Seventh-Day Adventists/JHK Article By Tom Norris


Dear Tom

In your article you state that JHK believed in a personal God and that He was in everything.  Then you say it doesn't matter.  May I ask you why you think it doesn't matter?  This is described as panentheism and is just as dangerous as pantheism.  Just for the record I am a fan of JHK. And agree that much has been distorted.  But I would ask you whether your statement as noted above is some hyperbole to make your point?


I do not think you quoted me correctly.  But regardless, JHK was not a pantheist, and it is time for such tired propaganda to stop.  

John Harvey Kellogg, Living Temple; By Tom Norris

It is also time for the SDA’s to take responsibility for their past mistakes and stop blaming everyone else for their epic failure in Battle Creek.  JHK was not the reason why the SDA’s self-destructed in the late 19th century, even though he has been made into a scapegoat by the Denomination.

If not for the 1888 debacle, there would have been no division or schism in Battle Creek.  Nor would the Denomination have retreated to Takoma Park, almost bankrupt.  In hindsight, JHK has been used by the Denomination as a diversion away from the real issues, which doomed the Battle Creek Empire.

It was the unsatisfactory outcome of the 1888 theological debate between Uriah Smith and Ellen White that doomed the SDA’s in Battle Creek.  JHK was only a sideshow.  The real story is the 1888 debate.  A story that the Denomination has been hiding and misstating for generations.  It is time for the Adventist Community to understand what tool place in 1888.  This important history has been covered up and suppressed by the White Estate for far too long.  Shame on them.

Question: Did Kellogg teach pantheism, and was this the reason why he separated from the church? Or was his book, The Living Temple, a convenient excuse for his enemies to brand him a heretic?

Answer:  Kellogg was the handpicked protégé of James and Ellen White. His mission to develop Health Reform for the church met with remarkable success, as the Battle Creek Sanitarium became world famous and the Denomination's Health Magazine became a leader in its field.

Young Kellogg grew up in Battle Creek. He interacted with both James and Ellen White, who were so impressed with his potential that they sent him to medical school in New York. Upon his return, they employed him to manage and further develop the denominations struggling Health Institute and Magazine.

Kellogg was well connected, talented, educated, and very energetic. But he was not a theologian, nor did he study or write theology. He was a "medical man" and a "business man." Thus he became a very successful and popular medical writer, authoring approximately 50 books, (as well as being the editor of a National Health Magazine).

In fact, the term "Living Temple" was the title of a poem by the famous Oliver Wendell Holmes in1858. The original title was supposed to be called "The Anatomist's Hymn." This is no doubt the origin of Kellogg's book title.

Contrary to SDA propaganda, the book Living Temple was not meant to try and introduce pantheism into the church. In fact, it was designed to raise money for the debt laden Sanitariums.

The book was for charity. Kellogg wrote it in an attempt to generate sales, and he had no intention of trying to make this work a doctrinal tool for the Third Angels Message. But was he a pantheist?

According to Dennis Hokama, a brilliant observer of Adventism, "To qualify as pantheism, one must believe that God is nothing but nature (God and the world are one), and therefore repudiate the notion of a personal God. Kellogg NEVER denied the idea of a personal God, but always affirmed it, so far as I know. Therefore, he CANNOT responsibly be called a pantheist. None of these church historians or theologians has ever defended the notion that Kellogg was a pantheist. Case closed. So it doesn’t matter that he thought God permeated the matter, and in that sense was “in us,” so long as he also firmly believed in a personal deity."

Here is Kellogg, the prototype of an intellectual, modern, Adventist, in his own words. He makes it pretty clear that he was never a pantheist and that is not guilty of the charges.

“I am willing to confess that I am not a pantheist nor a spiritualist, and that I believe none of the doctrines taught by these people or by pantheistic or spiritualistic writings. I never read a pantheistic book in my life. I never read a book on "New Thought," or anything of that kind. Anybody who will read carefully the "Living Temple" from the first page right straight through to the last, and will give the matter fair and consistent consideration, ought to see very clearly that I have no accord whatever with these pantheistic and spiritualistic theories.”

