Inspiration and the Writings of Ellen-White
I made a mistake when I first posted this page concerning Ellen-White. The mistake that I made was assuming that most people (Adventist included) were aware that there have been many attacks made concerning the inspiration of Ellen White. There are whole websites devoted to supposedly "exposing" her writings as being "uninspired" and attempting to prove that she was a fraud. If you have visited any of these sites you may have found that there are statements that Ellen White made, or wrote, which appear strange or untrue at first glance. Unfortunately, some people have been influenced by these sites and statements and have left the Adventist Church or decided not to join it as a result. I, personally, know of two Adventist pastors who have left the Church as a result of some of these problematic statements. One was a personal friend of mine who was in the undergraduate Theology program at Andrews University at the same time that I was studying there. I dined in his home and he in mine. We studied together. We were friends. The other was in the Seminary while I attending Andrews and was a fantastic preacher! He was the kind of speaker that you would drive miles to hear (I often did). Both of these men went on to become Ordained Pastors in the Adventist Church -- and both of these men Left the Church because they could not reconcile some of Ellen White's statements and beliefs. I, myself, had some difficulties when I first came upon some of her statements because no-one had taken the time to explain a few basic facts and principles to me concerning her writings. I believe that my friends wound up leaving the Church because they did not understand some of these principles and because they took such a rigid stance towards Ellen White's "inspiration" that they could not conceive of her being a "prophet" and being "fallible" at the same time. It is my hope that in explaining a few of these principles (with examples) that you, whether you are an Adventist or not, might be better prepared to meet some of these objections and that you might not be persuaded by her many detractors to "throw the baby out with the bath water" by dismissing her writings as uninspired or worthless. In other words, this page is written to encourage you to take an "intellectually HONEST" approach to Ellen's writings and to be better prepared to accept the tremendous amount of good that is contained in them.
I also write this so that you might look for the bigger picture as you approach her writings and that you will be able to use some of the principles explained here and "see" that, most of the time, statements that may at first seem difficult are often able to be understood plainly if you will keep a few things in mind. I realize that some of these things are very hard for some people to accept or even consider because they fear that if they do accept these facts that their "Faith" will be in danger. This need not be the case. Please consider the following principles with all of these things in mind -- see if they don't make sense to you -- and see if they are not actually a more mature and honest way to approach the subject of "Inspiration" and particularly the writings of Ellen White. There is absolutely nothing here that should "Shake" your faith -- and knowing some of these things may actually help in keeping you from being led astray. With that said, let's consider the writings of Ellen White openly and honestly.
1. Not EVERYTHING in Mrs. White's writings is to be applied universally. Some things were "Case-specific" - that is, they were written to specific People, and/or concerned specific Places and Times. This includes some of the things contained in "Testimonies to the Church" and in some of the "Compilations" as well. However, in many of these statements there is usually a principle behind the statement that can be applied universally today and much good can be gleaned from them.
This should be obvious, yet many people today do not seem to understand this and continue to apply things that were written to, or said about someone or something "specifically" and apply it to themselves or others today. People who do not keep this principle in mind will have a very hard time explaining why Ellen White counseled against the general use of coffee and tea but then counseled certain individuals (in a particular situation) to drink coffee and tea. The first was a more universal counsel while the other was of a specific nature and was dealing with a particular situation in a particular circumstance. If we try to apply a "strict view of "inspiration" (one that says that a "prophet" cannot contradict themselves) we will find ourselves in trouble when we run across these apparent contradictions. Medical Science has shown that the general and free use of caffeine drinks like coffee, tea, and soda are actually harmful -- but there are also situations in which the consumption of caffeine may actually be helpful.
