Popular Errors and Their Fruits, No. 3

Having noticed some of the evil effects of the doctrine of immortal soulism, and the errors growing out of it, we propose to refer briefly to another erroneous belief, equally popular and quite as unscriptural, if not fully as mischievous in its tendency, namely Trinitarianism. By this expression we mean the doctrine that the Father, Son and Spirit are united in one and the same person, making Christ the very and eternal God. We call it belief, although we question very much whether any one ever did really believe anything which the human mind cannot comprehend.

The principal evil caused by this belief, is the popular form of infidelity known as Unitarianism. Perhaps some may object to this, that the two doctrines are completely antagonistic, and therefore in no way related to each other. This is all true, but it should be borne in mind that the proneness of our race is to run to extremes. When the evils of a false position are apparent to the mind, there is a dangerous tendency to rush as far from it as possible into the other extreme, instead of taking position on safe medium ground. Thus it is in the present case. Some who cannot endorse the doctrine of the trinity, go to the other extreme, and utterly deny the divinity of Christ. Having gone so far, they are ready to doubt his miracles, and the inspiration of his utterances, and finally to look upon the Bible as little or no better than any other book. That trinitarianism is thus responsible for much of this unbelief must be apparent to those who are not themselves unwilling to reason from cause to effect.

Another result of this doctrine is a serious difficulty in the question of the atonement. If Christ and the Father constitute only one person, and Christ died for our race, the death of God is thereby involved, and consequently a denial of his immortality; and, worse than all this, the unavoidable conclusion, that for the period of time in which Christ lay in the tomb, the universe had no God to uphold and govern it.

To be sure, this is evaded, as a noted American D. D. confesses, “by a dodge,” in which it is asserted that only the human part of Christ died. But this does not help the matter in the least, for if that were true, then we have only a human offering or sacrifice, and we might as well take sides with the Unitarian at once, in denying the divine atonement.

With such confusion as this to represent Christianity, it is no wonder that the heathen get a degraded idea of God, as evinced in the reply of the Chinaman to the Jew, who was reviling his nationality. Thinking to retort upon him as severely as possible he replied: “Ah! me know you; you kill the Melican man’s God.” How much better it would be to accept the doctrine of the distinct individuality and personality of the Father and the Son, confessing them “one” in heart, mind and purpose, and thus avoid the jargon of confusion always attendant upon erroneous doctrine.

Another error, even more generally endorsed than any or the foregoing, is the doctrine of the atonement on the cross. This also furnishes another support for Unitarianism. The Scriptures plainly teach that Christ died for all men. Now if his death on the cross was the atonement, then the sins of all men are atoned for, and all will be saved. The conclusion is unavoidable, and we deny the doctrine of the atonement on the cross, not because it leads to this belief, but because it is scripturally untrue, and then as an incentive for proclaiming its falsity we have the fact that it is a strong pillar for a destructive error.

— W.C. Gage, Review and Herald, August 29, 1865


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This is a republished article or book excerpt from early Adventist history. The author will be credited at the end of the article.

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