Once Endorsed, Always Endorsed?
Much ado can be made about an endorsement. Political endorsements are important to those who are running for public office. Marketing endorsements are important to companies wanting to make money from the charismatic following many athletes attract. Within the Seventh-day Adventist church, an endorsement from Ellen White probably means more to certain circles today than when first given—depending upon which positions one takes on any particular theme. Endorsements shouldn’t be taken lightly when they are given. But, as we have seen with many who have ended up in scandal, endorsements can be just as easily retracted—just as they were with events surrounding champion bicyclists, golfers, politicians, and even Olympic swimmers. Yet there are some who think that an endorsement given by a prophet should stand forever, as though the one endorsed will always be endorsed regardless of the circumstances.
One such person is Dr. Ellet J. Waggoner. Honored by God with deep insightful teachings on the righteousness of Christ inspired by a vision of Christ personally dying for his sins, Waggoner became a messenger endorsed by Ellen White for his perspective on righteousness by faith. Regarding his messages preached and published on the topic, the prophet penned: “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones…. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure. (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers, 91, 92).
But, as time passed without a general acceptance of this message especially by church leadership at that time, Dr. Waggoner began a spiritual journey that confused him and led him to teach error which Ellen White could not endorse. Let us spend some time contemplating this history because it plays an important role in what Ellen White referred to as the omega deception. And it challenges us to better understand just what is meant by the changeless love of God for the human family.
Many believe that unconditional love is indeed the changeless love of God. However, there is a subtle difference. God’s love is changeless because His law of love is changeless. It is conditioned by righteousness. “For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.” (KJV, Psalms 11:7.)
This knowledge did not prevent Satan, just before being expelled from Heaven, from demanding that God change or abolish His law. “Christ, in His life and His death, has forever settled the deep and comprehensive question whether there is self-denial with God, and whether God is light and love. This was the question agitated in the heavens above, which was the beginning of Satan’s alienation from God. The change or abolition of the laws of His government in the heavenly courts was demanded as the evidence of the love of God.” (Ellen White, Review and Herald, Oct. 21, 1902.)
“God does not change his plans and devise new expedients to save man in different ages or dispensations. With him ‘is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.’ He does not abolish the law to bring man into harmony with himself. If he had proposed to destroy the jurisdiction of the law over man at any time, he would have done so when Adam’s failure to keep its requirements brought him under its terrible condemnation. But God does not provide any such escape in this emergency. He expels the guilty pair from the garden. The law says the penalty of sin is death, and they have brought on themselves, by deliberate choice, the loss of eternal life. The course of God toward the rebellious has not changed. There is no way back to innocence and life except through repentance for having transgressed God’s law, and faith in the merits of the divine sacrifice, who has suffered for your transgressions of the past; and you are accepted in the Beloved on condition of obedience to the commandments of your Creator.” (Ellen White, Signs of the Times, Dec. 15, 1887.)
Dr. Waggoner apparently derailed on his understanding of the nature of God’s love. He began writing and preaching in a manner that was more consistent with the teachings of universalists and spiritualists of the time, using the term “unqualified love” which at that time was synonymous with unconditional love, and free-lovism. His views led to “spiritual affinities”, a euphemism for spiritual wifery, or soul mate. Here is how we see the events of history unfold.
While in Great Britain, and separated from those who could give him spiritual support in the truth he had been presenting, he wrote: “Well, we are talking of a very great and high thing now; we are talking of love, absolute and unqualified. Poor, frail, needy human beings can not afford to accept anything but the best.
“Why Love. -Sometimes when a declaration of love is made, the loved one asks, ‘Why do you love me?’ Just as if anybody could give a reason for love! Love is its own reason. If the lover can tell just why he loves another, then that very answer shows that he does not really love.” (E. J. Waggoner, Present Truth [UK], April 28, 1898. This was also included in his book Glad Tidings, 1901.)
At the 1901 General Conference session, Ellet J. Waggoner, along with Prescott, desired an interview with Ellen White. Here is a quote from the letter Ellen White wrote to Prescott explaining the very reason why she refused to meet with them.
“I have been shown your peril during the time of your connecting with Dr. E. J. Waggoner. You both came to the [General] Conference [session] of 1901 enthused with what you supposed to be precious light spiritual light. You were desirous of presenting this light to me, but I was shown that much of that which you supposed to be precious light was dangerous, misleading fables, and that I must have no conversation with you regarding these ideas that were filling your minds.
“The theories held by Ellet Waggoner were similar in character to those we had met and rebuked in several places where we met fanatical movements after the passing of the time of 1844, Dr. Waggoner was then departing from the faith in the doctrine he held regarding spiritual affinities.” (Ellen White, Vol. 12, Manuscript Releases, pp. 62, 63.)
In another place, she described the spiriualistic ideas of fanaticism in 1844 (associated with free-lovism) as the “alpha of a great deception.” The alpha was the holy flesh sanctification movement, and it led to free-lovism (aka unconditional love, unqualified love).
Now, just to show what Ellen White thought of these expressions of E. J. Waggoner, here is a passage from the letter written to A. T. Jones, dated April 9, 1906:
“Elder Waggoner has been an injury. In the European field for a long time he has sown seeds that have and will bear evil fruit, leading some to depart from the faith, and to give heed to seducing spirits, doctrines of Satanic origin. Unless he is converted, he is not fitted to act any part in the ministry of the word. He is a decided transgressor of the seventh commandment.”
Quite plainly, Ellen White was not endorsing Waggoner’s views on the love of God. Waggoner never rejoined the ministry. He died of heart failure. A letter found on his desk explained why he refused to repent. It includes an explanation for why he no longer believed in the doctrine of the investigative judgment. When many years later Desmond Ford read that letter, it influenced him to reject the investigative judgment as well. (Woodrow W. Whidden II, E. J. Waggoner: From the Physician of Good News to Agent of Division, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2008, 355.)
How does Satan bring error into the church through people such as those we might consider to be bright stars in our denomination? Ellen White provides this insight:
“It is when Satan appears as an angel of light that he takes souls in his snare, deceiving them. Men who pretend to have been taught of God, will adopt fallacious theories, and in their teaching will so adorn these fallacies as to bring in Satanic delusions. Thus Satan will be introduced as an angel of light and will have opportunity to present his pleasing fables.
“These false prophets will have to be met. They will make an effort to deceive many, by leading them to accept false theories. Many scriptures will be misapplied in such a way that deceptive theories will apparently be based upon the words that God has spoken. Precious truth will be appropriated to substantiate and establish error. These false prophets, who claim to be taught of God, will take beautiful scriptures that have been given to adorn the truth, and will use them as a robe of righteousness to cover false and dangerous theories. And even some of those who, in times past, the Lord has honored, will depart so far from the truth as to advocate misleading theories regarding many phases of truth, including the sanctuary question.” (Ellen White, Manuscript 11, 1906, as cited in Evangelism, p. 360.)
If we are to learn anything about this sad history as it relates to the omega deception, it is this: we are not to idolize ministers because they may succumb to the temptation to present something unscriptural. “The Lord would have His people divested of everything unscriptural in regard to the ministry. The men called to the ministry should not be made idols of; they should not be looked upon with superstitious reverence; and because of the power vested in them through their office, sin in them should not lose its offensiveness. Their very office makes sin in them more exceedingly sinful, for in committing sin they make themselves the ministers of sin, the agents of Satan, through whom he can work with success to perpetuate sin.” (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers, 404.) Instead of relying solely upon the prophet’s endorsement, we should be like the Bereans, and search the Scriptures. Test everything to the Scriptures. Cling to what is truth and righteousness. Reject what is false and wickedness.