Many people make this same kind of mistake with some of the things we find in the Bible also. For instance, much of Paul's counsel to the church at Corinth is still applied by some people today as if it were universal counsel (women "should keep quite" in church - should "not teach" - should keep their "heads covered", etc.). Or, we take messages like the one given to Ezekiel: "When I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand." (Eze 3:18), and we apply it to ourselves and others. In fact we almost "love" to use texts like this to "pressure" people into Witnessing, and I have been guilty of doing this myself. But the counsel here was given to EZEKIEL: "Son of man, I have appointed YOU a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever YOU hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me" (v. 17) -- it was Not given to you and/or to me. OUR ministry may not be one of "reproof" or "prophecy." The point is that we must be careful in our use of the Bible, and of Mrs. White's writings so that they are applied properly and appropriately.
Mrs. White wrote that we should NOT expend money on things like "Bicycles". She did this, at that time, because bicycles were quite expensive and were more of a Luxury than a needed item. They were also being used in competition and racing and were condemned for that purpose. I hardly think it would be appropriate or truthful for any of us to counsel someone not to buy a bicycle today (at least one that doesn't cost thousands of dollars)! Do you? And yet, many of us miss the principle about spending exorbitant amounts of money on simple transportation (we want the BMW or the Mercedes) and waste money on these things when it could have been better spent in helping others who are less fortunate and in need of the Gospel message. This was the principle behind many of Ellen White's counsels and if we would simply look for the principle within the counsel, the apparent "problems" disappear and our lives may actually be enriched by the counsel given.
We also need to remember that due to today's preservation, archiving and storage methods (things that didn't exist at any other time in History) we have a VAST AMOUNT of Ellen White's writings from which to "draw" information, counsel and advice - perhaps we have MORE than we ought! We have "Diary" information, "Personal correspondence", etc., that may not be appropriate for our use at all! Which leads me to my second point:
2. Not EVERYTHING that Mrs. White said or wrote was directly "INSPIRED" of God. Some things were her OWN feelings, beliefs and opinions.
This should be "Self-evident" but MANY PEOPLE really have a hard time accepting this! Perhaps we are AFRAID that if we admit this that our "confidence" in her writings will be DESTROYED! But this is not a very mature approach to take - nor need this be the case.
God communicates through Human Beings. FALLIBLE, ERRING, human beings! Human beings with their own thoughts, beliefs, and prejudices. Sometimes, these human beings (even prophets) "communicate" their own thoughts and are not communicating something that is coming directly from the mind or mouth of God. In other words, not everything a prophet ever said should be considered a "Thus saith the Lord". Are we really so naive as to think that everything Moses or Daniel or Paul ever said to someone else was coming directly from God? Were they not human beings who communicated their own thoughts with others? Were they, just because they were also prophets, Robots who could only speak words that came directly from God? Wouldn't such a standard be rather ludicrous? Wouldn't such a standard take away these people's freedom of choice and expression? Surely these men, and everyone who has been directly inspired by God, also functioned as erring mortal human beings when not under the direct inspiration of God! And if this is true, wouldn't it be well to recognize this and confirm whether what an "inspired" individual is saying is done under inspiration or not?
Mrs. White suggests this reality when she says: "In the vision given me June 12, 1868, I was shown the danger of the people of God in looking to Brother and Sister White, and thinking that they must come to them with their burdens, and seek counsel of them. THIS OUGHT NOT SO TO BE. They are invited by their compassionate, loving Saviour, to come unto HIM, when weary and heavy laden, and HE WILL RELIEVE THEM. . . Brother and Sister White are striving for purity of life, striving to bring forth fruit unto holiness; yet they are only ERRING mortals." (2T pp. 118, 119). Now I will grant you that this statement was made in the context of people desiring to come to Mrs. White for counsel about every mundane decision they had to make and that her reply was intended to direct them to the principles of God's Word for their guidance in making these decisions. But the implication here is that counsel received from brother and sister White may be in error in some cases and that our only safety is to go to God directly with our concerns. This doesn't mean that Brother and Sister White's counsel is not valuable -- only that it should not be the "end-all" of every conversation or study and that we should not base ALL of our beliefs or decisions on her writings alone.
