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April 04, 2012


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Much thanks to Katrina for this very important work!

It seems to me that Davis' view of God as wanting to take over and control other beings is a reflection of what the Devil does when given the opportunity.

Since I cannot see my post here, I will repost my response with some modifications and additions I added for the sake of clarity.

I have not read Katrina's work but knowing Angelika Keiser, I am pretty sure that this summary faithfully represents what Katrina wrote in her paper. If that indeed is the case, I believe that her paper needs major revisions. First of all, I am glad that someone would take this work because of the new primary sources that have reappeared. However, it seems to me that the paper missed the central and fundamental point of Holy Flesh theology.

The cornerstone doctrine of holy flesh movement was the teaching that after the Gethsemane experience, Jesus Christ obtained the pre-fall flesh of Adam untainted by the law of sin in its members. Since according to the Bible, Christ is our exemple in all things, the holy flesh disciples concluded that the every Christian ALSO MUST ATTAIN this pre-fall flesh of Adam. That it why the entire movement was called the "HOLY FLESH".

This is the central doctrine of the movement and the main reason why they were called "holy flesh". It is strange that Katrina's article chose to completely omit this fundamental characteristic of the group from the study. Instead, the article portrayed Holy Flesh movement as preposterously claiming that Christians can obtain the perfection of CHARACTER!

In fact, every Adventist leader of the time preached and taught that Christian must obtain perfection of character before the translation. Ellen White and all of the early Pioneers repeatedly asserted that the main purpose of the gospel is the perfection of character and separation of men and women from sin through the work of the Spirit in the believer.

However, although Ellen White made character perfection the topic of her latter life, she never claimed that the flesh of men will ever be perfect before glorification. Character yes but flesh no. In spite of that, this article seems to portray the holy flesh movement as being somehow peculiar because they (can you believe it) they taught perfection of character.

In other words, everyone who is today teaching character perfection (including the president of the General Conference, the vice president of the same and a number or highly estimated scholars, pastors and theologians) is in fact teaching a variant of holy flesh.

Anyone who decides to inform himself and study the holy flesh movement outside of the scope of Katrina;s article (I mean you can just go to Wikipedia) will realize that Holy Flesh movement was peculiar not because it was teaching character perfection (all Adventist back in 1900 believed that) but because the movement was teaching absence of the law of sin in the flesh, called flesh perfection or flesh sinlessness or simply "holy flesh".

So what is the reason for this peculiar omission? I mean there is NO MENTION of movement's peculiar view of Christ having the pre-fall flesh and even more foreign to Adventism the idea that Christians ought to obtain such flesh before translation! Not even a shred! (I mean this like talking about Seventh-day Adventism and forgetting to mention Sabbath and the Second Coming as its central doctrines)

The problem I see with such presentation is that the article, as in present form, passively suggests that the Adventists teaching character perfection is indeed a dangerous heresy originating with the Indiana holy flesh movement. However, I believe that if the real Christology of the movement were brought up in the article, the suggestion of the paper would lead to a diametrically opposite direction!

The Haskell letters and other newly discovered materials concerning the Holy Flesh clearly demonstrate how peculiar and out-of-the-line the teaching of pre-fall flesh was for the Adventists back then. This "discovery" might frustrate some theology professors in our own seminary who actually do teach the pre-lapsarian view of Christ nature. To demonstrate that their Christology is in fact almost identical to the Holy Flesh movement and completely foreign to the 19th and early 20th century Adventism would indeed be a major upset for modern pre-lapsarians.

Hm, maybe that is why this wasn't brought up in the paper?

Dear Dojcin,

Please remember that what you read above is not a summary of Katrina’s paper but a summary of her presentation, which means that it is necessarily a simplification that will probably not reflect every nuance and mention every detail.

Further, as you as a historian well know, in historical studies we never have all the sources and therefore can only come to tentative conclusions and then grow in our understanding. This kind of humility should be reflected in our scholarly dialogue and I didn’t hear Katrina claim having the last word on the issue of the Holy Flesh movement. She simply wanted to share discoveries from her study of the two newly discovered documents that have been written by two of the leaders of that movement. (Unfortunately I have my difficulties to see that attitude and humility in your response. You make very bold statements accusing Katrina and questioning her integrity. Is that necessary for a constructive dialogue?)

You reveal quite some knowledge about this topic but have you actually read those two documents? Do you know their line of argumentation? Is her analysis of the documents wrong? A first analysis of these documents was the contribution that she wanted to make and she even stated in her presentation that it may serve as an incentive to further studies.

