Chapter 2

10.0 on the Richter Scale

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The Richter scale, created in 1935 by American seismologist and physicist Charles F. Richter, measures the magnitude of an earthquake. Seismographs record the amplitude of the waves from an earthquake, which are then used in a logarithm to calculate the quake's size and strength. Adjustments to the measurements are made for various factors including distance from the seismograph and the quake's epicenter. Each gradation is ten times stronger than the previous. For example, a 5.0 earthquake is ten times stronger than a 4.0.

On April 18, 1906, a devastating earthquake struck San Francisco, equivalent to 7.9 on the Richter scale. It killed an estimated 3,000 people and left half of the city’s population of 400,000 homeless. Though very destructive and resulting in the loss of many lives, it was not the worst in recorded history. The world's largest earthquake with an instrumentally-documented magnitude occurred on May 22, 1960, near Valdivia, in southern Chile. It was assigned a magnitude of 9.5 by the United States Geological Survey. It is referred to as the "Great Chilean Earthquake" and the "1960 Valdivia Earthquake." This would have been 20.6 times stronger than the San Francisco earthquake. It, along with the resulting tsunami, killed an estimated 1,600 people and, because of the vast territory affected, it left nearly two million people homeless.

At the General Conference session in Dallas, Texas, in 1980, something far more devastating than a 10.0 earthquake occurred that ushered in Satan’s all-time greatest deception. Only God knows, and time will tell,  how many Seventh-day Adventists will be lost because of well-intentioned but misguided men and women participating in that session. Some of our long-established, long-published Fundamental Principles concerning the Godhead were changed so that they now state what neither the Bible nor the Spirit of prophecy has ever stated. Those altered beliefs were then first published in 1981 as part of Adventism’s Fundamental Beliefs. The changed beliefs about the Godhead are listed below, having been copied from the General Conference website as of November 11, 2017, with very brief comments added concerning them. Subsequent chapters will cover the topics in depth. Scripture references included with each belief have been excluded for the sake of brevity.

Fundamental Belief #2 - The Trinity

“There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coeternal Persons. God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever present. He is infinite and beyond human comprehension, yet known through His self-revelation. God, who is love, is forever worthy of worship, adoration, and service by the whole creation.”

Note - Since the pioneers were non-trinitarians, this belief would have been unacceptable to them because of its tritheistic concept of three separate and distinct, self-existent divine beings. Moreover, belief #2 states that the three beings are co-eternal. In other words, none preceded the others, nor came after the others. All three have always been. This logic leads directly to the conclusion that there cannot be a true Father-Son relationship, as neither came after the other. That necessitates a new way of interpreting the Bible, of turning the Father–Son relationship into a metaphor. The word co-eternal may give support to the trinity theory, but it is neither Scriptural nor found in the writings of God’s prophet.

Fundamental Belief #3 - The Father

“God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all creation. He is just and holy, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also those of the Father.”    

Note - Taken by itself, this belief can hardly be argued with. Everything written there about the Father is true. The difficulty and division come from what is not said about the Father in this belief. In other words, this belief doesn’t stand alone, but is linked with beliefs #2, 4, and 5. In #2, the Father is indirectly said to be but one of three Gods making up one God. Thus the “eternal Father” of #3 is not “Sovereign,” as the belief states, but “co-Sovereign,” according to the Trinity doctrine expressed in our published Fundamental Beliefs. Soon we will learn what the pioneers believed about the Father.

Fundamental Belief #4 - The Son

 “God the eternal Son became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Through Him all things were created, the character of God is revealed, the salvation of humanity is accomplished, and the world is judged. Forever truly God, He became also truly human, Jesus the Christ. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived and experienced temptation as a human being, but perfectly exemplified the righteousness and love of God. By His miracles He manifested God’s power and was attested as God’s promised Messiah. He suffered and died voluntarily on the cross for our sins and in our place, was raised from the dead, and ascended to heaven to minister in the heavenly sanctuary in our behalf. He will come again in glory for the final deliverance of His people and the restoration of all things.”

