“Can We Trust a Prophet Who Gets It Wrong?”

Review of Father Miller’s Daughter: Ellen Harmon White (2022) and Child of the Apocalypse: Ellen G. White (2021), by Donald E. Casebolt.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/arts-essays/2023/can-we-trust-prophet-who-gets-it-wrong

Thank you for another viewpoint. This helps the conversation.

Thompson has rendered (again) an astonishingly helpful analysis of how God has interacted throughout history with those believers/writers/editors who experienced God’s presence to a degree few of us can appreciate. Their collective and individual efforts opened to us ways of “seeing” God’s workings in a variety of ways and historical situations. At the very least, Ellen White joins a pantheon of others whose spiritual journeys (imperfect though they be) and theological insights spawned movements with the potential to move God’s vision for the world forward in a meaningful (not perfect) way. For us she is “formative;” for the canon which is normative, she enthusiastically upholds it.


this is quite interesting…given the clear way the NT interprets the OT, it does call into question the assumption that exegesis is the only valid method of biblical interpretation…

i think the evident premise that egw’s endorsement of the Nichols chart that included several Millerite items in addition to the 2300 day prophecy means an endorsement of all of these additional items, has been the problem:

“Since the 1843 chart was inspired by the Spirit of God and the “figures were just as He wanted them,” the “figures” of all the prophetic periods in this chart must be valid.” Spectrum, March 4, 2022.

much of this series focused on showing the futility of these additional items, which no-one disputes…the fact remains that egw doesn’t highlight these additional items in her own writings, as she does the 2300 day prophecy…

JXLB75, I question it being astonishingly helpful, and agree that ‘few can understand’ particularly in light of EGW’s claims that her expositions on all things came to her from God’s revelation to her and also that based on this her validity and writings are to be accepted as - all or nothing.
For example 1.
“The Colored People should not urge that they be placed on an equality with White People” (Testimonies, 9:214). 2. ‘I was shown that the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, relating to the shut door, could not be separated… My accompanying angel bade me look for the travail of soul for sinners as used to be. I looked, but could not see it, for the time of their salvation is past…’ Present Truth, August 1849.
Huh? Scripture tells us today is the day for salvation 2 Cor 6;2. Ie until the time when Jesus returns

These statements of hers are undeniably persuasive of God’s perspective are they not?
Along with all these are many assertions from her such as

“God does nothing in partnership with Satan. My work for the past thirty years bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy. There is no halfway in the matter’ 4 Testimonies, p 230.
. . . I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision - the precious rays of light shining from the throne" (Testimonies, Vol. 5, pp. 63-67).

“I wish all to understand that my confidence in the light that God has given stands firm, because I know that the Holy Spirit’s power magnified the truth, and made it honorable, saying: ‘This is the way, walk ye in it.’ In my books, the truth is stated, barricaded by a ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ The Holy Spirit traced these truths upon my heart and mind as indelibly as the law was traced by the finger of God, upon the tables of stone…” (Letter 90, 1906)

Alden’s work is commendable and I was impressed by his book ‘Inspiration’ however this article to me shows the degree of complexity that her defenders are going into in order to try and make her credible. .
While the biblical writers were human and fallible, they did not represent themselves in this way. Thus she condemns herself.


I have always respected Dr. Thompson’s analysis of the hermenuetical issue within Adventism and certainly he brings up some needed questions and perhaps correctives to Casebolt’s position. However, a question from Thompson’s review was stimulated. He begins by making a case for non-contextual uses and interpretations of Scripture, noting the New Testament’s messianic uses of O.T. texts and then also the Midrash tradition. I am wondering if he was making the inference that the Millerite-Snow-Turner-Hale-Crosier was legitimate and should be upheld today. Secondly, if that is indeed the inference he draws, why then make the case for the growth-model? I have long believed in the progressive development of EGW’s thinking, but what does bother me is the apparent absence of her referring to earlier held positions as being “off the mark”. Also I would like someone to talk about the difference between application and fullfillment. It seems we are confusing the two.

Just a couple of observations - I’m not sure what the problem is with Matt using Hos 11 as alluding to "Jesus coming “out of Egypt”. Hosea 11:1 is simply another allusion to a previous "call out of Egypt"t - the Exodus experience of Israel, as God’s son, “coming out of Egypt”. Hos 11:1 refers to Israel “when he was young” but went astray. Jesus, God’s son, was to be called out of Egypt like Israel God’s first son, forecasting Jesus.

The second, is an observation - Midrash sounds something like reading poetry, as the poet’s original message will be personalized when read.

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EGW’s egotistical and utterly unfalsifiable assertion that her experience of god was superior to, or more exquisite than that which is available to any of god’s creatures is insulting to every other human and an affront to anyone who understands the ubiquitous nature of our creator.