Obviously you wanted to see a greater emphasis on the issue of the pre-fall vs. post-fall nature of Christ since that is one of your prime topics. Looking at the summary it seems to me that it touches on these issues, and when I try to remember her presentation I think she also mentioned them. Yet Katrina found that these two documents offered far more information and that the idea of the holy flesh gained through the Pentecostal Gethsemane experience was connected to various other views. She reiterated what these two men believed, at least according to these two documents. Not every aspect was totally wrong. The indwelling of Christ was a shared belief of both groups (SDAs and Holy Flesh proponents) but the problem lies in the details. And Katrina tried to share some of those details that are manifested in the two documents.

By questioning her motives and surmising why she didn’t put more emphasis on the aspect that you consider as the core issue you do her great injustice. Before we kick off a long debate on this website, we should acknowledge the fact that Katrina, like every presenter of the symposium, has the time now to revise her paper on the basis of the formal response that was given at the symposium and new insights before it will be published in the Ellen White and Current Issues Symposium journal in March next year.

Dear Dennis. I cannot agree with your assessment because the flesh perfection is not a "nuance" but the fundamental core of Holy Flesh teaching which has not been mentioned in the paper (or at least the summary). This is the main issue not character perfection which was made sure to be repeatedly mentioned. By not mentioning the fundamental issue of the movement the paper disqualifies itself for being a serious evaluation. It is impossible to write an entire paper on holy flesh without even mentioning the idea of HOLY FLESH of Christ and Christians. It's like talking about Adventism without mentioning Sabbath. If the summary of the paper is correct and knowing Angelika, I assume it is, the paper seems to be giving a false impression that the heresy of holy flesh was character perfection. To me this is problematic. Knowing Katrina's personal views on last generation theology and character perfection this does not surprise me. However, it is not a serious scholarship to write about a movement and then revise history by omitting some things and emphasize other things as if that is a problem. It smells of an agenda. I wish I was wrong. I really wish so. I am not against anyone here. I think we need constructive criticism and not petting on the back continually. If I am wrong in my analysis I will admit it. But first I am going to check these two new documents first thing Monday morning.

Twice in the past I have met SDA people who either claimed to be sinless or admitted previous involvement with holy flesh groups. It is interesting to see that the ideas have not died, but continue, though not always with the other features like bedlam of noise.

I wonder, too, if in reacting to the errors of the first SDA holy flesh movement, we have possibly gone to the other extreme, embracing formalism as if it is the very essence of true worship. Worshippers in the 19th century were generally more lively than we are today, from what I've read; and Ellen White endorsed some very lively worship experiences (note 1T ch 5).

I would like to clarify a few points regarding my presentation at the Ellen G. White Symposium. I did not present a paper per se, but spoke on the findings of my research based on two documents only, which were part of the newly acquired materials received at CAR on the Holy Flesh Movement from the collection of the deceased William Grotheer.

This included a 96 page theological treatise written by S S Davis, and an extended letter from R S Donnell to Davis, leaders of the Holy Flesh Movement. I gave a brief synopsis of the development of the Holy Flesh Movement as a context for the presentation of these new materials. It was not a presentation on the Holy Flesh Movement as a whole or the entirety of the theology of its leaders in the forty minutes that I spoke, but what the new materials reveal about their theology.

While I acknowledged that the nature of Christ has been regarded as the central theological tenet of the movement, the findings of my research based on these two documents demonstrate that the theology of Davis and Donnell is far broader and more complex than what was known about them, since CAR previously did not have access to these materials. For this reason, in my brief evaluation at the presentation I pointed out that we should not limit our understanding of their theology to the nature of Christ, but need to have a broader scope for understanding the complexity of the theological issues that were at stake in this movement.

I suggested that further research is needed to shed light on the relationship between the broader spectrum of theological ideas of its leaders and their unorthodox practices. My full paper discussing these issues will be published later this year as part of the symposium.

One final note, comments have been made on this site by Dojcin Zivadinovic that he knows me and what I think. I just want to say that I don’t recall having ever had a conversation with him on this, any theological or other issue, for that matter. While we are both in the PhD program at the seminary, I have never had a discussion with him and want to set the record straight.

Dear Barry. You have stated: "Twice in the past I have met SDA people who either claimed to be sinless or admitted previous involvement with holy flesh groups. It is interesting to see that the ideas have not died, but continue, though not always with the other features like bedlam of noise."

If this is a response to my post than please allow me to deconstruct the straw man you have created.