Mrs. White says that even the disciples, when not under the direct inspiration of God, took positions and made errors regarding truth: "The disciples themselves yet cherished a regard for the ceremonial law, and were too willing to make concessions, hoping by so doing to gain the confidence of their countrymen, remove their prejudice, and win them to faith in Christ as the world's Redeemer. . . . Though some of these men wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, yet when not under its direct influence they sometimes erred. It will be remembered that on one occasion Paul withstood Peter to the face because he was acting a double part." (Sketches from the Life of Paul; p. 213, par. 2). If the disciples themselves sometimes made mistakes when not under the direct inspiration of God, then wouldn't it make sense that the same principle applies to Ellen White as well?
Mrs. White was selected by God to give many explanations, and to simplify that which had already been revealed in God's Word because we have been too slow to recognize many of the Truths contained there. God was generous enough to give us her writings in order to draw us back to the great Truths of The Bible and we should be grateful for that. But that does not mean that we should "Canonize" her every statement. We must check them out and compare them with the Scriptures (like the Berean's of Acts 17:10,11) to ascertain whether in harmony with the Bible or not. Is that really so hard to understand?
Let me give you a couple of examples that should help make the point that -- If we INSIST on making EVERYTHING Mrs. White said "The Word of God" then we WILL FIND OURSELVES ON UNSAFE GROUND and We WILL eventually find ourselves IN TROUBLE!!
Mrs. White once wrote: "The Lord loves those little children who try to do right, and he has promised that they shall be in his kingdom. But wicked children God DOES NOT LOVE. He will not take them to the beautiful City, for he only admits the good, obedient, and patient children there. One fretful, disobedient child, would spoil all the harmony of heaven. When you feel tempted to speak impatient and fretful, remember the Lord sees you, and WILL NOT LOVE YOU IF YOU DO WRONG." (An Appeal to Youth, p.61, par.3 - Quoting a letter written By Ellen White to her son Willie from Iowa City, Iowa, March 14, 1860 -- Ellen was 33 years old at this time).
Anyone want to repeat that to your erring child? Do you believe that was Inspired by God? I think NOT!! I believe that this is an example of a "Frustrated Parent" and an attempt to correct a difficult and trying child -- done in the wrong way (haven't YOU ever said something similar to your children and then regretted saying it?). Here is what the BIBLE says about God's Love toward His "erring" and "sinful" children: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8). "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1Jn 4:10). I hate to be the one to break this to you but GOD still LOVES the Devil (Lucifer)! He does NOT LOVE his SIN but He still Loves Him - and He will, even while he is destroyed in the Lake of Fire. God hates Sin, but Loves the sinner. To make God's "Love" conditional on our behavior is to bring His Love down to the level of ours. It does not describe "Agape" Love (God's Love) at all, and this type of view, if accepted, will most assuredly lead to a "performance-based relationship with God. In other words, if we accept the idea that God will not Love us unless we "obey" then we will become very "Works" oriented and fearful of our "ACCEPTANCE" with Him. Our relationship will become a fearful drudgery and our experience one of repeated success and failure, security and insecurity, assured of Salvation or convinced of being lost. This is NOT the way God intends for it to be with us. God LOVES us, has accepted us into His family "in Christ", given us the assurance of Eternal Life, and has promised that (although human love may fail us time and time again) His Love "Never Fails". If God's "Love" were dependent upon our behavior then NONE of us could ever hope to be saved -- there would have been no call to Adam and Eve in the Garden after their transgression and there would have been no call to you or me! God has loved us with an everlasting love and it is our privilege to respond to that love by entering into a meaningful relationship with Him in which He is allowed to restore us to His image -- thus bringing about a change in our behavior! Unless we understand THIS, our "walk" with God will prove unfruitful and miserable.
