has given us as a people and wish “improvements made”30 As we will see toward the close, this is exactly what some wished to do and attempted to do via QOD!

Nor would our survey of this section of Early Writings be complete without giving our attention to the issue of the “benefits” of the atonement. Remember, the preferred quotation selected from all those possible in the writings of Ellen G. White to do justice to her understanding of the atonement, is one which has been presented as if to make the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross into all of the atonement, and to designate anything occurring after His death upon the cross merely as following “benefits.”

No less than six times in these three pages the word “benefit” or “benefited” appears. How is it used? A repeated pattern is shown. First, the Jews and John the Baptist. “Those who rejected the testimony of John were not benefited by the teachings of Jesus.”31 According to inspiration, had they been able to receive John's testimony, then on the day of Pentecost they would have been shown “the way into the heavenly sanctuary.”32 This is where the quotation from p. 260 is located.

And yet the Jewish example is but one. Mrs. White goes on to apply the concept to the rejection of the first angel's message at the time of the Advent movement. Those who rejected it could not receive the second or any subsequent elements. They send their prayers up to the room that Jesus has left. They have lost their connection with heaven.33 Perhaps this sounds harsh. But does it really matter how it may sound to us? Remember, we are dealing with the issue of light rejected—willfuly rejected. Those who choose such rejection—rejection in the light of God's truth He has openly revealed—have left themselves no pathway forward.

The benefits of the atonement are nothing short of salvation itself. We all need the present process of Christ's mediation to change our lives. We must not forget that, whatever we may think, without personal holiness, we will not see God (Hebrews 12:14). The benefits of the atonement are more than any merely legal or counted external, paperwork form of salvation. The gospel is intended to change us, not excuse us. We want to seek Jesus where He may still be found.

Whereas the emphasized idea in the broader context of these pages of Early Writings is that Jesus has gone to heaven to make effectual all in both the divine and the human aspects of the closing pages of the plan of redemption, the idea the QOD authors chose—to the delight of “the evangelicals”—to emphasize was, in surrender to error, that all has been accomplished for us at the cross. Just four pages before the reference the QOD authors chose to bend, Mrs. White stated:

The minds of all who embrace this message are directed to the most holy place, where Jesus stands before the ark, making His final intercession for all those for whom mercy still lingers and for those who have ignorantly broken the law of God.34

In the following sentence she spoke of this as “the atonement.” It is difficult to understand how, outside of a desire to “make improvements” on the platform offered, such a thing could have been done. These were intelligent men, fully aware of what they were doing. They twisted Mrs. White's words. They lied to the world.

1911 Great Controversy Weighs In

We have already shown exactly what Mrs. White meant in the quotation the QOD authors lifted from Early Writings. But there is yet another angle. New-modeling proponents have, within the church, been known to make the argument that as Mrs. White's understanding improved, she changed her viewpoints on various doctrines. Thus, elaboration on her part of teachings presented in earlier of her writings has sometimes been represented as demonstrating a purpose to soften or modify teachings from what she had before written. So. What did Mrs. White do later in Great Controversy with what she had earlier written concerning the topics of the three sections of Early Writings we've just reviewed? Let's check.

Did QOD give a correct impression when it agreed that atonement had been completed at the cross? What Mrs. White had earlier presented in what had become the volume Early Writings, she considerably expanded decades later in what became the book Great Controversy. Many of the very same things she had written in the earlier writings are found in expanded form in the latter. For example, in Early Writings, p. 260 she had written,

The great Sacrifice had been offered and had been accepted, and the Holy Spirit which descended on the day of Pentecost carried the minds of the disciples from the earthly sanctuary to the heavenly, where Jesus had entered by His own blood, to shed upon His disciples the benefits of His atonement. But the Jews were left in total darkness. They lost all the light which they might have had upon the plan of salvation, and still trusted in their useless sacrifices and offerings.

But what does the same material expanded in her later volume Great Controversy look like? Check the fascinating parallel:

It is those who by faith follow Jesus in the great work of the atonement who receive the benefits of His mediation in their behalf, while those who reject the light which brings to view this work of ministration are not benefited thereby. The Jews who rejected the light given at Christ's first advent, and refused to believe on Him as the Saviour of the world, could not receive pardon through Him. When Jesus at His ascension entered by His own blood into the heavenly sanctuary to shed upon His disciples the blessings of His mediation, the Jews were left in total darkness to continue their useless sacrifices and offerings.35

Notice the parallels! First, the external axis of action has shifted to an internal one. In Early Writings the Holy Spirit carries the minds of the disciples, but in Great Controversy, the situation is addressed on an internal basis: “It is those who by faith follow Jesus in the great work of atonement who receive the benefits of His mediation in their behalf.” In the shorter, earlier, often more general and less specific text, she writes in broader strokes; she does not develop the personal application as far as in the later work. In one, the Holy Spirit carries minds; the human agent appears as passive. In the other, the human agent follows Jesus by faith; he is more active. The Holy Spirit's decision is the focus in the earlier version, the individual believer's decision in the later one.

