Against Thompson's Non-Contextual Methodology

This is a response to a book review by Alden Thompson published by Spectrum on March 30, 2023.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

May the Lord bless brother Casebolt as he continues to wrestle with the reality of Sister White. Someday we will understand the mechanics of the prophets’ work more fully. And I do appreciate his cautious approach to over zealous, literal and excessively detailed adulation of her work and writings. But what is always lacking in such critiques (and I’ve read many of them over the years) is what I would call a normal appreciation for her incredible gifts and insights. There are many times when I read a passage from Sister White that just blow me away. Her Conflict of the Ages series, her dozen or so other major works far surpass the work of highly regarded leaders like John Calvin, John Wesley, Martin Luther or Charles Spurgeon. Her exile to Australia, her powerful advocacy for inter racial evangelism, for women’s rights, for temperance and for including the big cities in evangelism, all these things say as much as anything can about the beautiful way the Lord worked through this very humble person.

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George, EGW was very gifted and productive but for every Don Casebolt their are already a 100 apologists that argue that EGW is essentially inerrant. I am attempting to correct their lopsided, inaccurate, and hagiographic accounts. She did state that masturbation was the predominate cause of tuberculosis, insanity, death and many other loathsome diseases which is simply erroneous. She wrote this before Koch discovered the TB bacilli. She repeated numerous erroneous Millerite prophetic interpretations. The Ottoman Empire did not collapse Aug 11, 1840 as Litch, Miller, and EGW claimed. The “daily sacrifice” did refer to physical OT animal sacrifices, not the entity of pagan Rome as White said. SS Snow’s Midnight Cry was not the glorious light emanating from Christ’s glorious right hand as she says she “saw” in her first vision. Crosier did not have the “true light” on the sanctuary as she says, etc, etc., etc. Your appreciation of the beauty of EGW’s productions is like the proverb says “in the eyes of the beholder.” Others may not agree with you that EGW surpasses the world renowned personages you cite. AS I stated in the beginning, the purpose of the minority (me) is not to repeat the platitudes of the parlimentary majority (the magisterium of the church and 19 million laypersons.


It seems to me that many-indeed the vast majority-are “blown away” by EGW but not in the sense apparently used by @GeorgeOfThePort.

Rather, they are blown away from Adventism as they see that the founder of the denomination did not so much glorify Jesus as she glommed onto his legacy.



Thank you for a sound response to Alden’s critiques. Historicist Adventism is bereft of defence for its waywardness and with the increasing evidence mounting against its pioneers garbled theology its inept defences only serve to confirm its lost cause.


After a while the conclusion needs to be drawn from the evidence, “The empress has no clothes.” Dr. Thompson, as do many Adventists academics, will fight against that with a measure of erudition. Their apologetic arguments don’t hold water.



How difficult it is to abandon cherished and long-held beliefs!

It is impossible to ignore the comment about the beauty of Ellen White’s writings, as though that is enough to be a prophet. If it were enough, we must propose elevation of Marian Davis to prophet status.

I have read many 19th century writers whose ideas and writings far surpass Sister White in intelligence and beauty.

I salute Casebolt for sharing his scholarship with us.


Still waiting for unambiguous acknowledgements in the front of every EGW book, thanking her editorial team for taking her poor prose and inadequate research and making literary chapters that sing and take flight. This includes Marion Davis, Fannie Bolton, James White, numerous CG presidents and staff, and many many others. The White Estate knows who all these people are, they know what passages were borrowed to “fill-out” her chapters, AND YET still they resist Doing The Right Thing. They say that everything EGW wrote is now available on-line, but these are the edited and sanitized versions. Let us see the handwritten pages before the editorial staff got hold of them; we aren’t talking normal authors here, this author was “shown things” from God. Let us see. I applaud Mr. Casebolt for trying, anyway.


It’s unfortunate that the superstitious people of her era were attracted to the mysticism of Ellen White rather than see her as a spiritual person who grew in wisdom. Her utterances became the Bible including secular information of the day and old-wives tales. But the ignorance of those days reaches into our age with the literal use of White found on two extreme sides. We can call them liberal and ultraconservative for no better words, but they take the Bible and White literally.
Thompson, Graybill and others researched and wrote valuable insights about White. But now we’ve gone beyond their objective and real work to embracing character assassination by some authors. This ignores the big picture of White’s leadership, health reform and the founding of a denomination that has been a blessing to the world in spite of its flaws. I understand that belief in White’s visions was not needed to join the Adventist Church at one time. But that should not include slandering its founder for having secretaries, editors, or research like any other leader.

White’s major writings are Christ-centered even if critical readers aren’t. People tend to latch onto the material (what is seen) instead of spirituality. They focus on a leader’s mistakes instead of their overall love of God and people. I believe the Spirit directed White in major relevant truths not usually accepted in her era. While the infallible group uses “being shown” as some sort of voice from God, liberals do the same to destroy her influence and because of unbelief. Neither side understands the word.
Early writings is obviously an allegory as are other dreams or visions. I would suggest that many other Christians also have dreams, visions, enlightenment (“a flash of intellect”) that speak to them and those around them. We are just not aware of these prophetic voices. They include pastors, teachers, scholars, farmers and janitors.