Sometimes Ellen's writings can be viewed in several different ways -- and this can lead to a great deal of misunderstanding. An example of this is a statement she wrote which is quoted in Counsels on Health, p. 37 which says: "It is a sin to be sick; for all sickness is the result of transgression". While it is TRUE that "all sickness is the result of transgression" - the Devil's transgression, Adam's transgression, and sometimes our own transgression - it would be a mistake to conclude that ALL SICKNESS is the result of personal SIN. What about Job? His tribulation was not of his own doing! If I get stung by a misquito carrying Malaria, is that a sin? Is it "my fault"? Do I bare personal responsibility for getting sick? NO! And it would be a grave mistake to suggest that "it is a Sin to be sick" under every circumstance. Jesus made it clear that the thinking of the people in His day regarding sickness was INCORRECT: "And His disciples asked Him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?' Jesus answered, 'It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (Jn 9:2,3). All Sickness IS the result of "Sin" (sickness would never have entered this world if Sin had never arisen) but to make it sound as if one is personally "sinning" by becoming sick is simply not Biblical. There have been many times when I have become sick because I neglected to take proper care of myself (and that is a sin) but there have been other times when I have not been responsible for my disease at all (and this is not due to my sinning and is not sin). I believe that this is one of those statements where people have taken it out of "context" and tried to make it "universal" in its application. If it is considered as "universal" (in all its applications) then we could conclude that it is un-biblical. But if it is considered within its context (where "Personal" sickness is being discussed with respect to "personal negligence") then it is completely Biblical. One must be very careful not to take a statement out of context or to "isolate" a statement and apply a meaning that was never intended by its author (Biblical Authors included)! This is one of those statements that has been misapplied by Ellen's Critics. Hopefully, those who believe in Ellen White's inspiration have not misapplied it too! Hopefully, we have never given anyone the impression that they had "Sinned" by becoming sick -- especially if their sickness was not brought on through personal sin.
Some of Mrs. White's statements seem to contradict the Bible and have been seized upon by detractors as "proving" that she must not have been inspired. They reason; that if she contradicts the Scriptures that her message could not be from God. This would be sound reasoning -- if it were truly the case. Other's reason; that common thought patterns and beliefs influenced her opinions and are why she made some of the statements she did. One of these examples concerns the use of Alcohol. Most of us recognize that Ellen lived in an era when the "Temperance" movement was quite strong and influenced a great many Christians, herself included. But was this really the reason she made statements like these?
Ellen wrote that: "The Lord has given special directions in His word in reference to the use of wine and strong drink. He has forbidden their use, and enforced His prohibitions with strong warnings and threatenings." (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 1, 1894; par. 9 -- Quoted in the compilation: Temperance p.53,54). She further writes that "The Bible nowhere sanctions the use of intoxicating wine." (Ministry of Healing, p.333). If we accept these as "inspired" statements then, it would seem that we are forced to to question the inspiration of the prophet Isaiah (see Isa. 25:6) or are forced into a "contortion" of non-sensical arguments as to why God would make statements like those found in Dueteronomy 14:26, or why He would require that a person who made the special vow "of the Nazirite, to dedicate himself to the Lord, he shall abstain from wine and strong drink. . . all the days of his separation he is holy to the LORD. . ." and then state that after this time of Holy Separation to the LORD "the Nazirite may drink wine." (see Num. 6:3,8,20). If wine and strong drink were expressly forbidden by God why would it be necessary for God's people during their "special time of Separation to the Lord" to "ABSTAIN" from these things if they were prohibited from using them in the first place? The Word of God DOES condemn the "excessive" use of alcoholic beverages (see Proverbs 23:21,29-30; Hab. 2:15; Eph. 5:18), but it does NOT strictly forbid their use categorically or "across the board".
Some people argue that Ellen's statement was an idea that was prevalent among the more puritanical Christians of Ellen Whites day (and by those during the days of prohibition in the early 1900's) and it almost seems logical to assume that these views affected Mrs. White's thinking about these things. But was this why Ellen has said the things she said? I don't believe it was.
