Ellet Joseph Waggoner:
The Myth and the Man
David P. McMahon
Waggoner in Transition: 1889-1891
The years between the Minneapolis conference and Waggoner's departure for England in 1892 are fascinating years in his theological development. They furnish the clearest evidence of a theology in transition. In this period Waggoner did not express the pantheistic sentiments which appeared soon after his arrival in England. But in 1889-189 1 he advanced theological positions which effectively laid the basis for his later pantheism. If we can give any credence to Waggoner's own Confession, written shortly before his death in 1916, he had privately abandoned faith in the Adventist doctrine of the cleansing of a heavenly sanctuary as early as 1891. (1)
Waggoner's writings between 1889 and 1891 are not difficult to analyze. He concentrated on justification by faith, the divinity and humanity of Christ, the meaning of the blood of Christ, living by faith and the righteousness of God. In our analysis of Waggoner in transition, we will begin with the development of his new position on justification. This was central. We will then show how the other concepts were more or less supportive.
Justification by Faith
Before the 1888 conference Waggoner held a Protestant meaning of justification. He believed that justification was a forensic act in which God pronounces the believer righteous on the ground of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Furthermore, the Waggoner of 1888 distinguished between justification as a forensic act for the believer and sanctification as an effective act within the believer.
In 1889 and 1890 Waggoner wrote a series of articles in the Signs. Most of them were based on the book of Romans. Some of these articles were later incorporated into his best-known book, Christ and His Righteousness.
In these articles Waggoner began to adopt an "effective" justification. (2) At first he did not abandon forensic justification, a justification by imputed righteousness. But he took the position that justification is both a declaring just and a making just. This Roman principle quickly displaces the Protestant element. Thus, by 1891 Waggoner had replaced the Protestant doctrine of imputed righteousness with an internal work of grace. For him justification had become sanctification. Let us now trace this change in emphasis.
On February 4, 1889, Waggoner wrote an article entitled "The Obedience of Faith." Like Luther, he called imputed righteousness "passive righteousness" and the believer's new life of obedience "active righteousness. But after stating that "active righteousness is just as much the work of faith as is the other," he misused Philippians 3:9 and also called "active righteousness" righteousness by faith. (3) This was a fatal mistake.
Luther deliberately called one righteousness passive and the other active. Passive righteousness is what Christ did for us by His holy obedience two thousand years ago. It is counted as ours in the merciful reckoning of God. It is ours by faith alone. We had absolutely no part in working it out. This cannot be said of sanctification. Although God's Spirit works it in the believer, He does not obey for the believer. As a responsible person, the believer is called to meaningful human activity as he cooperates with God in the great work of overcoming. This righteousness is not passive but active. It involves what the believer himself does under the impulse of divine grace. This active righteousness is not called the righteousness of faith either in Paul or in Luther. Because Waggoner blurred their distinction and called them both righteousness by faith, he was logically forced to propose that the believer's new obedience of faith "is not his personal action." Not long after this, Waggoner began saying it is God who does the believing and obeying in the believer. Blurring the distinction between the passive righteousness of faith and sanctification logically leads to blurring the distinction between God and the believer. And this is the essential premise of pantheism.
Waggoner had not yet developed his pantheism by February, 1889. But he possessed a logical mind that followed his premises through to their final end. When sanctification is confused with the righteousness of faith, one must logically contend that the righteous acts in the believer's life are the work of the Creator alone.
In April Waggoner confused the righteousness of faith (Phil. 3:9) with sanctification. (4) He even confused "the righteousness of God" (Rom. 1:17) with sanctification. In June, 1890, Waggoner correctly showed that eternal life is the reward of righteousness. But instead of showing that the substitutionary righteousness of Christ entitles the believer to eternal life, Waggoner argued that eternal life is the reward of an indwelling righteousness. (5)
In the same issue Waggoner presented direct evidence for his change to the Roman Catholic concept of "effective" justification. (6) He defined "to justify" as "to make righteous, or to show that one is already righteous." Waggoner correctly argued that the law can only justify a righteous man. But then he reasoned incorrectly that the sinner obtains the righteousness needed for his justification when Christ imparts or creates this righteousness in him.