Unless and until Jesus himself returns and says “I agree with everything EGW wrote and said.”, you have no evidence other than Mrs. White’s self-aggrandizing assertions to show that your words aren’t as unchristian as were hers.

There is evidence, however, to show that EGW’s attempts to package “health reform” in with Jesus’ “god news” is diametrically opposed to his reported assertion that a person isn’t defiled by what goes into his mouth.

Thus your uncritical and unsubstantiated beliefs about her can be refuted as easily as saying, “I don’t believe you or her.”


Don Casebolt - Thank you so much for unveiling errors in E. White’s understanding. The church has been extremely remiss in not discussing these errors openly. Leaders have left the impression in people’s minds that every word E. White ever shared regarding health or interpretations of scripture were direct revelations from God. This was the “consensus Adventist explanation” that was presented to me when I became an Adventist at age 17.

As time progressed, I found it fascinating to read such quotes as “Now for instance some one may tell you that Sister White does not eat meat. ‘If you haven’t got any better conviction, that you won’t eat meat just because Sister White does not eat it, I would not give one farthing for your health reform. But I want every one of you to stand on your individual dignity, in your individual consecration to God; that the soul-temple shall be dedicated to God.’ I understand her to be saying, “Don’t believe anything just because I’m persuaded in a certain direction. Make your own decisions based upon available evidence.” 16LtMs, Ms 43c, 1901, par 14.

Another intriguing quotation: “There is no excuse for any one in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.” - Ellen White, “Christ Our Hope,” RH , December 20, 1892.

Non-contextual interpretations can be quite disconcerting, even as seen in scripture, i.e. Matthew’s quoting Hosea 11:1: “Out of Egypt I have called my son” in Matthew 2.15 to refer to Christ being brought to Egypt by his parents in order to escape Herod’s murder of Hebrew children. A secular university education in literature exposed me to intertextuality - the practice of famous authors i.e. Shakespeare using quotations of other poets, purposely applying non-contextual meanings to various quotations. This helped me accept such scriptural statements that claimed “fulfillment” as meaning “This brings fullness to that which was said.” As logical beings, we don’t expect non-contextuality in our everyday communications, and can find it confusing and counter-productive to creating understanding. I can’t help but wonder if God wishes Biblical authors would have left such writing practices alone, but graciously meets people where they are, and tries to gradually lead people to other means of communication.

Bottom line, I’m very grateful to what you’re bringing out about E. White’s errors and I hope the magisterium of the church will address these honestly and “head on.” In the meantime, I take everything E. White wrote and weigh it against evidence, since obviously everything she said was not dictated to her by God and only reflected her understanding based on current knowledge, not what was in reality true. I am so grateful for the beautiful insights about God’s love that she shared, especially towards the end of her life, such as the insight - “By a life of rebellion, Satan and all who unite with him place themselves so out of harmony with God that His very presence is to them a consuming fire. The glory of Him who is love will destroy them** DA 764. That statement led me to discover evidence for this perspective I hadn’t seen before in Exodus 33:18-20, Isaiah 33:14, John 12:47-48 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9. I have not read anything so progressive in any other Christian literature, and it drew me back to a belief in Christ after having been so confused and frustrated with what was being taught as “consensus truth” in the church.

Present tense, I see E. White as a person who made many non-contextual statements/interpretations about scripture - especially when younger - yet grew in her understanding of the love of God as she matured. She appears to be a person who cared deeply about sharing beautiful insights she’d had the chance to learn about God. To erase misconceptions about God, to stand strong against injustice anywhere in the world, be it inside or outside of the church - it appears to me these became her reason for being and incorrect, non-essential interpretations of prophecy fell to the wayside. As one person who attended the 1888 Conference reported, when E. White was asked about her interpretation of the various horns in Daniel - a subject that had generated a great deal of heat rather than light at the conference - she replied wearily, “There are too many horns.” Charts about prophecies didn’t seem to hold any particular interest for her there. Instead, Christ’s life purpose “to set men right through the revelation of God” {ST, January 20, 1890 par. 9} - seems to have become her raison d’etre as well.


Sorry, your response doesn’t click with me; not sure what is meant with its negative words and why they are more “Christian.” than mine.

I was speaking to the subject and not targeting Don Casebolt. I have not read his book and apologize to him for any misunderstanding.

Unlike Joseph Smith, Jerry Falwell, Paul née Saul, the Pope, Peter Popoff, EGW, David Koresh and hundreds of other celebrities, I did not claim my words were Christian.

In fact, I readily admit that I don’t know Jesus and have never read anything he wrote. Further, I don’t believe anyone who claims to have any more direct information about him than I do.