If Ellen White's statements are considered and reviewed within the context of the "Day of Atonement" or within the context of our having been made "Kings and Priests" of God (Rev. 1:6 & 5:10), her statements are TOTALLY IN LINE with the BIBLICAL position regarding abstaining from alcoholic beverages. During the Day of Atonement God's people were "afflict their souls" (Lev. 23:27,29) to make sure that they were "right" with God (it was no time for drinking!). And, if we have been made "Kings and Priests" of God, shouldn't we heed the counsel of Proverbs 31:4 "it is not for Kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink"? So, if we consider her statement "within the context in which it was written" we can see that her statement is in agreement with the Biblical principle. See what I mean?
Whether a statement is "TRUE" or not may depend totally upon which "Level" you are viewing it from. The same is true with other counsel given on such topics as "dress, diet, or worldly entertainment". Seventh-Day Adventists SHOULD understand that the LORD has forbidden them from using alcoholic beverages in that we believe that God has given us a "Special" message of warning to give to the world just prior to Christ's second coming, that we have been "called" to be "separate" and stand apart from the rest of the world -- that we have, in essence, taken a special vow of consecration to God and therefore will not defile ourselves with alcohol or other drugs (or with a diet that is unhealthy, dress that is too revealing, or entertainment which is not befitting a child of God). Our abstaining from the use of such things as alcohol is NOT a MEANS TO SALVATION (or, in any way, something that "Earns" us anything in the sight of God). It is merely an acknowledgment of what God has spoken to us TODAY and is something that we DO because God has told us to do so. To say that God has "forbidden" all alcohol consumption at all times and for all peoples is simply incorrect -- and I don't believe that it would be fair to suggest that this is what Ellen meant when she made such statements. If one chooses to believe that this IS WHAT SHE MEANT about this or any other topic, then I hardly believe that one can credit the "incorrectness" of these statements to HER! The fault obviously lies in our finite understanding and in our unwillingness to consider Mrs. White's statements from a correct "context" or standpoint. The fact that God has seen fit to call us to a "higher standard" than that of the nominal Christian, is hardly reason for believing that her statements are false or misleading (even if some of them are "hard to be understood"). We are able, and should, confirm whether a statement is inspired (or simply her own opinion) by checking it against other inspired writers. If she is in harmony with them or with the principles laid down in the scriptures we can have confidence in what she wrote. If, and this is a rare exception, something that she wrote is not in harmony with the principles of the Scriptures, then it may be that she was only expressing her own beliefs or opinions. We should be careful about jumping to that conclusion but, as in the example concerning "God's Love" for his erring children, we can see that there are times when we can conclude nothing else. This, however, does not nullify her role as a "Prophet" -- it only exposes her "Human" side as well.
There are MANY more examples that could be quoted and I hope that, by addressing some of these issues, it will not be construed that I am in any way attempting to DISCREDIT MRS. WHITES WRITINGS or to lessen their importance. I am fully aware that there are MANY people out there who are just looking for something to hang their hat on and give them an EXCUSE for not believing Ellen White. This is sad. My POINT is that we must take her writings and TEST THEM with the Bible to ascertain whether the particular quote is "from God" or is her own opinion. By doing this honestly and thoughtfully, we may discover deeper meanings behind statements that "seem" illogical or contradictory. She wrote that "Even the work of the Holy Spirit . . . is to be tested by the Word of God" (1SM p.43). This is supported by the Bible, since we are told "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God" (1Jn 4:1). If this is true for the HOLY SPIRIT - how much more so for the writings of Mrs. White!
Which naturally leads into the next subject . . . .
3. Ellen White DID NOT UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING! Nor did She have ALL THE LIGHT that is to be shed on the great themes and doctrines of the Bible.