In the earlier version the descriptive phrase used is “to shed upon His disciples the benefits of His atonement.” In the later version we notice a subtle but meaningful shift in terminology. This has become “the benefits of His mediation,”36 “this work of ministration,”37 and “to shed upon His disciples the blessings of His mediation.”38 The idea “atonement” has been expanded to the more encompassing “great work of the atonement.” The key concept of the whole phrase has shifted from “atonement” to “mediation.” To the idea of “benefits” is now joined the idea of “blessings.” As we pointed out, the parallel thought now explicitly includes “this work of ministration.”39

The earlier, shorter, broader-stroked Early Writings has about 284 pages of main text,40 and was the foundation upon which Mrs. White built much of Great Controversy, weighing in at 661 pages of main text. The far more expansive Great Controversy drills down in greater depth, and so she there speaks less generally (atonement) and more specifically (mediation). But the QOD authors didn't find the Great Controversy version of the quotation helpful at all. It didn't contain their pet word, “atonement,” which they wanted to spin into the equivalent of Jesus' sacrifice offered upon the cross—the meaning they nervously sought to persuade the Evangelicals was the Adventist view!

Nor did her latter work finish there. She added strong counsels such as this:

How much more essential in this antitypical Day of Atonement that we understand the work of our High Priest and know what duties are required of us.41

She went on to point out that

…they [the early Adventists] saw that their great High Priest had entered upon another work of ministration, and, following Him by faith, they were led to see also the closing work of the church. They had a clearer understanding of the first and second angels' messages, and were prepared to receive and give to the world the solemn warning of the third angel of Revelation 14.42

Again she emphasizes not Jesus' death at the cross but His move into the last phase of His ministry. She again points out that His people are called to move with Him, to keep in their experience a recognition of His present work in the making of their atonement. Finally, this message they were not only to presently, actively, proclaim, but first they must personally “receive” it and embark upon living all that it means.

Nor does Great Controversy leave us in any doubt whatsoever concerning the fact that the atonement is still under way: “Attended by heavenly angels, our great High Priest enters the holy of holies and there appears in the presence of God to engage in the last acts of His ministration in behalf of man—to perform the work of investigative judgment and to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits.”43 This is too plain to spin. And the atonement will become effective only for those who meet the conditions heaven has laid out.

We will consider just one more comparison. First from Early Writings:

As Jesus died on Calvary, He cried, ‘It is finished,’ and the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom. This was to show that the services of the earthly sanctuary were forever finished, and that God would no more meet with the priests in their earthly temple, to accept their sacrifices. The blood of Jesus was then shed, which was to be offered by Himself in the heavenly sanctuary. As the priest entered the most holy once a year to cleanse the earthly sanctuary, so Jesus entered the most holy of the heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8, in 1844, to make a final atonement for all who could be benefited by His mediation, and thus to cleanse the sanctuary.44

We are looking here at ideas in parallel, not necessarily a distinct evolution of a passage. Consider now from Great Controversy how the same ideas are treated:

As the typical cleansing of the earthly was accomplished by the removal of the sins by which it had been polluted, so the actual cleansing of the heavenly is to be accomplished by the removal, or blotting out, of the sins which are there recorded. But before this can be accomplished, there must be an examination of the books of record to determine who, through repentance of sin and faith in Christ, are entitled to the benefits of His atonement. The cleansing of the sanctuary therefore involves a work of investigation—a work of judgment. This work must be performed prior to the coming of Christ to redeem His people; for when He comes, His reward is with Him to give to every man according to his works. Revelation 22:12.

Thus those who followed in the light of the prophetic word saw that, instead of coming to the earth at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844, Christ then entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to perform the closing work of atonement preparatory to His coming.45

Can any question remain? We want to get the clearest picture of the relationship between atonement, in both its aspects, Christ's sacrificial death upon the cross and His mediation for us also in the heavenly sanctuary. It is methodologically perilous to run it through one statement the QOD authors have presented for us in such a manner that the light has been taken off of the mediation going forward in heaven and Christ's continuing work toward a completed atonement, and shift the atonement into the past and count Christ's death upon the cross all of the atonement.

Refusing to let her expanded statements in Great Controversy have their bearing on her earlier statements allowed the QOD authors to fudge on her meaning, and to suggest their feeble new interpretive principle. Thus it becomes very obvious that to persuasively bypass the statements of Ellen White concerning the atonement, is impossible. Those statements are plain and clear. The only way new-modelers can deal with the problem is to use selective quotation and leave out statements that can't superficially be bent to uphold the wrong teaching on the atonement, or, to reinterpret them.