One need read no further in her writings than such statements to suspect that they are not of the source she claims.


to me - and i have no particular insight into Thompson’s intentions in his review - the point of the midrash/historicism diversion was to show that Casebolt’s frustration with Adventist historicism may not be completely valid, although i think Thompson is saying it’s as understandable as he’s own frustration and anger over Matthew’s use of midrash to interpret Hosea 11:1…Thompson brings up the notion of surprises - negative surprises - for someone assuming that exegesis is the only legitimate approach…i don’t think he was using non-contextual illustrations to attempt to infer the legitimacy of the teachings of some of egw’s contemporaries so much as he was trying to make what he sees as Casebolt’s “mission to show that Ellen White is an unreliable guide to adventist doctrine and history” understandable, and to be as generous as possible…

i think Thompson’s use of what he calls a growth model was to show that neither Daily’s “con artist” model nor Casebolt’s “honest but misinformed guide” model, for egw, were strictly necessary, or accurate…in fact he suggests, through a number of illustrations, that his growth model is more legitimate than either Daily’s or Casebolt’s because it comports with clear, objective facts…this is after he asserts that Casebolt overlooks a growth model because he wants to rid the Church of the tendency to see egw’s word as the last word…i think he’s implying that the use of a growth model would be too charitable for this purpose…

i get the feeling that Thompson has a dim view of Casebolt, like he does of Daily…he doesn’t seem to think that Casebolt strengthens faith or enriches the Church…i think this review is a devastating indictment of Casebolt…

i agree we are almost certainly conflating the two…perhaps Thompson can be persuaded to consider this question in a future article…

This is how cults are started.

This is also why cults never gain traction with less credulous, secular society.

Not only is there no tangible proof for such claims but the notion that god supposedly “plays favorites” and picks a veritable handful of humans from the billions available throughout history with whom to have a special relationship seems nonsensical to those who do not arbitrarily impose limits on our creator’s power.

More importantly, and no matter what method one chooses to study her work, that EGW upholds the canon rather than rejecting the idea that the Bible was somehow made more holy and special in the canonization process is why her work-like that of the pantheon of different charlatans whose reasoning is just like hers-will never be considered persuasive by more critical and wholistic individuals who are unwilling to submit to or respect fallacious “thus sayeth the lord” appeals to a higher authority, or people who gainsay that authority, which, while being putatively omnipotent, inexplicably speaks only to an exceedingly random (and most likely vainglorious) few.


A contemporary of Ellen’s, Harriett Tubman, has a similar history. At an early age, Harriett was seriously hit on her head by a metal wight intended for someone else. Later in her life she ended up having headaches and flashes of light, also causing her to have episodes of lost time, with her claiming to see visions from God. She was, of course, a leader in the Underground Railroad that brought innumerable slaves to freedom.

I don’t know, but when someone makes claims of having this kind of contact with God, and then makes various claims about what God wants from us etc. … If anyone were to set a specific future date for anything that fails to materialize, three different times, isn’t it logical to call all the rest of what proceeds from it, into question.


Interesting, her use of the quotation “a little here, a little there” or aka line upon line, precept upon precept from Isaiah 28:10, and further 28:13. EGW (and other preachers too) seem to use this as a helpful method to reach people, but the context is of reaching drunken priests and prophets and them being snared by it - in a bad way. In the New English translation Isaiah 28:13 is “Now to them the word of the Lord will be ‘A little more here, a little there!’ and so, as they walk, they will stumble backwards. they will be injured, trapped, and caught.” Normally, we COULD trust a prophet who got it wrong, but this article deals with a “prophet” who had a little here-a little there ideas on every conceivable topic, exponentially increasing the odds of the need to backtrack (once in a while?) but stuck mightily to her guns that EVERY WORD proceeded from the mouth of God to her pen. I don’t think so.


Thanks, Alden! Thought-provoking, as always.

Why must it be so complicated?

All people are human, make mistakes, change their minds.

And God is great, God is good, and God is gracious.

We’ll never fully comprehend Him, so why not gratefully bask in the glory of his grace.

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Then the church can’t be a cult since the church is successful and the church does not put her writing above the Bible or above God

If God told you what to write, i don’t think that you would back track

If the church was actually successful, that fact would be self-evident.

So you wouldn’t have to give anyone your opinion about it, nor assure me that your little denomination isn’t a cult.

Also, the Bible is about 1,000 pages long.

At the time of her death, EGW’s books totaled over 100,000 pages, not including articles, pamphlets, sermons, letters, etc.

This clearly indicates that EGW thought her stuff was way more important than another other self-infatuated prophets, so Adventists should spend at least 100 times more of their study on her writings, rather than reading the Bible, or any other purportedly “holy” book.

Most importantly if you were a Christian, as opposed to being an Adventist, you wouldn’t spend any time arguing with someone like me who thinks you belong to a cult and would waste zero effort trying to change anyone’s beliefs about EGW.

You would just shake the dust from your slides and go looking for new converts elsewhere.


You don’t have to be so mean, i just answer back since i don’t like people spreading lies about God and people trying to follow God. The church has thousands of humanitarian workers all over the earth and is doing as much as the red cross or other agencies.

I think it’s mean to call a person a liar just as I think is is unchristlike to seek recognition for one’s “good works”.

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Mormonism is successful. So is Islam. So what?