Kellogg to Butler, February 21, 1904 … 1_1904.htm

See also: … cer_05.htm

While Living Temple contained a number of objectionable points, (including a wrong view of the Gospel, which is normative for all SDA books), Kellogg agreed to allow whatever editorial changes needed to be made. But this was not the real issue, and neither was the charge against Kellogg about Pantheism.

Rather, this book represented the wholesale abandonment of the Three Angels Messages by the author. It represented a very different and philosophic emphasis that many SDA's were also taking in Battle Creek, including the popular theologian Dr. E.J. Waggoner.

Thus, Living Temple took the Denomination far away from it reforming eschatological mission. It essentially ignored SDA eschatology. But Ellen White would not stand by as the Three Angels Messages were systematically ignored, marginalized, and dismantled for all to see:

"I am instructed to speak plainly. 'Meet it,' is the word spoken to me. 'Meet it firmly, and without delay.' But it is not to be met by our taking our working forces from the field to investigate doctrines and points of difference. We have no such investigation to make. In the book Living Temple there is presented the alpha of deadly heresies. The omega will follow, and will be received by those who are not willing to heed the warning God has given."

Selected Messages Book 1, p. 200.

Living Temple was used by Kellogg's enemies to show that he did not believe in the objective view of eschatology as traditionally taught by the church. And this charge was true. But it was also true for the vast majority of the SDA's in Battle Creek during this time period. But Kellogg was no ordinary Adventist. He was a most revered and powerful leader, and he could not be allowed to blatantly dismiss the prophetic way marks and doctrines that defined Adventism. Nor could he be allowed to mortgage the church for his endless Health ambitions.

Thus Ellen White, and others, crossed swords with Kellogg and warned the church that Battle Creek, and specifically Kellogg, was out of control. Listen to Ellen White:

“Some think it strange that I write, ‘Do not send your children to Battle Creek.’  I was instructed in regard to the danger of the worldly influence in Battle Creek. I have written hundreds of pages regarding the danger of having so large a sanitarium, and of calling so many people together in one place. The young people in Battle Creek are in danger. They will come in contact with error. Years ago I did not think that they would meet these errors right in the sanitariums; but when "Living Temple" came out, and some of our ministers told me that there was in it nothing but what I had been teaching all my life, I saw how great the danger was.  I saw that blindness had fallen upon some who had long known the truth. I pray that the Lord will open the eyes of these ministers, that they may see the difference between light and darkness, between truth and error.

Testimonies for the Church Containing Messages of Warning and Instruction to Seventh-day Adventists, page 36

A decade after 1888, Kellogg, along with many others, including Dr. E J Waggoner, had lost faith in the credibility of the Third Angels Message. It was obvious that Traditional Adventism could no longer be credibly defended. Even the great Uriah Smith was demoted at the Review and then fired for promoting legalism. So there were glaring divisions within the church that were growing larger every year. If the religious leaders could not agree among themselves about doctrine, why should anyone be so dogmatic? What was the point? Many thought that it was time for SDA's to back off and lighten up. Here is where pluralism first surfaced in the SDA church.

However, when it involves the Three Angels Messages, Ellen White would never give in to Canright, Kellogg, or Smith. She would stand firm against any that would harm or remove the Adventist Apocalyptic.  She also greatly resented that Kellogg was claiming that she supported his Living Temple viewpoints, which were devoid of the Three Angels Messages, when this was not really true.

As a practical matter, the fight was primarily about money. Kellogg wanted to develop a huge Health Empire, -- and he thought the Denomination should finance it for him, which was the original plan of James White. But Kellogg was amassing large amounts of debt in the name of the church, and when Daniels, with the urging of Ellen White, refused to finance the purchase of a Health Institute in England, there was a large rift that never healed.

Kellogg had developed a very unique and profitable health model, (with the help of James and Ellen White), and now he wanted to rollout an aggressive expansion campaign that would be financed by the church. But the leaders were fearful that he was creating too much debt AND that the Health Message was eclipsing the promotion of the Three Angels Messages. Which was the real problem.

