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

On the contrary, the church puts both the Bible and EGW’s writings above God.

Case in point: God has revealed to man many of the secrets of creation, nature and the universe - yet the church puts the biblical text above this.


There is no way around the fact that chronologically, our maker’s first book is nature.

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There of course is no evidence that God told EGW or anyone else to write down anything. All we have is her own uncorroborated assertion (and the fact that several things she wrote are patently false). Even the gospel writers (in respect of whom we neither have any evidence of a divine mandate to write) quoted the Jesus character as stating that 2 or 3 witnesses are required to establish any fact. Yet EGW supporters hang their hats on her own unsubstantiated assertion.


I agree that church humanitarian organizations do a good job. ADRA, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and many other church related organizations do very important humanitarian work. They work alongside organizations such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders and a host of others to meet the needs of many. There is plenty of room for both church and nonchurch related agencies.

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But Jesus supposedly said do your good deeds in secret rather than making a big deal about them, right?

Or did I miss a memory verse?

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Read Krister Stendahl’s The School of St. Matthew: And its use of the OT for more detailed discussion of this phenomenon. Also: Richard Longenecker’s Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period.

I’ve been a student of Alden Thompson’s and have always appreciated his emphasis on the spiritual growth of Ellen White throughout her ministry. That point which he raises again in this review is a reminder that we might have all benefitted to view Ellen White (and all pastors and leaders) as fellow travelers finding insight and passage just as we do, through reading, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and fellowship. The prophetic role, more specifically the role of inspiration, is part of the believer’s journey, after all, if the Bible is the living word of God.

Those writings of her among the “testimonies” which have most helped me have always been her exchanges with other believers— comparing what they’ve learned and discovered. The best leadership recognizes and affirms the leading of God in the hearts and minds of others. They are fellow travelers with a talent for hearing and seeing, in other words, a slightly better road map. Instead, we’ve elevated them as celebrities, and in Ellen’s case, as talismans proving we are “the chosen remnant.” I see in her later writings especially, hints that this was not to her liking, nor potentially with her consent. Certainly true in the deification that happened after her death.

I wonder, if we’d followed Jesus’s advice to not institute rank and lord authority in the church, would we be at more peace with Ellen White today? Would we be able to appreciate her insights without the bruises from some who used her writings to hit us over the head? Serious issues with the sources she referenced without citation, and the heavy editing of her writing would have been less disillusioning if we hadn’t used “her amazing writing that surpasses her education,” as a proof of her prophetic gift. I’d love to be able yo appreciate EGW in a less-exalted manner, but that’s not what the church has allowed her to be. That lesser light has far too often been blown up to a brightness and value superseding her wishes or truth. That’s our fault, of course.

Dr Thompson once mentioned that Martin Luther’s followers regarded him as a prophet, too. That foreshadowed that this might be the eventual fate of Ellen White’s role, more founder than phenomenon. I think she’d rest easier in our culture if that transition were to begin. Thank you, Dr Thompson, for keeping Ellen a fellow believer, on her own journey of growth for so many of us.

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Continuing the discussion from “Can We Trust a Prophet Who Gets It Wrong?”:

About Matthew’s understanding of “fulfillment”, I find David L. Turner’s commentary helpful:
“But fulfillment in Matthew has as much to do with historical patterns as it does with prophetic predictions. Prophetic prediction involves the prophet’s foresight of a future event (cf. 2:4–6), but Matthew’s fulfillment quotations more often involve Christian hindsight in which an Old Testament historical event serves as a pattern for a New Testament event that it anticipated. Historical events, whether past, present, or future, are viewed as the providential outworking of God’s plan. Also, Old Testament prophecy is not primarily prediction but ethical admonition that utilizes the rehearsal of past events, as well as the prediction of future events, as motivation to effect present covenant loyalty.Fulfillment in Matthew involves ethical and historical matters, as well as predictive prophecy.” (2005) Cornerstone biblical commentary, vol. 11, pp. 13-17

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Did it ever occur to you that “Matthew” was creating a story line to appear as fulfilling prophecy? That is, he was writing fiction to correspond to a midrashic insight into the Jewish scriptures rather than reporting actual historical events and finding some basis to connect them to prophecies, the character of Jesus himself being the illustration of midrashic interpretation.


I do not think tha Matthew was creating a fictional account.
The existence of Jesus of Nazareth some 2000 years ago is not really in dispute (see Brittanica article as example.)
But you raise an important question. How accurate is ancient biography/ historiography? Craig Keener in his NT background commentary states the following:
“Both Jewish and Gentile writers could take some liberties in how they recounted their narratives, but biographies about recent characters were supposed to be grounded in facts. Many scholars view ancient biography as a specialized form of ancient historiography.Whenever possible, historians consulted eyewitnesses or those who knew them. While historians and novelists both used some similar storytelling (or in elite circles, rhetorical) techniques, ancient writers (from *Aristotle to Pliny and *Lucian) insisted that history must deal in facts and distinguished it from novels.
Like many historians, journalists and others today, ancient historians had particular themes they wanted to emphasize. History was full of meaning and was to be written in a way that brought out its meaning. Far more often than novelists, historians (and still more clearly biographers) wrote with clear moral, political or theological agendas and expected readers to draw lessons from their works.
Most historians and biographers also sought to recount their narratives in a lively and entertaining way. At the same time, however, historians by definition sought to follow the sense of their sources, to be as accurate as possible. Even those who took the most freedom followed the basic substance of history; and, where they had inadequate sources, they aimed for verisimilitude.
Are the Gospels Accurate? On the continuum between more and less careful biographers, the writers of the Gospels are among the most careful…”
On youtube, check out Keener’s course on “Acts” and watch his six introductory lectures on the book. He even provides a 30 minute excursus on modern day well documented miracles and resuscitations. Hope this helps.