1. Historical Adventists who believe in Christian perfection today reject the idea that we can CLAIM sinlessness. The Bible is clear on this subject. After the close of probation, saints will stand before the Holy God without mediator and no more sins can enter the sanctuary to be mediated and expunged. At that time the saints will not be able to claim to be without sin, but God will declare them "without spot or wrinkle" following the Lam whitsoever it goeth, being blameless. This is the main point of Adventism as it prepares the world to stand before God without the mediator. Any attack upon this doctrine is an assault on the main essence of God's three angel messages and the sanctuary message.

It is a common and often deliberate error to portray the believers in character perfection as being "perfectionists", presumptuously claiming sinlessness or "formalistic". However, no effort is made between "perfectionism" [perfection through one's own effort alone or claiming perfection] and true Christian perfection which is the major theme of Ellen White's writings.

Dear Katrina,

I will repeat my disclaimer again and say that I have not read your paper per se but only Angelika's summary of it. More than a week ago, I did ask you if you could send me a copy of the paper but you have not responded yet. Knowing Angelika, I fully believe that she has faithfully summarized your article.

if the summary of the paper is correct, it seems that you have described the Holy Flesh movement without mentioning main theological tenant of the movement - THE HOLY FLESH or the flesh perfection. This is not a matter of being "thorough" or "detailed". You don't need to go to detail in order to mention why is Holy Flesh movement called "Holy Flesh movement".

I will do it for you in one sentence. The movement was named "holy flesh" due to its belief that, after Gethsemane, Christ obtained the holy flesh of Adam before the fall, thus enabling end-time Christians to obtain the same perfected flesh which Adam possessed before his transgression.

.It took me one entire sentence to explain this so it can't be because of lack of space that you failed to make this clear. I could not find one sentence that mentioned this concept in the entire summary. I cannot believe that two main holy flesh leaders did not mention this in their statements on "christology" or "anthropology".

Instead, you have chosen to mention repeatedly how holy flesh leaders strived to obtain perfect character. Impression was left that this was their error. I had to react to a.) omission of major tenant of their christology and soterilogy b.) portrayal of christian perfection as belonging uniquely to the holy flesh movement.

When it comes to knowing your views on this subject, I think I have heard you speak once in the Sabbath school in PMC against overcoming sin and I heard from some people in the seminary that you hold a modern Post-QOD view on nature of Christ and christian perfection. Thus, when I saw your comments ascribing christian perfection as something uniquely characteristic to the holy flesh movement, I felt that there are some misconstructions being made in the paper conjugated with some odd omissions in which in my opinion need to be corrected.

I sincerely apologize if none of this is true. Again, I am only judging from the summary of your paper and not your paper itself.

However I would have a question for you - Do you or do you not believe that God is calling us to be without sin, perfecting our characters before his coming? I would like to hear your unambiguous response to my question.


ERRATA - The last paragraph in my comment to Barry needs to be corrected.

However, no effort is made TO DISTINGUISH between "perfectionism" [perfection through one's own effort alone or claiming perfection] and true Christian perfection which is the major theme of Ellen White's writings.

Dear Dojcin,

I think your posts are crossing over from fair discussion and inquiry into a sort of badgering and cross examination that I anticipate in the courtroom, but find distasteful on a blog discussing Christian theology and church history.

I think we are all struggling to understand character perfection, but I don't think it is advanced by accusations of disingenous scholarship to advance hidden theological agendas and posing confrontative questions that we insist must be answered in an "unambiguous" manner.

Given your posts on this website, and on another facebook page I have seen, I think you owe Katrina an apology for the manner and tone in which you have reacted to her paper. I'm not suggesting that your substantive position is entirely unreasonable, I have not read Katrina's paper either, and a discussion along the lines of the substance you are undertaking may be appropriate. But it needs to be carried out in a more positive and charitable way.

For the record, I do happen to believe in character perfection before Christ comes. Christian perfection is not just an idea of Ellen White, but was prominent in the Arminian strain of theology running from Jacob Arminius, to John Wesley, to Charles Finney. It is unsurprising that Ellen White also supports it. But as I have studied these authors, they understood and promoted it as a perfection of love, that focused on motive and intent of love, rather than outward act or behavior that met some abstract standard of perfection. It also did not have to do with salvation, but rather with a greater experience of God, for God, and for our neighbor.

Unfortunately, a certain fundamentalist strain of Adventism has taken this doctrine and perverted into a new standard for salvation at the end of time with a focus on external conduct and act. And yes, I know they all say that it is by God's grace, and thus it is not legalistic. But I find the emphasis of the message one that robs people of their peace and security, because if you must attain it to be saved at the end of time, and we live in the time of the end, then we are really not saved till we have it. And that, my friend, produces a legalistic spirit which I'm afraid is all too common in our circles.