On September 8, 1890, Waggoner quoted Professor James R. Boise to support his interpretation that the Pauline doctrine of justification by imputed righteousness means justification by an infused righteousness. In Romans 3:22 the apostle declares that the righteousness by faith of Jesus Christ is unto all and upon all them that believe. Waggoner said:
In his article, "The Blessing of Abraham," Waggoner pursued his false premise and confused the forgiveness of sins with the actual infusion of righteousness into the heart. He still used the term "imputed righteousness" but said that "it is righteousness put into and upon the sinner. That is, he is made righteous both inside and outside." (8) This is the old Roman Catholic error of utterly confounding justification and sanctification, forgiveness of sins and healing from sin.
On the word rendered "unto," Prof. James R. Boise has this excellent note: "Not simply unto, in the sense of to, towards, up to, as the word is commonly understood; but into (in the strict and usual sense of eis), entering into the heart, into the inner being of all those who have faith." This is exactly in accordance with God's promise in the covenant: "I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." Jer. 31:33. The righteousness that comes by faith is not superficial; it is actual; it is made a part of the individual. (7)
If Waggoner only taught that forgiveness has sanctifying effects, there could be no valid objection. All great Protestant scholars consent to this. But careful reading of his material shows Waggoner had moved to an "effective" justification. He had made any distinction between justification and sanctification virtually meaningless.
At the end of 1890, in his pamphlet, The Power of Forgiveness, Waggoner introduced the mystical theory of atonement then becoming popular in some Protestant circles. Like John Henry Newman of Oxford Movement fame, Waggoner used this theory to support a justification which combines declaring righteous and making righteous. Equating blood with life, as in the mystical atonement, he reasoned that to be justified by Christ's blood means being justified by a mystical partaking of His life. (9) To be justified, therefore, means to be "made righteous, or doers of the law." When God declares a person righteous, He speaks Christ's righteousness or life "into and upon" him.
Waggoner occasionally used expressions like "impute," "reckon" and "accounted righteous." But the context provides no evidence that he meant that the righteousness of Jesus of Nazareth is accounted to us in God's merciful reckoning. Rather, he meant that the righteousness God puts into us and works in our hearts is counted as ours.
In the book, Christ and His Righteousness, adapted from his 1889-1890 Signs articles, Waggoner said justification means "to make righteous." (10) He also tended to confound forgiveness of sin with regeneration and healing from sin. This book, however, does not contain the more blatant Romanism of 1891. Waggoner still retained the concept of being justified and counted as though one had never sinned simply because Christ had borne the penalty of sin on the cross. Waggoner had not yet abandoned the truth of imputed righteousness, nor had he developed the mystical theory of atonement.
For Waggoner, however, it seemed that a little leaven of Roman Catholic justification soon leavened the whole lump. If his articles on justification in 1890 were disappointing, his lectures on Romans at the General Conference of 1891 were terrible. (11) Nothing of the Pauline and Reformation concept of justification remained. Waggoner's concept of justification in these lectures was wholly Roman Catholic. Justification was understood as an inward work of sanctifying the believer. Great Pauline texts referring to the vicarious righteousness of Christ were construed to mean an infused righteousness which makes the believer conformable to the law of God. Here is a sample of Waggoner's 1891 lectures.
The prophet rejoiced in the Lord, because God had clothed him with the garments of salvation, and covered him with the robe of righteousness. We are not to put on the robe ourselves. Let us trust God to do that. When the Lord puts it on, it is not as an outward garment merely; but he puts it right through a man, so that he is all righteousness. (12)
Waggoner's studies on Romans thus reveal a marked departure from the Pauline and Reformation emphasis on forensic justification. Justification was interpreted as "to make righteous"—God's act of putting righteousness into a man's heart. The mighty gospel teaching that God counts the believer as if he were righteous because he looks to his Substitute was strangely absent from Waggoner's thinking. Commenting on Romans 5:19, he said: "If we have his [Christ's] life, we have a righteous life; his obedience works in us, and that makes us righteous.... It is not our obedience, but the obedience of Christ working in us." (16) These comments would be less objectionable if the subject matter were sanctification. But Romans 5:19 refers to the personal obedience of Christ on behalf of the human race.
Justification is the law incarnate in Christ, put into the man, so it is incarnate in the man. (13)
The forgiveness of sins is not simply a book transaction a wiping out of past accounts. It has a vital relation to the man himself. It is not a temporary work. Christ gives his righteousness, takes away the sin, and leaves his righteousness there, and that makes a radical change in the man. (14)
"..... being justified by faith," that is, being made conformable to the law by faith, "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The only way that man can be made conformable to the law, and live free from condemnation is by having faith in the promises of God. In Christ there is no unrighteousness, therefore there is nothing but righteousness. By believing on Christ, the Christian has the righteousness of Christ. (15)
In 1891 Waggoner apparently had no concept of the mediation of an "outside" righteousness. He was only concerned for an inward righteousness. This observation corresponds to his own Confession of 1916.