Let's be careful and clear about what we are not here saying. We are not saying that what happened on the cross was not part of the atonement; it absolutely was. We are not for a moment in any way saying Jesus' life was an insufficient sacrifice; it was absolutely sufficient for its purpose. Nor are we suggesting that there is any place where we must introduce something additional, something human and meritorious to the work of Christ, in order to bring about atonement. We add nothing in this line.

Christ's sacrificial death upon the cross was full and complete and sufficient as an atoning sacrifice. But there remains more to atonement than the ultimate sacrifice. There is the ultimate reconciling, mediating ministry also, without which we have no final atonement. We simply cannot see our way clear to cast aside the biblical Seventh-day Adventist understanding of the atonement in exchange for a shallow view of the work of God and the good-housekeeping seal of approval of the Evangelical world—Babylon fallen. Ellen G. White's material in Great Controversy was a direct expansion of her thought in Early Writings, and clearly shows that the quotation from the earlier work has been misused and misapplied in Questions on Doctrine.

Attempted Tampering With the Ellen White Books

As it turns out, the QOD authors sought to have notes added to the books of Mrs. White that they intended would support to their purpose to make small concessions to the Evangelical view of the atonement. Two of the QOD men met with the White Estate board. Here is the report from the White Estate Board minutes:

At this juncture in our work, Elders X and Y were invited to join the Trustees in discussing further a matter that had been given study in January. Elder X and his group who have been studying with certain ministers have become acutely aware of E. G. White statements which indicate that the atoning work of Christ is now in progress in the heavenly sanctuary. In one statement in Fundamentals of Christian Education, the word 'sacrifice' is used. To non-Adventists, unfamiliar with our understanding of the sanctuary question, references to a continuation of the atoning work of Christ, are difficult to grasp, and it was suggested to the Trustees that some footnotes or appendix notes might appear in certain of the E. G. White books clarifying very largely in the words of Ellen White our understanding of the various phases of the atoning work of Christ. It was felt by the brethren who joined the trustees in the discussion that this was a matter which will come prominently to the front in the near future, and that we would do well to move forward with the preparation and inclusion of such notes in future printings of E. G. White's writings. The matter was discussed carefully and earnestly, but at the time that the meeting broke up to accommodate other committees, no action was taken.46

Some months later the White Estate voted not to include such footnotes. But the idea did not go away; it merely resurfaced in a different form: as an interpretive principle offered up in QOD!

QOD Offered as the Grand Interpreter

Martin claimed that what neither any of the Adventist pioneers nor Ellen G. White had been able to do, QOD does. Here is his understanding:

Except for the brief statement of fundamentals in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook the average Adventist has been somewhat at a loss to explain conflicting theological opinions within his denomination, and even expressions in the writings of Ellen G. White were in certain context so ambiguous as to frustrate even the most devout believer. As a result of this, in 1957 the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists released the first definitive and comprehensive explanation of their faith, an authoritative volume entitled Questions on Doctrine.”47

The trouble is, QOD is a very selective book. If you really want to know what Adventism is all about, you could take Great Controversy or Early Writings, along with either Desire of Ages or Steps to Christ, and any one of the health books, and you would basically have it. Questions on Doctrine on the other hand, is a spin-book; it masquerades as representing true Adventism while being thoroughly at odds with true Adventism. The book proposes that we use its interpretive rules to reinterpret our belief system so that we fit in much better with the Evangelical mold. Hear what they wrote about the historic Ellen G. White/Adventist view of the atonement:

When, therefore, one hears an Adventist say, or reads in Adventist literature—even in the writings of Ellen G. White—that Christ is making atonement now, it should be understood that we mean simply that Christ is now making application of the benefits of the sacrificial atonement He made at the cross; that He is making it efficacious for us individually, according to our needs and requests.48

What they said was that you must turn a statement of progressive action (“is now making atonement”) into a statement of completed action in past time, present mediation being removed from atonement. Thus, we are now told that Christ currently is only “making application of the benefits of the sacrificial atonement He made at the cross.” That is, whenever, in the writings of Ellen G. White, you come to a clear statement that Jesus is presently mediating for us in the heavenly sanctuary and is making an atonement, you must always interpret—spin—this phrase so that it fits the evangelical concept of what and where atonement is: all at the cross; all in past time; all already accomplished.

Proposed Changes Discovered

We suggest that the Ellen G. White quotation which in particular caused the QOD authors special concern and which they sought to interpret via the addition of footnotes, was that found in QOD, p. 681 referring to Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 370: “Our Saviour is in the sanctuary pleading in our behalf. He is our interceding High Priest, making an atoning sacrifice for us, pleading in our behalf the efficacy of His blood.” In the quotation as presented in QOD, the whole statement was italicized for emphasis except for one phrase: “making an atoning sacrifice for us…” While the entire quotation speaks of a presently-under-way work of atonement, only the non-highlighted phrase contains the actual word “atoning.”