JHK was obsessed with health, not theology or eschatology. While he embraced the Sabbatarian teachings of the SDA's, (his wife was a Seventh-day Baptist), he also thought that the point of the Advent Movement was more about health then anything else. He was a practical man, and when he saw how dysfunctional the Denominations theology became after 1888, he saw no need to try and beat a dead horse.

The Third Angels Message did not work as advertised, so why not associate it with something that really worked, like Health Reform?
After 1888, when the Third Angels Message became confused and the credibility of Adventist eschatology fell, Kellogg was all too happy to remake the Denomination into a humanitarian enterprise that featured Health Reform. This was what his life was all about.

But Ellen White strongly rejected his plans for expansion and debt as well as his attempts to marginalize the Three Angels Messages. He in turn tried to take control of the church so that he could remake it into his own image. He almost succeeded.

The story of Kellogg's separation from the church has not been honestly told. In fact, the Takoma Park apologists demonized him and made it seem that he was a "pantheist" or a "spiritualist" when that was never true.

After 1888, Kellogg lost faith in SDA theology and doctrine, just like the vast majority of those in Battle Creek. Thus it was the unresolved doctrinal problems from 1888 that actually confused, divided, and almost destroyed the SDA Denomination.

It was the unresolved issues of 1888 that ruined the credibility of Adventist Eschatology and allowed Kellogg the opportunity to ignore the Three Angels Messages and use the church for his own ends. Had the church been united in the promotion of credible, Gospel eschatology, the great Battle Creek schism could have been avoided, and Kellogg would have remained an SDA.

At the end of the day, Kellogg cared little for the discredited theology of the Adventist Apocalyptic. He was a famous and popular health entrepreneur, and he wanted to promote Health Reform as if it were a religion. For him, it WAS his religion, and this was far better then promoting uncertain and confusing religious doctrines that the leaders could not harmonize. Thus he never apologized for leaving the divided and dysfunctional Denomination.

Tom Norris for Adventist Reform & All Experts.Com

Seventh-Day Adventists

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Tom Norris


I can answer most any question about church history and theology, starting from 1818 when William Miller articulated the 1st Angels Message that became the foundation of the Adventist Movement. While this first prophetic message terminated in the spring of 1844, it was followed by what Adventists refer to as the 2nd Angels Message, which dates from the spring of 1844 until the great disappointment of October 22, 1844. By 1847, the 3rd Angels Message had been developed and this Sabbatarian theology represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Moreover, I can explain the historical and theological development of the SDA denomination from its beginning and on through the great Battle Creek schism that forced the SDA's to retreat to Takoma Park. Here the 20th century church recovered from their internal battles that had erupted at the 1888 General Conference in Minneapolis over the definition of the law and the Gospel. Fearing another repeat of this disaster, President Daniels, determined to hide this debate. However, this policy led to more conflict, especially over the role and authority of Ellen White, a unique and accomplished religious writer that had remarkable spiritual gifts. However, by the decade of the 1970`s, the church once again erupted into debate. The hierarchy settled the turmoil in 1980 with the trial of Dr. Desmond Ford at Glacier View. Here Dr. Ford was exiled because he supposedly disagreed with Ellen White over the Fundamentals. But this controversial action resulted in another major schism that is still in progress today.


Tom Norris was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist in Takoma Park, Md. He attended SDA grade and High schools, moving on to study Adventist theology at Columbia Union College. He also spent significant time conducting independent research in the General Conference Archives and the Ellen G. White Estate. Over the years he has also interviewed a number of prominent Adventist scholars, theologians, and Pastors ranging from the late Arthur White to the exiled Dr. Desmond Ford. In addition, he has amassed a large private library, which includes numerous rare books and manuscripts about Adventist theology and history. He is presently the online editor of Adventist Reform, and can be found at Adventist for Tomorrow answering questions online about SDA theology and history as well as promoting Adventist Reform.

Tom Norris attended SDA grade and High schools, moving on to study Adventist theology at Columbia Union College. He also spent significant time conducting independent research in the General Conference Archives and the Ellen G. White Estate.

©2017 All rights reserved.