Also, twenty-five years ago, ... the self-evident truth that sin is not an entity but a condition that can exist only in a person, made it clear to me that it is impossible that there could be any such thing as the transferring of sins to the sanctuary in heaven, thus defiling that place; and that there could, consequently, be no such thing, either in 1844, A.D., or at any other time, as the "cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary." (17)
Waggoner failed to distinguish between guilt and uncleanness (if we may use sanctuary terminology). Being a legal debt, guilt is transferable. But the disease—sinful corruption—can only be healed. The Waggoner of 1891 had departed from the Protestant faith. By his own confession he was no longer an orthodox Adventist at heart. But the clearest evidence for his position is found in his lectures on Romans given to the General Conference of 1891.
It is even more disturbing that L. E. Froom could laud Waggoner's 1891 lectures and present them as evidence that righteousness by faith was then being preached in the church. To prove that "righteousness by faith" was being taught by Adventists, Froom indiscriminately cited nearly everyone who used the term. He was either a careless scholar or he could not distinguish between Catholic and Protestant justification. But Froom had good company. He said:
A. G. Daniells, in a sermon in the Battle Creek Tabernacle at the General Conference of 1901, referred to the powerful effects of another series of Waggoner sermons on Righteousness by Faith at the 1891 Conference. He said: "Do you know that the mighty pulsations of your meeting here in this Tabernacle were felt all around the globe? We felt them in Australia, and when we got the  Bulletins, and began to read, our hearts were stirred, and I have seen our brethren sit and read those messages with the tears streaming down their cheeks; I have seen them fairly convulsed with the power there was in the message, even though only printed in the Bulletin; I felt it myself." (18)
Other areas in Waggoner's thought combined with his ideas on righteousness by faith to form his transitional theology of 1889-1891.
The Divinity of Christ
From March 25 to April 22, 1889, Waggoner wrote four articles for the Signs on the divinity of Christ. Much of this material was incorporated into his book, Christ and His Righteousness, in 1890. Waggoner tried to boldly confess Christ's divinity. He denied that Christ is a created being. He said that Christ is God, both Creator and Lawgiver. These views were more advanced than the blatant Arianism of such early Seventh-day Adventists as Uriah Smith, who declared that Christ was created.
Nevertheless, Waggoner was still Arian in the classical sense. He taught that the Father existed before the Son and that the personality of the Son had a beginning.
In arguing the perfect equality of the Father and the Son, and the fact that Christ is in very nature God, we do not design to be understood as teaching that the Father was not before the Son. It should not be necessary to guard this point, lest some should think that the Son existed as soon as the Father; yet some go to that extreme, which adds nothing to the dignity of Christ, but rather detracts from the honor due him, since many throw the whole thing away rather than accept a theory so obviously out of harmony with the language of Scripture, that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. He was begotten, not created. He is of the substance of the Father, so that in his very nature he is God; and since this is so, "it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." Col. 1:19.
There is no evidence, however, that this misunderstanding of Christ's full divinity contributed to Waggoner's developing pantheism. His views in this area were more advanced than much Seventh-day Adventism of his time. In this respect Waggoner was moving toward a more exalted view of Jesus Christ. It was sorely needed. But Froom's theory that 1888 served to correct Adventism on such eternal verities as the Trinity and the deity of Christ is unsupported by the evidence. Correction in these areas seems to have come more from the writings of Ellen G. White after 1888 than from the contributions of Waggoner and Jones.
Some have difficulty in reconciling Christ's statement in John 14:28, "My Father is greater than I," with the idea that he is God, and is entitled to worship. Some, indeed, dwell upon that text alone as sufficient to overthrow the idea of Christ's divinity, but if that were allowed, it would only prove a contradiction in the Bible, and even in Christ's own speech, for it is most positively declared, as well as seen, that he is divine. There are two facts which are amply sufficient to account for Christ's statement recorded in John 14:28. One is that Christ is the Son of God. While both are of the same nature, the Father is first in point of time. He is the greater in that he had no beginning, while Christ's personality had a beginning. (19)
The Humanity of Christ
There is no evidence that Waggoner's teaching on the humanity of Christ was part of his message in 1888. This is one of the Waggoner myths demolished by an investigation of the original sources.