Like the prophets of old, she did not always fully comprehend ALL that the LORD gave her. Daniel, a Great Prophet of the End-Time did not understand all of the truths contained in his visions (see Dan. 8:27 & Dan. 12:13). Peter, an Apostle and Prophet of Christ, says that Paul's writings contain things that are "hard to understand" (2 Pet. 3:16). If Peter, a fellow Apostle and patriot of Christ with Paul, felt they were "hard" to understand, I believe it is reasonable to conclude that all Christians are bound to find some things "difficult to understand" -- including Christians especially appointed by God (prophets) to give special messages to His people. The Apostles and Prophets who were privileged to be taught directly by Jesus while He was here on Earth did not understand ALL the Truths of God's Word and none ever claimed to. All the first Disciples of Jesus expected Christ to Return in their generation or lifetimes -- they were obviously NOT CORRECT in their understanding of the Second-Coming or of ALL END-TIME TRUTH or even of the length and breadth and width of the Grace and Forbearance of God towards mankind. If the Apostles, from whom we get the New Testament and the greatest Revelation and knowledge of the true character and work of God, did not have ALL the Truth or even fully understand ALL the truths they had been taught directly by Jesus or through the study of God's Word -- why is it that we, as Seventh-Day Adventist seem to believe that Ellen White had or understood ALL the Truth that had or ever was to come from God? Why do we seem to make Mrs. White the Say-All and End-All of every Truth? Or of ALL Truth?
We OFFICIALLY say that we do not do this - but why is it then that any time someone brings a question or thought about the Bible that seems "New" to us, or that we cannot answer, or that seems to threaten our beliefs; we immediately run to Mrs. White's writings to support our cherished views? Do we honestly believe that there is "no-more Truth to be revealed"? Do we honestly believe that we "cannot be wrong" in anything that we currently believe and teach? That there is NEVER a time for us to abandon a cherished belief when new light is shed on it? WE MAY BELIEVE THIS - but Ellen didn't.
"Investigation of every point that has been received as truth will repay the searcher: He will find precious gems. And in closely investigating ever jot and tittle which we think is established truth, in comparing Scripture with Scripture, we may discover errors in our interpretation of Scripture." (RH, July 10, 1889).
"The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people is not proof that our ideas are infallible." (RH, December 20, 1892).
"We cannot hold that a position once taken, an idea once advocated, is not, under any circumstances, to be relinquished. There is but One Who is infallible -- He Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life." (TM, 105).
"Many gems are yet scattered that are to be gathered together to become the property of the remnant people of God . . . Let no one come to the conclusion that there is no more truth to be revealed . . . There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed . . . We are not safe when we take the position that we will no accept anything else than that upon which we have settled as truth." (Counsels an Sabbath School Work, p. 34).
"We must not trust to others to search the Scriptures for us. Some of our leading brethren have frequently taken their position on the wrong side; and if God would send a message and wait for these older brethren to open the way for its advancement, it would never reach the people." (GW 1913; p.303).
Mrs. White would never have dreamed that you and I would be sitting here talking to each other in 2009!!! I believe that it is fair to conclude that she did not understand all there was to understand - and that, in some cases she may even have been "wrong" in some positions that she took. Does that make her any less of a spokesperson for God? No! It only means, that she was one of God's human spokespersons! As such, she had limitations and weaknesses. She was not Infallible. But she has given us a vast storehouse of knowledge from which we may draw - and we are all greatly indebted to her for that. I, for one, am extremely grateful to her for what she has left us! She did so at a very high cost to herself and to her family.
The "CONDITIONAL" Nature of Prophecy: Many students of the scriptures, and of the Spirit of Prophecy for that matter, are completely ignorant of the "Conditional nature of many Prophecies" and have, therefore, concluded that if a "Prophet" predicts something, and that prophecy does not come true, that the person MUST NOT BE A PROPHET. This is NOT TRUE! First of all, we must recognize that a "Predicted" prophecy may simply not have come true YET! Many prophecies are yet to be fulfilled -- just read the Revelation if you don't believe that. Second, the Lord has often spoken threats to different peoples that would only be fulfilled "IF" they did not RESPOND in a proper manner. Here is a good example of this FROM THE BIBLE:
"At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it." (Jer. 18:7-10; see also Jer. 42:10). The Prophet JONAH was told to go and prophecy against the peoples of the city of NINEVEH and predict their complete destruction. But the people RESPONDED in repentance and the foretold destruction did NOT HAPPEN! Should we conclude that Jonah was NOT A PROPHET? -- after all, he predicted something that did not come true! Many people today, including Seventh-day Adventists, are trying to hold Ellen White's writings and/or predictions to a standard that they would NEVER DARE apply to someone like the Prophet Jonah! Why is that? If you are going to be "FAIR" then you ought to hold the standard "Across-the-board". Unfortunately, the BIBLE itself shows that we cannot do this and still hold up integrity of the Biblical principles of inspiration. These are the kinds of things that SHOW US that we NEED to be intelligent students and not be driven about by arguments that cannot be supported by the Scriptures!