Remember that to the authors of QOD, the troubling feature in Mrs. White's writings was the concept that what Jesus is presently in-process of doing is actually part of the atonement. If Walter Martin especially pointed out this particular quotation to them, then they knew they could not avoid its import. Either Mrs. White's writings had to be openly repudiated, or some serious form of theological spin had to be placed upon her statements. Remember, the White Estate minutes that had come into Andreason's hands showed that there was particular concern among the QOD authors in reference to a statement in Fundamentals of Christian Education, containing the word “sacrifice,” that spoke of “a continuation of the atoning work of Christ”

There are 43 references to “sacrifice,” in the book Fundamentals of Christian Education. Of those 43 references, 24 refer to persons or objects other than Christ, for example, often the idea of self-sacrifice. These 24 references did not concern the QOD writers.49 That leaves a total of 19 remaining references containing the word “sacrifice.” Virtually all of those are general references to Christ's death upon Calvary, its making possible the plan of redemption, and so forth.50

Of these, only the references from pp. 239 and 370 contain the explicit phase “atoning sacrifice.” The statement on p. 239 is a simple reference to the present being an opportune time to accept the sacrifice of Christ that has been offered on Calvary. It makes no particular reference to the ongoing process of the atonement. Only the references on p. 370 do this. Furthermore, in all the book QOD, only the reference from Fundamentals of Christian Education, page 370 found its way into QOD's content in an explicit quotation.51 Appearing immediately before this, the QOD authors placed the quotation from Early Writings, p. 260 that “The great sacrifice had been offered and had been accepted, and the Holy Spirit which descended on the day of Pentecost carried the minds of the disciples from the earthly sanctuary to the heavenly, where Jesus had entered by His own blood, to shed upon His disciples the benefits of His atonement.” (Emphasis added by QOD authors).

The fact that the two quotations appear in immediate proximity of each other, that the Early Writings one comes directly before the Fundamentals of Christian Education one, that “Elders X and Y”52 had appeared before the Trustees of the White Estate in order to plead that “some footnotes or appendix notes might appear in [that is, be added to] certain of the E.G. White books clarifying very largely in the words of Ellen White our understanding of the various phases of the atoning work of Christ,”53 that elders X and Y proposed that “we would do well to move forward with the preparation and inclusion of such notes in future printings of E.G. White's writings,”54 and that “It was felt by the brethren who joined the trustees in the discussion that this was a matter which will come prominently to the front in the near future,”55 and that their desire was apparently set forth rather “earnestly,”56 lead us to considerable certainty that these lines from her writings were the ones involved in the proposal to bend her words in one place by forcing upon them explanations from other passages by Mrs. White that had been seized and removed from their context.

What then of the QOD interpretive paradigm in practical terms? What then would be the result of its use? Remember, “When, therefore, one hears an Adventist say, or reads in Adventist literature—even in the writings of Ellen G. White—that Christ is making atonement now, it should be understood that we mean simply that Christ is now making application of the benefits of the sacrificial atonement He made at the cross; that He is making it efficacious for us individually, according to our needs and requests.”57 How does this play out for Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 370? Let's try it. Here is what Ellen G. White actually wrote:

Our Saviour is in the sanctuary pleading in our behalf. He is our interceding high priest, making an atoning sacrifice for us, pleading in our behalf the efficacy of His blood.

So Jesus is, according to the QOD interpretive paradigm, not “making an atoning sacrifice for us,” He is actually “making application of the benefits of the sacrificial atonement He made at the cross.” Thus, what she (according to QOD) actually meant, and should have written, is (strike-through text is the original replaced by the emphasized text of the QOD interpretive principle):

Our Saviour is in the sanctuary pleading in our behalf. He is our interceding high priest, making an atoning sacrifice for usapplication of the benefits of the sacrificial atonement He made at the crosspleading in our behalf the efficacy of His bloodmaking it efficacious for us individually, according to our needs and requests.

But then we must ask, why did Mrs. White simply say so in the first place? Why did not she, before her death, somewhere in her writings offer up to us this convenient interpretive principle so that we would not misread them and be misled? Why, when she expanded on this topic in Great Controversy did she fail to use this interpretive principle? Why did she do the very opposite and use the more specific idea of “mediation”? Why did she go in completely the opposite direction from the authors of QOD?

Now down the very same page in Fundamentals of Christian Education, she also writes thus: “Man repents, becomes contrite in heart, believes in Christ as his atoning sacrifice, and realizes that God is reconciled to him.”58 Someone could say that in this reference we are talking only of Jesus dying upon the cross. But they would be ignoring man's repentance and exercising of faith.