However, in the 1889-1891 period Waggoner began giving great prominence to the humanity of Christ. He argued mainly from Romans 8:3 and Hebrews 2:14-17 that the human nature or "flesh" of Christ was sinful and under the condemnation of the law like the rest of mankind (Gal. 4:4, 5). According to Waggoner, Christ's human nature inherited all the tendencies of sin and sinful passions common to all men. Waggoner said:
A little thought will be sufficient to show anybody that if Christ took upon himself the likeness of man, in order that he might suffer death, it must have been sinful man that he was made like, for it is only sin that causes death. Death could have no power over a sinless man, as Adam was in Eden; and it could not have had any power over Christ if the Lord had not laid on him the iniquity of us all. Moreover, the fact that Christ took upon himself the flesh, not of a sinless being, but of sinful man, that is, that the flesh which he assumed had all the weaknesses and sinful tendencies to which fallen human nature is subject, is shown by the very words upon which this article is based. He was "made of the seed of David according to the flesh." David had all the passions of human nature. He says of himself, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Ps. 51:5.
Waggoner's error on the humanity of Christ was not his stress on Christ's union with the fallen race. This is a great truth that needs to be emphasized. The best teachers of the Christian church have always taught that Christ partook of the substance of human nature and assumed all the "essential properties" of human nature. Moreover, they confessed that He assumed the infirmities of human nature resulting from the Fall.
A brief glance at the ancestry and posterity of David will show that the line from which Christ sprang, as to his human nature, was such as would tend to concentrate in him all the weaknesses of humanity. To go back to Jacob, we find that before he was converted he had a most unlovely disposition, selfish, crafty, deceitful. His sons partook of the same nature, and Pharez, one of the ancestors of Christ (Matt. 1:3; Gen. 38), was born of a harlot. Rahab, an unenlightened heathen, became an ancestor of Christ. The weakness and idolatry of Solomon are proverbial. Of Rehoboam, Abijah, Jehoram, Ahaz, Manasseh, Amon, and, other kings of Judah, the record is about the same. They sinned and made the people sin. Some of them had not one redeeming trait in their characters, being worse than the heathen around them. It was from such an ancestry that Christ came. Although his mother was a pure and godly woman, as could but be expected, no one can doubt that the human nature of Christ must have been more subject to the infirmities of the flesh than it would have been if he had been born before the race had so greatly deteriorated physically and morally. This was not accidental, but was a necessary part of the great plan of human redemption, as the following will show: "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. [The Syriac version has it, "For he did not assume a nature from angels, but he assumed a nature from the seed of Abraham."] Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." Heb. 2:16-18.
If he was made in all things like unto his brethren, then he must have suffered all the infirmities and passions of his brethren. Only so could he be able to help them. So he had to become man, not only that he might die, but that he might be able to sympathize with and succor those who suffer the fierce temptations which Satan brings through the weakness of the flesh. Two more texts that put this matter very forcibly will be sufficient evidence on this point. We quote first 2 Cor. 5:21:— "For he [God] hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
This is much stronger than the statement that he was made "in the likeness of sinful flesh." He was made to be sin. Here is a greater mystery than that the Son of God should die. The spotless Lamb of God, who knew no sin, was made to be sin. Sinless, yet not only counted as a sinner, but actually taking upon himself sinful nature. He was made to be sin in order that we might be made righteousness. So Paul to the Galatians says that "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." Gal. 4:4, 5.
That Christ should be born under the law was a necessary consequence of his being born of a woman, taking on him the nature of Abraham, being made of the seed of David, in the likeness of sinful flesh. Human nature is sinful, and the law of God condemns all sin. Not that men are born into the world directly condemned by the law, for in infancy they have no knowledge of right and wrong and are incapable of doing either, but they are born with sinful tendencies, owing to the sins of their ancestors. And when Christ came into the world, he came subject to all the conditions to which other children are subject....
