Personality of God (by James White)

As proof that God is a person, read his own words to Moses: “And the Lord said, Behold there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock; and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by. And I will take away mine hand and thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen.” Ex.xxxiii,21-23. See also chap.xxiv,9-11. Here God tells Moses that he shall see his form. To say that God made it appear to Moses that he saw his form, when he has no form, is charging God with adding to falsehood a sort of juggling deception upon his servant Moses.

But the skeptic thinks he sees a contradiction between verse 11, which says that the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, and verse 20, which states that Moses could not see his face. But let Num.xii,5-8 remove the difficulty. “And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words. If there be a prophet among you, I, the Lord, will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently.”

The great and dreadful God came down, wrapped in a cloud of glory. This cloud could be seen, but not the face which possesses more dazzling brightness than a thousand suns. Under these circumstances Moses was permitted to draw near and converse with God face to face, or mouth to mouth, even apparently.

Says the prophet Daniel, “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hairs of his head like the pure wool; his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.” Chap.vii,9. “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him, and there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom.” Verses 13, 14.

Here is a sublime description of the action of two personages; viz, God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ. Deny their personality, and there is not a distinct idea in these quotations from Daniel. In connection with this quotation read the apostle’s declaration that the Son was in the express image of his Father’s person. “God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” Heb.i,1-3.

We here add the testimony of Christ. “And the Father himself which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” John v,37. See also Phil.ii,6. To say that the Father has not a personal shape, seems the most pointed contradiction of plain scripture terms.

OBJECTION. – “God is a Spirit.” John iv,24.

ANSWER. – Angels are also spirits [Ps.civ,4], yet those that visited Abram and Lot, lay down, ate, and took hold of Lot’s hand. They were spirit beings. So is God a Spirit being.

OBJ. – God is everywhere. Proof. Ps.cxxxix,1-8. He is as much in every place as in any one place.

ANS. – 1. God is everywhere by virtue of his omniscience, as will be seen by the very words of David referred to above. Verses 1-6. “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising; thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is high; I cannot attain unto it.”

God is everywhere by virtue of his Spirit, which is his representative, and is manifested wherever he pleases, as will be seen by the very words the objector claims, referred to above. Verses 7-10. “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

God is in heaven. This we are taught in the Lord’s prayer. “Our Father which art in heaven.” Matt.vi,9; Luke xi,2. But if God is as much in every place as he is in any one place, then heaven is also as much in every place as it is in any one place, and the idea of going to heaven is all a mistake. We are all in heaven; and the Lord’s prayer, according to this foggy theology simply means, Our Father which art everywhere, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is everywhere.

Again, Bible readers have believed that Enoch and Elijah were really taken up to God in heaven. But if God and heaven be as much in every place as in any one place, this is all a mistake. They were not translated. And all that is said about the chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and the attending whirlwind to take Elijah up into heaven, was a useless parade. They only evaporated, and a misty vapor passed through the entire universe. This is all of Enoch and Elijah that the mind can possibly grasp, admitting that God and heaven are no more in any one place than in every place. But it is said of Elijah that he “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” 2 Kings ii,11. And of Enoch it is said that he “walked with God, and was not, for God took him.” Gen.v,24.

Jesus is said to be on the “right hand of the Majesty on high.” Heb.i,3. “So, then, after the Lord had spoken unto them he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” Mark xvi,19. But if heaven be everywhere, and God everywhere, then Christ’s ascension up to heaven, at the Father’s right hand, simply means that he went everywhere! He was only taken up where the cloud hid him from the gaze of his disciples, and then evaporated and went everywhere! So that instead of the lovely Jesus, so beautifully described in both Testaments, we have only a sort of ¹essence dispersed through the entire universe. And in harmony with this rarified theology, Christ’s second advent, or his return, would be the condensation of this ¹essence to some locality, say the mount of Olivet! Christ arose from the dead with a physical form. “He is not here,” said the angel, “for he is risen as he said.” Matt.xxviii,6.

“And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail! And they came and held him by the feet, and they worshiped him.” Verse 9.

“Behold my hands and my feet,” said Jesus to those who stood in doubt of his resurrection, “that it is I myself. Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and of an honey-comb, and he took it and did eat before them.” Luke xxiv,39-43.

After Jesus addressed his disciples on the mount of Olivet, he was taken up from them, and a cloud received him out of their sight. “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Acts i,9-11. J. W.