Note - The pioneers would reject Fundamental Belief #4 for reasons that will be shown in subsequent chapters of this book. Suffice it to say for now that we know of no one who has ever doubted that Jesus is fully divine, fully deity. Trinitarians and non-trinitarians also agree that Jesus is equal with the Father, but they disagree as to why that is so. They agree that Jesus is eternal, but disagree as to how that characteristic came about. Essentially, the controversy about #4 revolves around the concepts intended to be communicated in the deliberate choice of the first four words: “God the eternal Son.” Biblical terms could have been used to state who Jesus is, but a human-originated term was used instead. His divinity is emphasized in  those four words, but the Bible—and Jesus Himself—almost always emphasized His Sonship: “Son of God,” and never “God the Son.” The word “eternal” is often used to deny Jesus’ true Sonship, but the Bible presents His divine Sonship as the reason He is legitimately called “God.” I would make this final point for now: If there are three individual Gods in God, of which God is "God the Son" a Son, and where is the inspired support for the answer? 

Fundamental Belief #5 - The Holy Spirit

 “God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption. He is as much a person as are the Father and the Son. He inspired the writers of Scripture. He filled Christ’s life with power. He draws and convicts human beings; and those who respond He renews and transforms into the image of God. Sent by the Father and the Son to be always with His children, He extends spiritual gifts to the church, empowers it to bear witness to Christ, and in harmony with the Scriptures leads it into all truth.”

Note - Again, the first four words are the ground of doctrinal conflict concerning the Holy Spirit. The words are a human-derived term implying a concept not found in God’s Word. Both Trinitarians and non-trinitarians believe in the existence of the Holy Spirit, and that He has a personality. The doctrinal division concerns WHO He is: a third, independently-existing God, as the fundamental belief indicates, or the “one spirit” the Bible refers to as “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ,” “His Spirit.” The grammatical possessives used in those phrases will not be ignored by the honest student of the Bible. This topic will be discussed more in future chapters.

There is much more to Trinitarian beliefs about the Godhead than what appears in these four beliefs—enough outside the bounds of Scripture to attract charges of tritheism and speculation. But even with only what we just read from our present official Fundamental Beliefs, a sharp difference can be seen from what the published Fundamental Principles were that guided our pioneers in the early years of Adventism.

What were the published Fundamental Principles of the pioneers in 1872?

-I- That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit.

“-II- That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist; that he took on him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race; that he dwelt among men full of grace and truth, lived our example, died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only mediator in the sanctuary in Heaven, where, with his own blood he makes atonement for our sins; which atonement so far from being made on the cross, which was but the offering of the sacrifice, is the very last portion of his work as priest, according to the example of the Levitical priesthood, which foreshadowed and prefigured the ministry of our Lord in Heaven.”

A belief about the Holy Spirit was not quoted here. That is because in the Fundamental Principles there was no belief specifically referring to the Holy Spirit. There is a strong biblical reason for that, which you’ll soon learn. Principles I and II are what our pioneers believed: First, that there is one eternal God, who is the source of all things and who is omnipotent, omniscient, and everywhere present by His omnipresent Spirit; and secondly, that there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the begotten Son of the Eternal Father, whom He appointed to be Creator and to whom He gave all His attributes.

What did the pioneers believe about the Holy Spirit beyond the little you just read? Consider the following two quotations from two well-known pioneers whom Sister White neither corrected nor disagreed with:

 “The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God; it is also the Spirit of Christ. It is that divine, mysterious emanation through which they carry forward their great and infinite work.” (Uriah Smith, GCB, March 18, 1891, 146-147)

“Here we find that the Holy Spirit is both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ.  (E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness [1890], 23)

There are those in leadership positions today that say our pioneers were in error, but that claim is not in harmony with the writings of Ellen White:

 “Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, Elder [Hiram] Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word. Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their study where they said, ‘We can do nothing more,’ the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me.” (1SM 206)  

This is true concerning all the doctrines and landmarks of our faith. The pioneers received light from God and wrote from a non-trinitarian perspective, regarding which God never had Sister White make any challenges or corrections. Their writings are a matter of record.

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