His humanity only veiled his divine nature, which was more than able to successfully resist the sinful passions of the flesh. There was in his whole life a struggle. The flesh, moved upon by the enemy of all righteousness, would tend to sin, yet his divine nature never for a moment harbored an evil desire, nor did his divine power for a moment waver. Having suffered in the flesh all that all men can possibly suffer, he returned to the throne of the Father, as spotless as when he left the courts of glory. (20)
The human nature that he took was a sinful nature, one subject to sin. If it were not, he would not be a perfect Saviour. (21)
But in stressing Christ's union with the race, Waggoner failed to maintain any distinction between that humanity conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin and the rest of humanity conceived in sin by two earthly parents (Ps. 5 1:5). The orthodox Christian faith confesses that Christ took all the "essential properties" of human nature even as they had been affected by the Fall. It also confesses that sin—sinfulness, sinful passions, sinful tendencies or original sin—is not an "essential property" of human nature. Like Adam before the Fall, Christ was truly human because sin was no part of His human nature. If He had possessed a sinful nature like the rest of us, He would have been less than truly human. The true church of all ages has confessed that Christ became like us in all things, sin only excepted (Heb. 4:15). But Waggoner failed to make that distinction. (22)
Waggoner misused two scriptures—Galatians 4:4 and 2 Corinthians 5:21. Christ was under the condemnation of the law only because our sins were imputed to Him, not because our sinful nature was imparted to Him. Christ was "made to be sin for us," not by giving Him a sinful human nature, but as the context shows, by imputing to Him the sins of the world.
Waggoner apparently abandoned the biblical concept of imputation with respect to both Christ and the believer. In the biblical concept Christ was condemned because our sin was imputed to Him, and we are justified because His righteousness is imputed to us. Waggoner was at least consistent within his own framework. But by 1891 he had apparently abandoned the forensic categories of biblical thought. His developing idea of the unity—without distinction—of Christ's human nature with all men played a significant role in his developing pantheism after 1891. He later repeatedly appealed to this view of the incarnation to support his pantheism.
Waggoner did not enunciate a new heresy in his unfortunate theological development. In church history many have followed the same path. Louis Berkhof and Augustus Strong have shown that the doctrine of the sinful nature of Christ logically leads to the abandonment of justification by an imputed righteousness on the one hand and to the development of pantheism on the other.23
Of course, some who hold a theory of the sinful human nature of Christ do not discard imputed righteousness and do not embrace pantheism. This is because they do not follow their Christology to its logical conclusion. But Waggoner seemed to be both blessed and cursed. He possessed a logical mind that followed every premise to its natural and inevitable end.
Toward the close of 1890 Waggoner presented a mystical view of the atonement which later played a fateful role in his developing pantheism. (24) His view of the atonement was the result of repudiating forensic justification for an "effective" justification. Simply stated, Waggoner's theory was that the blood of Christ is the life of Christ. In death Christ gave us His life. Mystically poured into us, this life accomplishes our forgiveness and justification.
This enticing theory in effect denies the legal penalty for sin that was paid on the cross. The death of Christ is simply regarded as a means of pouring out His life so that it can be poured into us. God pardons by inner renewal. He forgives by healing the disease. And He justifies by sanctifying.
Waggoner's view on the blood of Christ was not new to Christian theology. (25) Itt was popularized in the nineteenth century by Bishop B. F. Westcott in The Victory of the Cross. (26) Westcott argued that in shedding His blood, Christ gave His life to all men. Westcott's concept that the life is in the blood was based on Leviticus 17:10. In death Christ surrendered His life and made it available to men. (27)
Waggoner's developing theory of the mystical atonement is of particular interest because of its connection with pantheism. In his Reformed Dogmatics Herman Hoeksema says, "Many of the mystical theologians are either pantheistic or have a strong pantheistic tendency." (28)
Historical theology also shows that the mystical theory of atonement stresses the incarnation more than the cross and is therefore often found in association with the doctrine of the sinful human nature of Christ. Waggoner apparently imbibed some of these theories from his wide reading, especially after going to England in 1892.
The righteousness of faith is Christ's righteousness alone. The righteousness which is by faith alone was done without the believer's work or activity. As long as we recognize that we are justified by a righteousness in which we had no share, a righteousness which is by faith alone, we are on solid ground. But if we confound sanctification with righteousness by faith, we are involved in serious heresy. Confounding righteousness by faith and sanctification was fatal for Waggoner's theory of sanctification.
The best Protestant authors have never taught that sanctification is part of righteousness by faith. They have never taught that sanctification is by faith alone. (29) Man is both a creature and a person. Because he is a creature, God must sanctify him. In that sense a holy life is a gift of God. But because man is also a person, he must cooperate with God in living a holy life. He is called to work, strive, wrestle, run and fight. There is to be meaningful human activity. God gives the power. Man obeys and forms a character. God does not propose to use him like a robot, to do the believing and obeying for him. The work for him was a substitutionary work done by the Mediator.