IMMATERIALITY

THIS is but another name for ²nonentity. It is the negative of all things and beings – of all existence. There is not one particle of proof to be advanced to establish its existence. It has no way to manifest itself to any intelligence in heaven or on earth. Neither God, angels, nor men could possibly conceive of such a substance, being, or thing. It possesses no property or power by which to make itself manifest to any intelligent being in the universe. Reason and analogy never scan it, or even conceive of it. Revelation never reveals it, nor do any of our senses witness its existence. It cannot be seen, felt, heard, tasted, or smelled, even by the strongest organs, or the most acute sensibilities. It is neither liquid nor solid, soft nor hard – it can neither extend nor contract. In short, it can exert no influence whatever – it can neither act nor be acted upon. And even if it does exist, it can be of no possible use. It possesses no one, desirable property, faculty, or use, yet, strange to say, immateriality is the modern Christian’s God, his anticipated heaven, his immortal self – his all!

O ³sectarianism! O atheism!! O annihilation!!! who can perceive the nice shades of difference between the one and the other? They seem alike, all but in name. The atheist has no God. The ³sectarian has a God without body or parts. Who can define the difference? For our part we do not perceive a difference of a single hair; they both claim to be the negative of all things which exist – and both are equally powerless and unknown.

The atheist has no after life, or conscious existence beyond the grave. The ³sectarian has one, but it is immaterial, like his God; and without body or parts. Here again both are negative, and both arrive at the same point. Their faith and hope amount to the same; only it is expressed by different terms.

Again, the atheist has no heaven in eternity. The sectarian has one, but it is immaterial in all its properties, and is therefore the negative of all riches and substances. Here again they are equal, and arrive at the same point.

As we do not envy them the possession of all they claim, we will now leave them in the quiet and undisturbed enjoyment of the same, and proceed to examine the portion still left for the despised materialist to enjoy.

What is God? He is material, organized intelligence, possessing both body and parts. Man is in his image.

What is Jesus Christ? He is the Son of God, and is like his Father, being “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.” He is a material intelligence, with body, parts, and passions; possessing immortal flesh and immortal bones.

What are men? They are the offspring of Adam. They are capable of receiving intelligence and exaltation to such a degree as to be raised from the dead with a body like that of Jesus Christ, and to possess immortal flesh and bones. Thus perfected, they will possess the material universe, that is, the earth, as their “everlasting inheritance.” With these hopes and prospects before us, we say to the Christian world who hold to immateriality, that they are welcome to their God – their life – their heaven, and their all. They claim nothing but that which we throw away; and we claim nothing but that which they throw away. Therefore, there is no ground for quarrel or contention between us.

We choose all substance – what remains
The mystical ³sectarian gains;
All that each claims, each shall possess,
Nor grudge each other’s happiness.

An immaterial God they choose,
For such a God we have no use;
An immaterial heaven and hell,
In such a heaven we cannot dwell.

We claim the earth, the air, and sky,
And all the starry worlds on high;
Gold, silver, ore, and precious stones,
And bodies made of flesh and bones.

Such is our hope, our heaven, our all,
When once redeemed from Adam’s fall;
All things are ours, and we shall be,
The Lord’s to all eternity.

— James White, Personality of God, 1861


Notes:

¹ Essence — 

This term is used by not only James White, but Babylon itself, to refer to God’s supposed immaterial form that is everywhere. Here is an official source—The Catholic Encyclopedia—based on previous sources:

“It is of faith that God is present by His Essence everywhere and in all things by reason of His Immensity. (Creed of St. Athanasius; Council of Lateran, c. “Firmiter”; Vatican Council, Sess. III, c. 1.)” (“Presence of God,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 12, 1911).

This metaphysical view of God originates from Paganism and Platonic philosophy, yet it is also the common view held by Protestant bodies, rather than the biblical view of God being everywhere present through His knowledge and power.

Sister White also writes on this matter that was originally published by her husband, in the following quotes:

“The Lord Jesus came to our world to represent the Father. He represented God, not as an essence that pervaded nature, but as a God who has a personality” (Manuscript 24, 1891).

“Already there are coming in among our people spiritualistic teachings that will undermine the faith of those who give heed to them. The theory that God is an essence pervading all nature is one of Satan’s most subtle devices. It misrepresents God and is a dishonor to His greatness and majesty. Pantheistic theories are not sustained by the word of God. The light of His truth shows that these theories are soul-destroying agencies. Darkness is their element, sensuality their sphere. They gratify the natural heart and give license to inclination. Separation from God is the result of accepting them…

If God is an essence pervading all nature, then He dwells in all men; and in order to attain holiness, man has only to develop the power that is within him. These theories, followed to their logical conclusion, sweep away the whole Christian economy. They do away with the necessity for the atonement and make man his own savior” (8 Testimonies, p. 291).

