Ellen G. White: The Early Elmshaven Years: 1900-1905 (vol. 5)


Chapter 21—The Threat of Pantheism

The year 1903 witnessed in a very marked way the fulfillment of a prediction made by Ellen White in 1884 and published in the Testimonies in 1885: 5BIO 280.1

The enemy is preparing for his last campaign against the church. He has so concealed himself from view that many can hardly believe that he exists, much less can they be convinced of his amazing activity and power. They have to a great extent forgotten his past record; and when he makes another advance move, they will not recognize him as their enemy, that old serpent, but they will consider him a friend, one who is doing a good work.... 5BIO 280.2

Satan hopes to involve the remnant people of God in the general ruin that is coming upon the earth. As the coming of Christ draws nigh, he will be more determined and decisive in his efforts to overthrow them. Men and women will arise professing to have some new light or some new revelation whose tendency is to unsettle faith in the old landmarks. Their doctrines will not bear the test of God's word, yet souls will be deceived.—Testimonies for the Church 5:294, 295. 5BIO 280.3

To understand better the crisis that faced the church in the Kellogg controversy, it is necessary to review the events that preceded the 1903 General Conference and the move to Washington, D.C. 5BIO 280.4

The medical work in which Seventh-day Adventists were engaged, which later came to be known as the medical missionary work, was in God's providence instituted as a means of bringing relief to the sick and of acquainting them with the Saviour and preparing them to meet Christ at His second coming. This work was to be the right arm of the message. It was a means of contacting and reaching people effectively. 5BIO 280.5

It is not strange, then, that the great adversary of all truth, one who had declared war against God and His people, should attempt to nullify the effectiveness of this ministry. Preceding chapters have noted the steps taken by Dr. Kellogg to wrest the medical work from the control of the church leaders and form it into a great nondenominational Christian work. 5BIO 281.1

There is no question that Dr. Kellogg was an unselfish, dedicated, much-loved man. He was a generous, great man. But it was largely (yet not altogether) through Dr. John Harvey Kellogg that the great adversary introduced into the ranks of Seventh-day Adventists the seeds of error in the form of so-called new light, just at a time when the medical work was at its height. 5BIO 281.2

Pantheism is the term used to designate the strange new teachings that were being introduced. Pantheism pictures God not as a great personal Being, but a mysterious essence—an impersonal influence pervading all nature. God is seen in all nature—in trees, flowers, sunshine, air, and human beings. The power of God in nature is confused with the personality of God. 5BIO 281.3

As is so often the case with misleading teachings, it came to the ranks of Seventh-day Adventists subtly, as new, advanced truth. At first it was not discerned as a threat to the church. Dr. Kellogg had toyed with these concepts before James White's death in 1881, and considering it “great light,” had discussed it with Ellen White. “‘Those theories are wrong,’” she told him. “‘I have met them before.’” He seemed dazed as she showed him the outcome of espousing such a philosophy. She then admonished, “‘Never teach such theories in our institutions; do not present them to the people.’”—Manuscript 70, 1905. 5BIO 281.4