It may sound pious and super spiritual to say Christ lives the victorious life in the believer. But this fails to do justice to both the Old and New Testament, which ascribe the work of faith to the believer. The Bible does not hesitate to speak of "your righteousness" (Deut. 6:25), "his [the believer's] righteousness" (Ezek. 33:18), "your work of faith" and "labour of love" (1 Thess. 1:3) and "good works" (1 Tim. 6:18). The works of the believer are his works—even though they may be the result of the Spirit's thrust in his life. And the believer will be judged by his works. If they were only the works God did in and through him, the believer's personality would be lost in union with the divine. The distinction between the work of the Creator and the work of the believer would also be lost. This must logically lead to perfectionism—for is not God's work powerful? And it must logically lead to pantheism.
Unfortunately, between 1889 and 1891 Waggoner moved in this direction with his extreme views of sanctification. These views could have been avoided if he had preserved the distinction between righteousness by faith alone and sanctification. On February 4, 1889, he made the incredible statement that the obedience of the Christian "is not his personal action." (30) If sanctified obedience were the righteousness of faith, what other conclusion could he logically draw?
In his lectures on Romans in 1891, Waggoner said:
"It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." We give ourselves into the hands of Christ. He comes and takes up his abode with us. We are as clay in the hands of the potter; but it is Christ who does all the good works, and to him belongs all the glory. (31)
His obedience must be manifested in us day by day. It is not our obedience, but the obedience of Christ working in us. (32)
These statements would be innocent aberrations if not taken too seriously or pressed too far. Similar statements are found in the teaching and writing of many pious believers. They sound like humble and spiritual confessions of dependence on Christ's grace. And if that is all that is meant, we should place the best construction upon them. But Waggoner relentlessly pressed these premises until they bore fruit in the most outrageous perfectionism and pantheism. Waggoner's developing theology should be a warning to us. For all the features of his 1889-1891 thought are with us today in the current Adventist struggle over righteousness by faith.
The Righteousness of God
Waggoner often wrote about the relationship between the righteousness of God and the law of God. Beginning with his first writings in 1884, he correctly declared that the law of God is an expression of the righteousness of God. But in the years between 1889 and 1891 Waggoner seemed to stress this point until he appeared to say that the law is an exhaustive expression of the righteousness of God. In "Living by Faith" he declared that "the righteousness of God is the perfect law.' " (33) This is like turning the biblical statements "God is love" and "God is light" into "love is God" and "light is God." Love, light and law are aspects of God's character. But it cannot be said that any one is an exhaustive expression of God. In the same way, law is not an exhaustive expression of God's righteousness (Rom. 1:16, 17).
If law were an exhaustive expression of God's righteousness, as Waggoner seems to imply, then law and gospel would be indistinguishable. Waggoner had not come quite that far in 1891. But we shall see that he drew the inevitable conclusions in 1894.
Waggoner's theology between 1889 and 1891 was a theology in transition. Although not at first abandoning forensic justification, he moved to a concept of "effective" justification. And effective justification soon eclipsed forensic justification altogether. Along with the Roman Catholic concept of effective justification, Waggoner developed such supportive concepts as the sinful human nature of Christ, the mystical atonement, sanctification by faith alone, and the law as an exhaustive expression of God's righteousness.
Both church history and the history of theology clearly demonstrate that these are pantheistic premises.
Waggoner's theology became subjective and internalistic. His own Confession shows that as early as 1891 he saw no value in the intercessory ministry of the High Priest in the heavenly service. He had departed from the concept of salvation by imputation, substitution and representation. Grace was wholly confined within the believer. Waggoner lost the anchor outside himself, the anchor that enters "within the veil." His theology was a theology of immanence which lost sight of the transcendent God.
Waggoner rose no higher than he did at the conference of 1888. It would be unwise, even dangerous, to look for the 1888 message in his writings after that time.
1. E. J. Waggoner, A "Confession of Faith, "pp. 14-15.
2. In the history of theology, "forensic" and "effective" justification are terms which go back to the great battle over justification in the sixteenth century. Against the Reformers, who taught that the sinner is justified solely by the imputed righteousness of Christ (passive righteousness), the Romanists contended for that justification which is justum efficere. This expression may be translated as "make righteous." By insisting on this definition of justification, Rome confounded justification with sanctification, the forgiveness of the guilt of sins with the healing of the disease of sin, divine acceptance with spiritual attainment. In short, forensic justification means "to declare righteous," while effective justification means "to make righteous" by an internal renovation of character.