Let them know that we are Christians by our love, especially when we are discussing what it means to be a perfect Christian.

Nick, I appreciate your desire for fair treatment and good dialogue and I apologize for the manner in which I might have responded to this post. Many have felt that I have come too hard on Catrina. I am sorry if that is the case. I want to make sure for everyone to know that I am not against anyone and I am only interested in truth and love on this forum.

That is the reason I felt it was my duty as a theologian to react to what I sensed to be untruth. I am sorry if I have hurt anyone but I do not apologize for pointing to what I believe to be a serious mistake. I also do not apologize for attacking an anti-"christian perfection" agenda that has been lately emphasized in many theology classes here in the seminary and which I thought was (unintentionally?) portrayed in the paper.

If you know me you will realize that I am not hurt by people disagreeing with me and I will attack error, as subtle as it wants to be, without apology. I believe that we need to stop being shy cats when it comes to the truth of Righteousness by Faith which many of our theologians are stamping upon so boldly.

I also wanted to touch upon some important theological issues Nick raised in his last post. I am glad we are on (almost) the same page when it comes to various soteriological issues, Nick. Most LGT teachers I know teach that we can have assurance of salvation EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, as long as we abide in Christ (Praise the Lord!). Those who do not teach this kind of assurance do not teach Righteousness by Faith well. The Bible is clear that if you abide in your Savior today you are saved today. Sure, we are living in hope of what Christ will do for us (and in us) in the future but hoping for full victory over sin and hoping to be reflecting Christ character one day doesn't make one more legalist than waiting for the Sunday Law of the Second Coming.

Thus, I must plead for a fair treatment of all issues. I apologize once again for my direct approach. I assure you I wasn't lacking love in writing. I realize that Christian perfection is all about love. However, love is honest and hides no things. I love each one of you on this forum and for that reason I could not keep silent.


This holy flesh movement is interesting to study. I'm not a theologian, just a pizza delivery driver. So my comments might be simplistic, but...

How about the cycles of HISTORY...look close at them, as laid out by Strauss & Howe in the book GENERATIONS.

My focus here will be on the spiritual awakenings in the cycles....

If you look back to the reformation awakening there was much truth recovered (and countereits of course as even Luther would testify to...and who can forget the people with that guy at munster?)

Then the Puritan awakening...with those to purify the Church and get closer to God with study and prayer and confessions...

Then the 1st Great American awakening with the youth running off to live on communes with, and convert the Indians as well as congregations splitting into the new lights (sort of like the puritans) and the old lights.

Then the 2nd Great American awakening (transcendental awakening) with the Advent movement and a counterfeit (mormonism) but also a worldly spin with Thoreau coming into play.

Then the 3rd Great American awakening giving birth to the charismatic movement (holy flesh too). And don't forget those seances too.. So what's the point?

Well, that same spirit of the "holy flesh" infecting people clearly wasn't from God nor is the glossolalia movement. But if there is a power that spreads to this degree around the country with this kind of power, doesn't it stand to reason as another proof of God? I mean, if there is a sinister force out there, there must be a God too?

A final observation-the last awakening (boomer awakening-60's & 70's) had a second charismatic wave, but mostly churches splitting rather than people flocking to the Pentecostals or Assemblies of God, etc. (for example-the Luthern renewal, Evangelical Episcopal, etc.) Also there was more of a pantheistic-new age angle to that awakening. The rise of the "green gosple" in place of the Biblical Gospel, people worshipping the creation rather than the Creator, mother earth rather than the Father God, etc.

STEP BACK & look at the big picture---since the Advent movement of that 2nd great American awakening....there really hasn't been much new substance in the following two awakenings or much good come out of them...i would argue because the Time of the End would begin (as it says in Daniel) after the 2300 days...so...theres nothing new left to come around....And with the increase in knowledge (yeah, i know some say in Daniel it means knowledge of the prophecies, others think human knowledge, some say both--well whichever it is-BOTH have happened) our RAPID increase in knowledge has led us into a GLOBAL VILLAGE where all will be able to see the Mark of the Beast when implemented and decide for themselves...

One more thing, I also noticed some of the illogical reasoning of Ballenger was picked up not to many decades hence by Heppenstal who in turn laid the ground work for the poisoning in the mind of Desmond Ford...

well these are some of things that all popped in my mind while studying the holy flesh movement..thought i'd share...but between Ballenger, Kellog,& the holy flesh movement you can see the opponent of God trying to get a foothold into the church. After E.G.W. was gone he just kept pounding away...and continues to...

Hmmm...all this comes to light from truly studying the holy flesh movement

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