We want to notice other crucial things said in context here, just before and just after this statement. Before it, in the same paragraph we are reminded that we are on probation: “Through His sacrifice we who are now on probation are prisoners of hope.”59 And, in the immediately following paragraph, we read this: “The reconciliation of God to man, and man to God, is sure when certain conditions are met.60 The next page and a half of Fundamentals of Christian Education are a string of verses pointing out such conditions, including a broken spirit, a contrite heart, trembling at God's word, mourning, a broken heart, meekness, the fear of God, hoping in His mercy, and so forth.

Bottom-line? There are conditions to our receiving the benefits of Jesus' mediation, and seeing accomplished in our personal case, the making of an atonement. The QOD authors preferred what to them seemed a much cleaner solution: strip away any explicit mention of divine-human cooperation, make the atonement a completed, past event, centered at the cross. Placate and placate, spin and spin!

We may rejoice that the Trustees of the White Estate saw how the QOD writers were on the point of prying open a Pandora's box. There is nothing wrong with placing one statement side by side with another in a study or in a paper or in a compilation, but to begin to sprinkle the Ellen G. White books with footnotes presenting statements wrested from their context in order to explain away other less malleable statements, would have thrown open the door to abounding mischief. Besides, as we have previously in this paper shown, the Early Writings p. 260 statement was taken by the authors of QOD and thoroughly wrested from its context. It was used to give the wrong cast to what Sister White had actually taught. In this light, we can say of M.L. Andreason that his opposition to this proposed introduction of “explanatory notes”61 into the main text itself, was spot-on in the extreme!

Walter Martin's Trump Card

In his volume, Kingdom of the Cults, a book of almost 450 pages length, Martin places a section 63 pages long concerning Adventists.62 He calls this long appendix article “The Puzzle of Seventh-day Adventism.” Nearing the conclusion of those pages, he shares something enormously revealing:

The saving grace of the entire situation is that the Adventists fortunately deny the logical conclusions to which their doctrines must lead them; i.e. a negation of the full validity of the atonement of Christ, which validity they absolutely confirm, and embrace with considerable fervor—a paradoxical situation at best!63

Remember, Martin had claimed that before QOD, Adventists were plagued by ambiguity about their teachings. Notice:

It is often charged that inherent in SDA theology is the unbiblical teaching that ‘the atonement was not finished on the cross of Calvary.’ [examples given from Uriah Smith, J.H. Waggoner, C.H. Watson]. … However, a little investigation of those writings would show that Smith and Waggoner wrote eighty years ago. As demonstrated elsewhere in this book this concept has been repudiated by the SDA denomination. The current position of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination—not the opinions of a few scattered writings over a hundred-year period—should be considered in judging this charge of ‘incomplete atonement.’64

Martin soon affirms: “Current Adventist writings teach that the atonement was completed on the cross.”65 He then notes that “there are, of course, still extant in certain Adventist publications not yet revised, unfortunate statements like those of Smith and Watson, but the Adventists are aware of this and are taking steps to harmonize all such writings with the true position of the denomination.”66 Barnhouse wrote, “The position of the Adventists seems to some of us in certain cases to be a new position; to them it may be merely the position of the majority group of sane leadership which is determined to put the brakes on any members who seek to hold views divergent from that of the responsible leadership of the denomination.”67

The situation then, as Martin and Barnhouse saw it, was thus:

  1. The Adventist position previous to the QOD authors' dialogue with the Evangelicals had been wrong.
  2. A subgroup within our denominational leadership of “sane leadership” was making changes, bringing in doctrinal positions that were new, and enforcing them.
  3. The new positions were much closer to the Evangelical position than before and they would now consent to call—some of us, at least—“Christian” (in spite of our other, to them, strange views).
  4. The saving grace of the whole situation was that now our position as a church had become self-contradictory. “The Adventists fortunately deny the logical conclusions to which their doctrines must lead them; i.e. a negation of the full validity of the atonement of Christ.”

Here then was our dubious reward. Concessions were made that called forth from Andreason to General Conference president Fighur warnings such as “Please, brother, see to it that the proposed book is not published. It will be fatal.”68 “You are about to ruin the denomination. I am praying for you.”69 “We will yet rue the day when we began making concession because of pressure from outside sources.”70 All this, to avoid our being labelled as a “cult.” And what about Barnhouse and Martin? Had they, in the end, been fooled? Was anyone fooled?

Some claim that thousands of Adventists have been led to salvation via Martin's books.71 Exactly the opposite may be the case. But it is not the surface picture that has mattered so much as the subterranean one. Bowing to Martin's “I am writing a book about you folks next (and if you know what's good for you, you'll change what you teach before my writings go into print!),” ploy has been little short of an 1888-magnitude disaster. The new views on key aspects pertaining to salvation that certain Adventist leaders wrote into QOD have introduced contradictions and inconsistencies in our midst that had not been there before. All this needless backing and filling reduced the nature of our proclamation from clear and definite, to mumbling incoherence. This was the genius of the Martin play. He planted a theological bomb at our doctrinal ground zero, and the QOD authors helped him do it. And after half a century, those who have reissued the book still expect us to welcome it?