3. E. J. Waggoner, "The Obedience of Faith," Signs of the Times, 4 Feb.1889, p. 71.
4. E. J. Waggoner, "'From Faith to Faith,' "Signs of the Times, 1 Apr. 1889, p. 199.
5. E. J. Waggoner, "According to His Deeds," Signs of the Times, 30 June 1890, p. 390.
6. E. J. Waggoner, "The Righteousness Which Is in the Law," Signs of the Times, 30 June 1890, p. 391.
7. E. J. Waggoner, "How Righteousness Is Obtained," Signs of the Times, 8 Sept. 1890, p. 474.
8. E. J. Waggoner, "The Blessing of Abraham," Signs of the Times, 29 Sept. 1890, p. 497.
9. E. J. Waggoner, The Power of Forgiveness, pp. 5-6.
10. E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p. 51.
11. E. J. Waggoner, Bible Studies on the Book of Romans.
12. Ibid., p. 4.
13. Ibid., p. 5.
15. Ibid., p. 7.
16. Ibid., p. 15.
17. Waggoner, Confession of Faith, pp. 14-15.
18. LeRoy E. Froom, Movement of Destiny, p. 263.
19. E. J. Waggoner, "The Divinity of Christ" (cont.), Signs of the Times, 8 Apr. 1889, p. 214.
20. E. J. Waggoner, "God Manifest in the Flesh," Signs of the Times, 21 Jan. 1889, p. 39.
21. E. J. Waggoner, "Christ, the Sinless One," Signs of the Times, 9 June 1890, p. 342.
22. Some have seen a similarity in the writings of E. J. Waggoner and Ellen G. White on the human nature of Christ. It is true that Mrs. White stressed Christ's union with the fallen race. But Mrs. White did what Waggoner failed to do—she stressed at the same time the distinction between Christ's human nature and the human nature common to the rest of humanity. A sample of these distinction statements are as follows: "He was born without a taint of sin" (Letter 97, 1898; cited in Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, p. 657).
"He is a brother in our infirmities, but not in possessing like passions. As the sinless One, His nature recoiled from evil" (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, 2:202; statement appeared in 1869). "We should have no misgivings in regard to the perfect sinlessness of the human nature of Christ.... This holy Substitute is able to save to the uttermost" (Signs of the Times, 9 June 1898; cited in Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, 1:256). "Be careful, exceedingly careful as to how you dwell upon the human nature of Christ. Do not set Him before the people as a man with the propensities of sin.... Not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity" (Ellen G. White, Letter 8, 1895; cited in The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 5:1128).
23. "It knows of no justification, and conceives of salvation as consisting in subjective sanctification" (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 390). "In... [this] theory there is no imputation, or representation, or substitution........ "It necessitates the surrender of the doctrine of justification as a merely declaratory act of God; and requires such a view of the divine holiness, expressed only through the order of nature, as can be maintained only upon principles of pantheism" (Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology, pp. 746-47).
24. Waggoner, Power of Forgiveness, pp. 5-6.
25. "Theories which conceive the work of Christ as terminating physically on man, so affecting him as to bring him by an interior and hidden working upon him into participation with the one life of Christ; the so-called 'mystical theories.' The fundamental characteristic of these theories is their discovery of the saving fact not in anything which Christ taught or did, but in what he was. It is upon the Incarnation, rather than upon Christ's teaching or his work that they throw stress, attributing the saving power of Christ not to what he does for us but to what he does in us. Tendencies to this type of theory are already traceable in the Platonizing Fathers; and with the entrance of the more developed Neoplatonism into the stream of Christian thinking, through the writings of the Pseudo-Dionysius naturalized in the West by Johannes Scotus Erigena, a constant tradition of mystical teaching began which never died out. In the Reformation age this type of thought was represented by men like Osiander, Schwenckfeld, Franck, Weigel, Boehme. In the modern Church a new impulse was given to essentially the same mode of conception by Schleiermacher and his followers (e.g., C. I. Nitzsch, Rothe, Schoberlein, Lange, Martensen), among whom what is known as the 'Mercersburg School'.. . will be particularly interesting to Americans (e.g., J. W. Nevin, The Mystical Presence, Philadelphia, 1846). A very influential writer among English theologians of the same general class was F. D. Maurice (1805-72), although he added to his fundamental mystical conception of the work of Christ the further notions that Christ fully identified himself with us and, thus partaking of our sufferings, set us a perfect example of sacrifice of self to God (cf. especially Theological Essays, London, 1853; The Doctrine of Sacrifice, Cambridge, 1854; new ed., 1879). Here, too, must be classed the theory suggested in the writings of the late B. F. Westcott (The Victory of the Cross, London, 1888), which was based on a hypothesis of the efficacy of Christ's blood, borrowed apparently directly from William Milligan (cf. The Ascension and Heavenly Highpriesthood of our Lord, London, 1892) though it goes back ultimately to the Socinians, to the effect that Christ's offering of himself is not to be identified with his sufferings and death, but rather with the presentation of his life (which is in his blood, set free by death for this purpose) in heaven. 