Most importantly, I’m okay with not being sure about what it means to be “Christ-centered” (a phrase which Jesus never used, BTW) as I’m assured he’ll be back any day now to sort it all out and at which point everyone will know which, if any, of his purported followers actually understood what his good news was all about.

But then again, if he doesn’t return before I die-or if Jesus never really existed-I’m totally okay with that as well.


I do not wat to go into details. just on the margin :

the case of the sinner in Luke 7 and Mary Magdalene in Luke 8 and the anointment in Bethany once was presented here - a myth , fosterd by some Pope in early meadiaeval times.

A verse continuously misused by Bible believers is Phil 4 : 13 in a literal meaning and forgetting verse 12 - -

  • -just for example - there we simply have the traditions in reading /quoting Bible verses through the communities of believers by the centuries before us . Often for me it seems EGW just interprets in her /our tradition - - -


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I have no quarrel with Casebolt’s historical research on Ellen G. White. I am sure the White Estate and other SDA historians will do a thorough review. The net result, however, of this “demythologizing” process, I believe, will lead the average SDA layperson to believe that such a “flawed, weak, brain-damaged” individual could not be an inspired prophet in the same “Special Revelation” category as the Bible writers. As viewed by many SDAs, the Bible (and EGW) was virtually dictated by God, with very few, if any, errors.

This “high” view of scripture, in contrast to the “low” view of the deconstructed EGW, therefore places EGW in a role, at best, of a very human, wise, spiritual, prolific writer, but not having a direct line of communication with God. The “baby” is therefore thrown out with the “bathwater.” And If EGW is not a prophet, then, for many, the SDA Church is not of God either.

But let’s take a quick look at the broader context of the real, unvarnished, nature of Inspiration and Revelation. Is it really so neat, tidy, inerrant, absolute, and infallible? It is my view that the Bible has many more “problem” statements than does EGW. A few KJV examples:

God has to come down to see if things are as bad in Sodom as He is hearing. Gen. 18:21
It’s OK to beat a slave if he doesn’t die within two days. Ex. 21:21
God laughs at our calamity, mocks our fear. Prov. 1:28
He will punish parents by having animals eat their children. Lev. 26:22
He came down to see the tower of Babel. Gen. 11:5
He repents of His evil thoughts. Ex. 32:14
Israelite soldiers must kill all men, women, children, but keep the virgins for themselves. Num. 31:18
Paul, face to face, confronts Peter (a prophet) for his bad theology. Gal. 2:11
Drink holy water and belly will swell, thigh will rot, if guilty of adultery. Num. 5:27
God makes people deaf and blind. Ex. 4:11

Calling some of these merely “anthropomorphisms” does not take away from the fact that the writers believed what they wrote were literal facts. Yet we still believe the Bible is an inspired revelation from God, because the overwhelming wisdom and truths of the Bible vastly outnumber the problems. The same is true of the Writings of EGW.

A good principle to remember when stumbling over such troubling verses as the above is that “every [Scripture] in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light which streams from the cross of Calvary” (MSS2O 336 EGW).

This pretty much sums it up for me.

From what I’ve seen, Ellen White is a no more a prophet than was Chicken Little.

So in my opinion, Adventism is all about turning a profit based on her judgmental nature, as well as her supposedly inspired but essentially insipid fear-mongering, which I ultimately suspect is about as “Christian” as is Donald Trump.


E. White has certainly been portrayed as judgmental in compilations that have been published - strong statements isolated from the cushions of love and concern that surrounded them.

And she grew. I love where what she grew into, as reflected in this statement. “It is not the saint but the sinner that needs compassion, for whom we must labor earnestly and perseveringly. The angels have special charge of weak and trembling souls, those who have many defects, many objectionable traits of character. ‘Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. . . . Angels are ever present where they are most needed. They are with those who have the hardest battles to fight, with those who must battle against inclination and hereditary tendencies, whose home surroundings are the most discouraging. . . . Let no one venture to work with Satan to discourage souls who have much to contend against. Let them not by word or by deed push them upon Satan’s battlefield.’” - Review and Herald, April 16, 1895.

Lovely words.

With absolutely no proof she wrote them or that they are any indication of her mindset at the time they were written.

Further, by the time she became incoherent around 1910, according to many accounts she had become difficult, demanding and demeaning towards those closest to her-even physically assaulting one of her (not holy) ghost writers-and there is no reason to believe that in her dotage she had become anything other than a wanna be rich lady who was deeply in debt and no more Christ-like than Joe Smith.


Are you referring to the Joe Smith who is a retired USA professional basketball player who was drafted by the NBA in 1995 from the University of Maryland- the first overall pick that year? :slight_smile:

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I was referring to Joe Smith the MLB pitcher:

I certainly was not talking about the founder of Mormonism who was shot died after jumping from a second story window in a botched jail break attempt.