Some claim that Andreason was quite wrong concerning the atonement, that really, after all, he and the QOD authors actually agreed on everything but the wording, that they shared essentially the same position on the atonement. Anyone can make a claim like this, but let the buyer beware; not only would Andreason violently dispute it, but Walter Martin! He saw the “saving grace” of the situation: through his dialogue with a tiny group of church leaders, he managed to derail not only our theology on the nature of Christ, but on the atonement itself. That was his analysis. Who then shall we believe? Those intent on packaging the problem in a way that preserves their New Theology? or M.L. Andreason and even Walter Martin himself? Well may the reader question any conclusion that the main problem was really just a cranky Andreason erring on the issue of the atonement.

Finally, it is appropriate to measure what Seventh-day Adventists received in exchange for QOD. Two quotes, from Donald Grey Barnhouse's Foreward to Walter Martin's 1960 book, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism should make the answer plain, although perhaps searingly painful.

When we [Barnhouse's Eternity Magazine] published our conclusion … we were greeted by a storm of protest … Let it be understood that we made only one claim; i.e., that those Seventh-day Adventists who follow the Lord in the same way as their leaders who have interpreted for us the doctrinal position of their church, are to be considered true members of the body of Christ.72

Barnhouse here does two things. First, he judges that the only true Christians among Seventh-day Adventists are those “who follow the Lord in the same way as their leaders who have interpreted for us the doctrinal position of their church.” In other words, the only Adventists who are to be considered truly to be Christians are those who agree with QOD. Let it not be lost upon us that this definition excludes the vast majority of Adventists worldwide.

Second, Barnhouse lays the accuracy of the outcome of all this work at the feet not of himself or Martin, but of “their [SDAs] leaders who have interpreted for us the doctrinal position of their church.” Remember, Barnhouse had also stated he was suspicious; that “The position of the Adventists seems to some of us in certain cases to be a new position…”71 In other words, Barnhouse remained suspicious that everything was not wholly as represented. He laid the blame, if there were any factual errors in the conclusions reached, on the QOD authors. Who had interpreted the position of the Adventist church? “Their leaders [SDA] who have interpreted for us the doctrinal position of their church.”

Barnhouse went on, in his characteristically acid tone, to state the following:

In the present context, I am sure that the Adventist leaders will not take it amiss if I express the hope that Mr. Martin's incisive refutation of Adventist doctrinal differences will keep wavering souls from embracing those errors! And they probably hope that their volume will have a corresponding effect!73

Read carefully, it appears that Barnhouse thought that both the “sane Adventist leadership” and Martin, would hope that Martin's The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism would keep wavering souls from embracing the Adventist errors! Remember, possible Evangelical doctrinal errors had not been under discussion; possible Adventist errors had been. Barnhouse called Martin's work an “incisive refutation” of said (supposed) errors.

It is also possible that Barnhouse meant the Adventists would feel their work was a refutation of evangelical errors. As noted, however, there is little to support this. In any case, we may answer the question, “was it worth it?” via one last observation. The beginning of Martin's book The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism, carries a one-page statement officially on behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist Church by chairman of the General Conference's Biblical Study and Research Group, H.W. Lowe. In it, he carefully affirms only that the Seventh-day Adventists could agree in full to pages 47-86 of Martin's book. The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism had a main content of nearly 250 pages.74

Whatever the public expression of either side, it seems as though neither side was very satisfied. Yet in the process, Adventism had been saddled with a book and a controversy that would prove enormously destructive from then until now.

The price was too high.


The very sad and sordid truth is that Questions on Doctrine is an unreliable book. On the main areas in question (the nature of Christ and the atonement), it never represented more than the views of a tiny number. For this reason the book inevitably became a source of conflict and division instead of a help toward consensus and unity. It was imposed upon the church, not published by the church—not the church under the authority of any General Conference Session. Its views were never made official in that way. Questions on Doctrine makes Ellen White's writings, which are very consistent with themselves, appear “so ambiguous” only to those who have applied QOD's interpretive plan.

Those who, through the years put their trust on this book were misled. The critics were closer to the truth, not in their rejection of the scriptural messages we proclaim, but in their insistence that Adventism does not fit into the classic Evangelical mold. They were right about that. We don't. We never could, and still be true to our calling. Are we a cult, by the classical definitions of cults? No, we are not.75 But we are very different. Let's be honest and up front about it.