One final point: Because we have such a VAST storehouse of her writings, it is possible to support or refute almost any line of thinking; or to become confused about some issues. I seriously wonder, if we had access to ALL of Peter's or Paul's or John's most private and personal communication -- might we not find ourselves scratching our heads and wondering what in the world they were talking about and "does this apply to ME"? This is why we must be led by THE SPIRIT OF GOD if we are ever going to be able to distinguish between Truth and Error, and if we are ever going to be able to arrive at "a knowledge of the Truth."
WE as Seventh-day Adventists (myself included) have gone far too long using UNBALANCED and UNFAIR practices when it comes to the use of Mrs. White's writings -- and so have her detractors! We MUST APPLY the SAME principles to the study and use of her writings that we apply to the Bible. We must COMPARE quotes in one place with those in others (and ALWAYS we must compare them with the Bible). We must consider the context. We must consider the historical setting. We must consider "Who" is being addressed and "Why." We must recognize that there is "New Truth" yet to be revealed, and we must SEARCH for those Gems of Truth "as if for hidden treasure." And when we find Truth, we must be willing to FOLLOW IT! Cost be what it may -- Even if that means that we must "give up" a previously held or "cherished" belief. A PROPER and Mature approach to her writings will aid us in accomplishing this.
Ellen White was NOT dependent upon the "Leaders" (or great "minds") of the church for her VISIONS. Her thinking was, however, INFLUENCED by these men (examples include, Uriah Smith, Elder Prescott, E.J. Waggoner and A.T. Jones, to name a few). Teachings from these men influenced her beliefs and subsequently her teaching also. It should be noted, however, that Ellen White never shrunk from taking a position in contrast to these men OR in rebuking them when she was shown by God that these men were in ERROR.
Ellen G. White's Counsel on the Use of Her Writings With Respect to the Bible
Ellen G. White claimed her writings to be the lesser light to lead us to the Bible, the greater light. "Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light." (Colporteur Evangelism, p. 37) When we fail in this objective and make the Spirit of Prophecy the final word, we do a great injustice to the church and Ellen G. White.
"But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms." (The Great Controversy, p. 595)
"The words of the Bible, and the Bible alone, should be heard from the pulpit." (Prophets and Kings, p. 626).
"...Don't you quote Sister White. I don't want you ever to quote Sister White until you get your vantage ground where you know where you are. Quote the Bible. Talk the Bible. It is full of meat, full of fatness. Carry it right out in your life, and you will know more Bible than you know now." (Spaulding-Magan Collection, p. 174).
H.M.J. Richards' Discussion with E.G. White [after she had dropped in on a service at the West Denver Colorado church when he was a young pastor]: "Now Sister White, there's something else that I'd like to find out. How should I use your writings in preaching?" She replied: "Here's the way to use them. First, ask God to give you your subject. When you have the subject chosen, then go to the Bible until you know for sure what the Bible really teaches on that point. After that, turn to the writings and see what you can find on the same subject and read that. It may cast light on it or guide you into other Scripture, or make some point clearer. When you go to the people, however, preach to them out of the Bible." (Story by H.M.J. Richards's son, H.M.S. Richards, repeated in Ministry Magazine, October, 1976, pp. 6-7).