“We can be one with Christ in God. But let us never undertake to define God as an essence. Never, never venture one step into the way of putting God in the place of the things of His creation” (Manuscript 126, 1905).

² Nonentity —

If God is not a single person (the Father) in a single place (heaven)—such as the common creedal belief of God as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost all at once—then He is everywhere and thus becomes a “nonentity.” This word was also used by his wife, having the gift of prophecy, in the quotes below:

“Satan is not ignorant of the result of trying to define God and Jesus Christ in a spiritualistic way that sets God and Christ as a nonentity. The moments occupied in this kind of science are, in the place of preparing the way of the Lord, making a way for Satan to come in and confuse the minds with mysticisms of his own devising. Although they are dressed up in angel robes they have made our God and our Christ a nonentity. Why?—because Satan sees the minds are all fitted for his working. Men have lost tract of Christ and the Lord God, and have been obtaining an experience that is Omega to one of the most subtle delusions that will ever captivate the minds of men” (E.G. White, Diary #48, 8/28, 1904).

“Again and again we shall be called to meet the influence of men who are studying sciences of satanic origin, through which Satan is working to make a nonentity of God and of Christ” (E.G. White, 9 Testimonies, p. 68).

“All through the Scriptures, the Father and the Son are spoken of as two distinct personages. You will hear men endeavoring to make the Son of God a nonentity. He and the Father are one, but they are two personages. Wrong sentiments regarding this are coming in, and we shall all have to meet them” (E.G. White, Manuscript 56, 1905).

Notice that Sister White uses the same phrase as her husband: “two personages”—in other words, two visible individuals. They do not share an essence; their oneness is “in purpose, in mind, in character, but not in person” (8 Testimonies, p. 269), for if they were, they would be a nonentity—immaterial, only appearing in forms. And since God is not immaterial, the Spirit of God, which is everywhere, cannot be God Himself, and thus not God in a third immaterial being, as many have come to believe.

Rather, the Spirit of Prophecy reveals “one Holy Spirit proceeding from God” (E.G. White, Letter 71, 1900). “The Holy Spirit is the representative of God” (Letter 242, 1906). “The Holy Spirit is the living essence that cements, animates, and pervades the whole body of Christ’s followers” (Manuscript 8c, 1891). This essence “is a mystery” (Letter 7, 1891), but it cannot be God Himself. Yet it carries to the believer “the presence and power of God” (Signs of the Times, 11/23/1891) and “the life of Christ” (Desire of Ages, p. 805), thus making the Father and the Son present as a Comforter, representing them in their stead.

³ Sectarian — 

According to the context and James White’s usage of the phrase (including below), he is referring to a person who is in one of the sects that make up Babylon based on their creed that makes them a certain sect.

“We have only to compare the present state of the Advent cause with the past, say from 1840 to 1844, to see that the special flight and proclamation of the first angel is in the past. Neither do we say that the message of the second angel, setting forth the fallen state of the various sects, can not be seen by those honest children of the Lord who find themselves bound by sectarian creeds. But when we compare the wonderful movement under the second angel in 1844, when the entire Advent body, with very few exceptions, came away from the several churches, with what has been done since that time in this respect, we shall not fail to see that the burden of the second angel is in the past, and that its state was prior to our great disappointment in 1844…

Babylon signifies ‘mixture or confusion’, which well applies to the many sects, holding a great variety of sentiments. But Christ designed that his church should be one. We do not say that the sects became Babylon by falling. They, while in their divided and sub-divided state, and united with the world, were always Babylon. God permitted his people to remain there, until the first angel’s message was rejected, then he called them out” (James White, A Brief Exposition of the Angels of Revelation XIV, pp. 6, 12).


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You can call me "Archival Republisher". I republish texts written by Ellen G. White, Adventist pioneers, and other historical writers. These are full articles, book chapters, or long excerpts. Unless I am republishing a chapter from a compilation book, such as Adventist Home, they will not be compilations. Those are usually published by Ricky or Amanda.

2 thoughts on “Personality of God (by James White)

  • August 10, 2019 at 10:30 pm
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    Great article.
    These are some of the things we spoke about in the Sabbath study group. Doctrines coming in that have no place in the church. Oh my, what a somber and serious time we are at in the controversy. We must get ready, get ready, get ready!

    Reply
  • September 16, 2019 at 3:04 pm
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    For sure! May the LORD God and His only-begotten Son grant us the grace to repent fully and remain that way. Jesus IS coming soon!

    Reply

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