On the topic of the atonement, we reject the testimony of QOD and instead cleave to that of pioneer Adventists and of Ellen G. White, who unambiguously taught that atonement was not completed at the cross but is being completed in the present in the heavenly sanctuary. We do not devalue the sacrifice of Christ at the cross this way, but grant it its full value and place. There would be no cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary without the full sacrifice Jesus wrought out by His life and death on planet earth. All we would do is humbly grant these their proper place, and do nothing to devalue Christ's work in us now us to change us. Our salvation is all of God; there is in it not one thread of human devising. But we must never deconstruct the plan that is of God's devising. We must honor the teaching of Scripture.

There is a positive note. This denomination is not ruined—just damaged. History's testimony has come full circle. Today, QOD is mere relic and museum piece. Its legacy, insofar as a measure of the confusion it once injected into the church still lingers, still sours. But our people reject this book and the inauthentic version of key views it seeks to propound. The teachings expounded by the New Theology advocates took a severe beating as works by Ralph Larson (The Word Was Made Flesh) and J. R. Zurcher (Touched With Our Feelings) traced the bankruptcy of the QOD teachings. It is very hard to go backwards once you've seen the truth.

Today, in what seems a last-ditch effort to salvage the New Theology within the church, certain individuals have managed a fiat accompli in republishing QOD on less denominationally official presses. But all the king's horses and all the king's men can never put the theology of QOD back together again. The church itself will never reprint QOD. History moves forward. What is open and exposed today cannot be covered. God's truth will prevail if we are faithful. Let us teach with renewed vigor the true positions God has given His people, and not waver or ever commit the same mistake again, cowering at the feet of those whom Heaven has declared to be fallen. In the strength of God we are well able to accomplish all that He designs.

Walter Martin may have played his trump card. A group of Seventh-day Adventist leaders still exists who would change our views on the atonement and on the nature of Christ. But their position is discredited by its own bankruptcy. The spin-miesters cannot salvage it. God's truth defuses every theological bomb. After so many years the error in QOD is more naked and exposed than ever before. Its error on the atonement only gives the true position that much more energy.

We reject the alien-to-Scripture idea that the atonement was completed on the cross. A complete atoning sacrifice was there offered in Jesus, but He is presently making an atonement for us, He is mediating for His people right now in the heavenly sanctuary. We openly and forcefully reject the obnoxious plan of making an unsound idea in an unsound book into the interpretive key to all the inspired writings. We denounce the leaving of any misleading impression with other believers that we have in any manner compromised the truth committed to us by God. We concur with Walter Martin's own analysis, that the New Theology the QOD authors sought to introduce into the remnant church brings in logical conclusions that place it out of harmony with true Adventism—and which must inevitably be processed to a final position. No half-way, compromised position is possible between truth and error. We hang our heads in shame at the misleading impressions QOD gave in its day to others seeking truth concerning the atonement and other topics.

We refuse to let pass one more day, and certainly any new printing, of this admitted mother of all divisive books in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist movement, without denouncing it and disowning it afresh. No weapon that is formed against the truth of God will stand (Isaiah 54:17). He who sits in the heavens shall laugh (Psalm 2:4).