Misusing Ellen G. White: When we use the Spirit of Prophecy to prove or defend a doctrine or truth, instead of the Word of God, we make the Spirit of Prophecy the yardstick of truth. This is misusing the writings of Ellen White. "The testimonies of Sister White should not be carried to the front. God's Word is the unerring standard. The Testimonies are not to take the place of the Word.... Let all prove the positions from the Scriptures and substantiate every point they claim as truth from the revealed Word of God." (Evangelism, p. 256). When a truth is presented from the Bible and we refuse to accept it unless it can be proven from the Spirit of Prophecy, this makes Ellen G. White the ultimate authority. This is misusing the writings of Ellen White. "The Bible is our rule of faith and doctrine." (Gospel Workers, p. 249). When the main thrust of our message and witnessing is from the Spirit of Prophecy instead of the Word of God, we are substituting Ellen G. White for the Bible. This is misusing the writings of Ellen White. "Believers are not to rest in suppositions and ill-defined ideas of what constitutes truth. Their faith must be firmly founded upon the Word of God." (Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 708).
So does this mean that I may pick-and-choose what counsel I wish to accept? The answer to that is a resounding NO! Just because I may not understand something contained in Ellen's Writings does NOT mean that what she is communicating there is incorrect or not from God. There are MANY things in the writings of Paul, for instance, which I do not understand fully. Does that mean that I should cast them aside? Or that I should consider them as invalid to me? Or that I am safe in concluding that they are not relevant? Of course not! I must come to God's Word in humility, with the understanding that I do not know everything, and with a willingness to be "taught of God! The same holds true for any of Ellen White's writings. Perhaps there are things there which I may not understand (or which may seem contradictory to me) but which will make perfect sense to me at a later date.
Ellen White was not a prophet to the whole world! She was a prophet to the "Remnant" peoples of God who are to give the final message of warning to our sin-sick world. Her counsel is to be considered within that context (the final Judgment) and understood from that perspective. Ellen White's counsel applies to those who have accepted God and recognize that we are living in the "anti-typical" Day of Atonement. Her counsel is for those who KNOW THIS and therefore who are able to make use of her writings as counsel given by God to us upon whom the "end of the age" has come and upon whom Jesus Christ intends to bestow His Holy Spirit in full measure. Unfortunately for many Seventh-day Adventists, when they have come upon something in Ellen's writings that they have not understood (or which has been portrayed by others as something contradicting the Bible or as something that cannot be understood or reconciled) have "thrown the baby out with the bath water" and have abandoned their faith. This has been especially true of those who have fallen prey to the statements and theories of others regarding "the Investigative Judgment", "Plagiarism", the "Shut-door" position, and other topics which I will address entirely on other pages of this site.
The BIBLE indicates that we are to have perseverance in our faith and that we must be willing to submit ourselves to the direction of God, no matter what "others" might say or believe ("here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.- Rev. 14:12). What may be right for some may not be right for me if I understand and have accepted my position as a "Priest" and "Apostle" (disciple) of Christ to a perishing world. There were many things which were "alright" for the children of Israel to do at other times of the year that were NOT alright for them to do during the "Day of Atonement" (a time when they were to afflict themselves in the most brutal manner of examination as to whether they were, indeed, right with God). What might be alright for me to have done during another age is not necessarily alright for me to do NOW -- considering the times in which we live.
I have complete confidence in the writings of Ellen White and feel nothing but sorrow for those who are too lazy or too unwilling to allow her words to speak to them. Her words can be trusted. We can rest assured of this, IF we will approach her writings with a balanced and intelligent mindset. I believe that the reason so many people today have "Trouble" with Ellen's writings is that they often "Cut across the grain" of our own habits and thought patterns and we would rather not read such things. We have become very LAZY students and are, therefore, often easily led astray by the criticisms and beliefs of others. We want to live "Comfortable" lives and we want to justify our behaviors. We don't want to listen to someone who challenges us to THINK or to BEHAVE differently. We don't want to hear a "Thus saith the Lord"! Indeed, we have become Laodicea! We are Lukewarm and in need of Spiritual Discernment. May God help us to make better personal use of the Spirit of Prophecy and to prepare for the soon coming of our Lord and Savior. The End is near!
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