I see in this article only justification and upholding of Ellen White despite her false claims and literary dishonesty, which can be traced even from her very first vision. This approch (of Thompson) of course, can be expected from every loyal believer of EGW.
It does not matter how young a person is whom God calls, for he will enable them to speak and write and thus fulfill his mission.


She was more than a fellow believer, who was called a prophet and she called herself a messenger of the Lord, under the direct guidance of the Lord. She was expected to be honest with her writings and testimonies, but she was not.


The Marian apparition of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette of Lourdes is the foundation for many purported medical miracles which Catholics say prove their dogmas. However, such “well documented miracles” are less likely to impress SDAs or other Protestants. Joan of Arc sincerely believed she was being commanded by God to save the king of France. God spoke to her via two female saints. However, these saints who were popular in the epoch during which Joan lived, existed only in legend. That is to say they purported lived in the 4th or 5th centuary AD but did not appear in legends until the 9th century AD. So Joan could not have objectively experienced them. Nonetheless, she was sincere enough in her belief in them that she was burnt alive for insisting in their reality. There are many “well documented” instances of believers of various religions sincerelly believing things which are not objectively true. As David Hume said: the sage person proportions the strength of their beliefs to the weight of the evidence. The more incredible the miracle, the more evidence is required to believe it. Events 2 millennia ago in the life time of Jesus are inherently difficult to investigate and find “objective” proof for. If I told you that a dead person in India was resuscitated after being dead for 3 days, what evidence would you require before believing me???


For those, like me, who have spent decades unraveling the historical problems with the traditional Christian story, an article in an encyclopedia or a quote from a random professor carries little weight.

The evidence for a historical Jesus is meager at best, and the birth of the movement can easily be explained by a-historicity.

The anonymous author of Matthew’s gospel was expanding upon the anonymous author of Mark’s gospel. In doing so, there is clear evidence that he was grasping for clues in the Jewish scriptures for material which could be rewritten into the story of Jesus. He was not looking for actual data of historical events to construct his account. In order to find out what Jesus would have done, he didn’t inquire as to the evidence; rather, he went to the Old Testament to find out what this character did, or would have done, via imaginative interpretation.

Regarding Acts, it is more and more becoming evident that Acts is a second century fiction, using unrelated sources such as Homer and Josephus to rewrite an account which has no relation to actual history. As much as anything, it appears to be purposed to rehabilitate Paul, since it presents a theology far different than his letters. This may have been a means to absorb Paul into proto-orthodoxy following the use of his letters by Marcion ca 143 CE, creating a different context and teaching.


Iow, her plagiarism and the fact that the final form of what was published had far more to do with her ghost writers than with her would have been passable if nothing was said about her lack of education behind the product?

I don’t think so. Plagiarism is still plagiarism and not acknowledging your ghost writing team is still giving a false impression, regardless of educational level. Elegant apologetics that soft soap the issues are still apologetics, even if the source is one as erudite as Dr. Thompson.



We can agree to disagree. As for Craig Keener, he published a four volume commentary on Acts totalling over 4500 pages, with some 45 thousand references to ancient sources. I am not exaggerating, look this up on amazon. And if I recall correctly, most recent scholars date Acts in the years 70-90 range, of the first century. Acts historicity, where it can be tested, comes out quite good.

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But there is no way to test any of the NT for philosophical or spiritual accuracy.

IOW, even if it could be proved that Jesus was a real person, there is no way to verify any NT author’s claim that he understood Jesus gospel, or that any of the quotes attributed their master are things he actually said.

I find Paul’s version particularly suspect as he only ever met his Christ figure in his dreams and given that he, himself, admits that in his evangelist fervor, he would say pretty much anything to “close the deal” with potential converts.

Sure, one can believe that writers unknown to Jesus, and to us, were capable of scrupulously expressing Jesus’ theology in words, despite the fact that he didn’t do so himself, and claim that the intervening translations and intervals of time have not diluted the meaning beyond anything Jesus himself would have recognized.

But this can be only believed, and short of a verifiable 2nd Coming, is impossible to substantiate. So to denigrate and demean those who are not so credulous, or to act as if the burden of proof is on the skeptic, is a divisive disservice, not only to humanity in general, but also diminishes the laissez faire aspects of Jesus philosophy, if the extant NT canon is to be believed, at least in some part.

IOW, it seems the height of audacity to ask that anyone turn his life upside down based on stories and visions which are “quite good” as opposed to 100% verifiable and unassailably accurate.

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I am not sure how to respond. Thanks for the thoughts.

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However, I found these terms rightly represented (fitly represent her sentiments) in all of her writings, and it’s a fact. Do you want the truth to be silenced for the sake of promoting confidence in falsehood? God forbid! Bible authors did not gloss over the sins and wickedness of God’s chosen ones and the people in general.

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Who passed between these pieces?

Bible: “…behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram”
Ellen White: This being done, he [Abraham] reverently passed between the parts of the sacrifice, making a solemn vow to God of perpetual obedience” (PP, p. 137, 1890).
Abraham had no part in this covenant except to accept the covenant made by God by ratifying it by making a burning lamp pass between the pieces.
Is this not outrageous and outlandish?