  1. Some of this material was originally presented at the Mentone Church of Seventh-day Adventists on September 5, 2003 during first service.
  2. By 1960 Martin had written the following books and pamphlets, among others: Jehovah of the Watchtower, The Christian Science Myth, The Rise of the Cults, The Christian and the Cults, The Maze of Mormonism, The Errors of Romanism, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Mormonism, Unity and Spiritualism. By 1965 he had also added Herbert Armstrong—Disciples in Discord.
  3. Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, (Washington D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1957), p. 7.
  4. Donald Grey Barnhouse quoting Adventist leaders in “Are Seventh-day Adventists,” p. 6, and himself quoted by M.L. Andreason in “Letters to the Churches,” p. 15.
  5. Questions on Doctrine, p. 31.
  6. Walter R. Martin, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1960).
  7. M. L. Andreason, Letters to the Churches, (Conway, MO: Gems of Truth, 1959), p. 62.
  8. Ralph Larson, The Word Was Made Flesh, (Cherry Valley, CA: Cherrystone Publishing, 1986).
  9. J. R. Zurcher, Touched With His Feelings, (Washington D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1999).
  10. Dennis Priebe, Face-to-Face With the Real Gospel, Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1980), see pp. 7-11. Larson and Zurcher's books were historical; Priebe's was analytical. These categories differ in their task. Both Larson and Zurcher offer some excellent analysis in the latter portions of those texts respectively.
  11. Woodrow W. Whidden, “Questions on Doctrine: Then and Now,” Ministry, August 2003, pp. 14-18.
  12. Questions on Doctrine, p. 31.
  13. Ibid., pp. 7, 8.
  14. Martin, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism, p. 224.
  15. Ibid., p. 225.
  16. See Questions on Doctrine, pp. 197-202.
  17. Ibid., p. 341.
  18. Ibid., p. 348.
  19. Ibid., p. 349.
  20. Ibid., p. 356.
  21. Ibid., p. 369.
  22. Ibid., see pp. 31, 32, 342, 343, 348, 350-355, 680-682 (Note: the pages at 680-682 are Ellen G. White quotations in an appendix, with certain phrases italicized. Obviously we take no exception to her statements, but have concern because of the way certain ideas are highlighted and others minimized.
  23. Ellen G. White, Early Writings, (Washington D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1882, 1945), p. 260.
  24. Ibid., p. 251.
  25. Ibid., p. 253.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid., pp. 254-256.
  28. Ibid., p. 254.
  29. Ibid., p. 258.
  30. Ibid., p. 259.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Ibid., pp. 260, 261.
  34. Ibid., p. 254.
  35. ________, Great Controversy, (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 430.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Ellen G. White's Spiritual Gifts, volume 1, as this text actually originally appeared (1858), was yet smaller, carrying but 149 pages of main text. Thus the contrast is actually that much more pointed.
  41. ________, Great Controversy, p. 431.
  42. Ibid., p. 432.
  43. Ibid., p. 480, (Italics supplied.)
  44. ________, Early Writings, p. 253. (Italics supplied.)
  45. ________, Great Controversy, p. 421, 422. (Italics supplied.)
  46. Ellen G. White Estate Minutes, May 1, 1957, quoted by Andreason in his “Letters to the Churches,” p. 40.
  47. Walter R. Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1965), p. 368.
  48. Questions on Doctrine, pp. 354, 355.
  49. Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, (Nashville, TN: Southern Pub. Assn., 1923). The 24 references in Fundamentals of Christian Education are, by page and paragraph: 29.2, 33.1, 34.2, 42.1, 78.2x2, 80.3, 98.2, 161.1, 184.1, 191.3, 201.2, 202.1, 210.2, 231.3, 248.1, 289.2, 312.1, 349.1, 351.2, 355.1, 398.1, 456.4, 500.1.
  50. Ibid., The list is: 51.1, 134.2, 135.1, 135.2, 142.3, 170.2, 199.1, 239.1, 251.2, 283.1, 291.3, 369.1x5 (actually all of these appear on page 370 as the paragraph continues on that page), 398.1, 432.3, 514.1.
  51. Questions on Doctrine, p. 681.
  52. Ellen G. White Estate Minutes, May 1, 1957, quoted by Andreason in his “Letters to the Churches,” p. 40.
  53. Ibid.
  54. Ibid.
  55. Ibid.
  56. Ibid.
  57. Questions on Doctrine, pp. 354, 355.
  58. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 370.
  59. Ibid.
  60. Ibid. (Italics supplied.)
  61. M. L. Andreason, “Letters to the Churches,” pp. 12-22.
  62. Walter R. Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, pp. 359-422.
  63. Ibid., p. 410.
  64. Ibid., pp. 375, 376.
  65. Ibid.
  66. Ibid.
  67. Donald Grey Barnhouse, “Are Seventh-day Adventists Christians?” Eternity magazine, September 1956, cited by M. L. Andreason in his “Letters to the Churches,” p. 10, 1959.
  68. Letter, Andreason to Figuhr, July 4, 1957.
  69. Letter, Andreason to Figuhr, September 27, 1957.
  70. Letter, Andreason to Figuhr, March 11, 1957.
  71. “Walter Martin fully understood the dynamics of God's plan for man, and how we can come into harmony with God's Grace. Thousands of SDA's have taken the road to complete Salvation by reading Walter Martin's books. You will be Blessed as you learn the true plan behind such principles as the Sabbath, The Ten Commandments, The Law, Grace, The Death and Resurrection of Jesus.” (, accessed November 19, 2003, 7:56am PST).
  72. Donald Barnhouse quoted in Walter Martin's, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism, p. 7.
  73. Donald Grey Barnhouse quoted in Walter Martin's, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism, p. 8.
  74. Martin, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism, p. 15.
  75. See Larry Kirkpatrick, “Is Seventh-day Adventism a Cult?”

Document history:

Draft form online: November 24, 2003
Published form online: November 26, 2003
Minor corrections: November 29, 2003
Minor edits: May 26, 2004

Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick is an ordained minister of the gospel. Since 1994 he has served in the American Southwest as pastor to several churches. He received his BA in Religion from Southern Adventist University in 1994 and a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in 1999 with a specialization in Adventist Studies. While in Michigan he was employed by the General Conference at the White Estate Berrien Springs branch office. More important than his scholastic preparation has been his immersion in the biblical and Spirit of Prophecy materials. He is author of the 2003 book Real Grace for Real People. Presently he serves as Pastor of the Mentone Church of Seventh-day Adventists, located near Loma Linda, California. Larry is married to Pamela. The couple presently live in Highland, California along with their two children, Etienne and Melinda.

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