'Taking this blood as efficacious by virtue of the vitality which it contains, Dr. Westcott holds that it was set free from Christ's body that it might vitalize ours, as it were, by transfusion' (C. H. Waller, in the Presbyterian and Reformed Review, ii, 1892, p. 656). Somewhat similarly H. Clay Trumbell (The Blood Covenant, New York, 1885) looks upon sacrifices as only a form of blood covenanting, i.e., of instituting blood-brotherhood between man and God by transfusion of blood; and explains the sacrifice of Christ as representing communing in blood, i.e., in the principle of life, between God and man, both of whom Christ represents. The theory which has been called 'salvation by sample,' or salvation 'by gradually extirpated depravity,' also has its affinities here. Something like it is as old as Felix of Urgel (d. 818 ... ), and it has been taught in its full development by Dippel (1673-1734), Swedenborg (1688-1772), Menken (1768-1831), and especially by Edward Irving (1792-1834), and, of course, by the modern followers of Swedenborg (e.g., B. F. Barrett). The essence of this theory is that what was assumed by our Lord was human nature as he found it, that is, as fallen; and that this human nature, as assumed by him, was by the power of his divine nature (or of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him beyond measure) not only kept from sinning, but purified from sin and presented perfect before God as the first-fruits of a saved humanity; men being saved as they become partakers (by faith) of this purified humanity, as they become leavened by this new leaven. Certain of the elements which the great German theologian J. C. K. von Hofmann built into his complicated and not altogether stable theory—a theory which was the occasion of much discussion about the middle of the nineteenth century—reproduce some of the characteristic language of the theory of 'salvation by sample"' (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1:351-52).
26. A series of six sermons preached by Bishop B. F. Westcott during Holy Week in 1888 and afterwards (London, 1888), published under the title, The Victory of the Cross. For a summary of Westcott's mystical theory of the atonement, see T. H. Hughes, The Atonement: Modem Theories of the Doctrine, pp. 243-50.
27. The mistaken idea that blood means life is effectively refuted in modern times by A. M. Stibbs, The Meaning of the Word 'Blood' in Scripture, and Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, pp. 112-28.
28. Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, p. 388. Cf. Loraine Boettner's statement: "The mystical theory is essentially pantheistic in its tendency. Its assertion that divine life was infused into the human in order to purify and lift the human to the divine breaks down the fundamental distinction between God and man, and leaves the way open for a pantheistic interpretation of life" (Loraine Boettner, Studies in Theology, p. 347).
29. J. C. Ryle writes: "As to the phrase 'holiness by faith,' I find it nowhere in the New Testament. Without controversy, in the matter of our justification before God, faith in Christ is the one thing needful. All that simply believe are justified. Righteousness is imputed 'to him that worketh not but believeth.' (Rom. iv. 5.) It is thoroughly Scriptural and right to say 'faith alone justifies.' But it is not equally Scriptural and right to say 'faith alone sanctifies.' The saying requires very large qualification. Let one fact suffice. We are frequently told that a man is 'justified by faith without the deeds of the law,' by St. Paul. But not once are we told that we are 'sanctified by faith without the deeds of the law.' On the contrary, we are expressly told by St. James that the faith whereby we are visibly and demonstratively justified before man, is a faith which 'if it hath not works is dead, being alone.' (James ii. 17.) I may be told, in reply, that no one of course means to disparage 'works' as an essential part of a holy life. It would be well, however, to make this more plain than many seem to make it in these days. "... I ask, in the second place, whether it is wise to make so little as some appear to do, comparatively, of the many practical exhortations to holiness in daily life which are to be found in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the latter part of most of St. Paul's epistles? Is it according to the proportion of God's Word? I doubt it" (J. C. Ryle, Holiness, p. ix).
Cf. J. M. Cramp: "True Protestants never maintained the absurd position, that we are sanctified by faith only" (J. M. Cramp, The Council of Trent, p. 54).
30. Waggoner, "Obedience of Faith," p. 71.
31. Waggoner, Book of Romans, p. 7.
32. Ibid., p. 15.
33. E. J. Waggoner, "Living by Faith," Signs of the Times, 25 Mar. 1889, p. 182. Cf. idem, Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 47-8.