Case by Casebolt: William Miller’s Jubilees

“Case by Casebolt” is a recurring series examining the prophetic interpretations that Ellen White appropriated from William Miller.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/12006
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except when her own historical, psychological, and sociological context is considered. She was a twelve-year-old, suffering a chronic brain injury, caught up in an isolated subculture

Exactly. It would be high time that the SDA church acknowledged that she had no “prophetic gift”.

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I’m sure it’s been said before but it seems there is a fine line between exegesis and eisigesis.

I thnk it’s difficult to deny that unless one feels a “burning in the bosom” for EGW similar to what Mormons profess for Joe Smith or the spiritual connection Muslims reportedly experience with Mohammed and the Koran, Adventism has its roots in the latter and since it’s inception has been reading “itself into the text”. This, rather than attempt to accomplish the impossible; that is, reestablishment of the mind set and zeitgeist of all the different eras covered by the Bible and conclusively establishing what the author meant to say and how it was received by his listeners.

Even more importantly, the underlying question is why would a loving, omnipotent god require such a Sisyphus-ian task of any of his creatures, given that, by definition, one of his powers must be that of direct interaction with his handiwork?

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This is not an “all or nothing” situation, it seems to me. As I point out in my article for Spectrum some months ago, we do not need to always and necessarily ascribe the traditional notion of “inspiration” – each “I saw” or “it was revealed to me” in a supernatural, momentary event – to Ellen White or anyone else, even in Scripture. Once we accept that the Holy Spirit uses any and all means to guide the community of believers (not only SDA) to deeper and deeper understanding of the Gospel, we can appreciate the fact that Luther, Calvin, Wesley, et al were “inspired” by the Spirit to see aspects that have informed the community of believers. EGW was “formative” of the SDA community, but she is not “normative.” Only the Canon can be, not because it is perfect, but because it is “formative” of the entire Christian witness. We have our own witness that can enhance the whole, as do multiple other communities “formed” by their founders. All you say is appropriate and insightful, but should not be dispositive of what we trust the Holy Spirit accomplished through her even when we misunderstood the “processes” behind what she (and other early leaders) contributed. Can we dismiss the Sabbath insights, non-immortality of the soul, healthcare as a Christian duty, education as critically important, and so on, as having no connection whatsoever to the influence of the Spirit? Did not EGW in 1888 immediately recognize that Waggoner and Jones were “correct” about R by Faith? Why can that not, even without a claim of “vision”, be the work of the Holy Spirit? And is that same Spirit not guiding us every day in our preaching and teaching and praying together. Are we not still being “formed” with all our weaknesses, into disciples?

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There could be no greater lie than this. Miller never claimed inspiration, nor visitation by angels. What he did was his dependance upon others and his own imagination, which he admitted as a mistake!

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That is what should be done, but then the SDA house of cards would collapse.

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I think the church has becomes static in its theology and with a lot of its doctrine tied to the original ideas from the pioneers and ratified by EGW means its neigh on impossible to remove her from the pedestal we’ve put her on.

There’s probably enough evidence out there that shows her “Prophetic gift” was non existent however there’s still a lot of value in her as an inspired person and that may be the way the church can continue promoting her books while moving forward in the time we’re living

Our theologians however, need to get their acts together and rework a lot of our more obscure doctrines, harping back to the 1800’s is not the way to “win souls for the Kingdom”

These are very strange ideas. I am sorry that EGW was involved in them and I wish the church could be more transparent about these problems. This would be for the good of the entire church. Too many people elevate her to sainthood having the status of knowing the mind of God on almost every subject of life.

Given the flaws in all of it, from Socrates, Aristotle, The Canon, the Koran, the reformers, Spinoza, the renaissance, EGW’s writings, Billy Graham, Jimmy Jones, the words of Biden v. Putin, et tout le monde, what is it that enables anyone to determine what is of value in the words of another?

Doesn’t the most ardent Christian have no choice but to sort through even that which Jesus supposedly said in order to decide what is applicable to his life and when?

And do any of us, or any religion, do a complete and proper job of any of it?

Obviously not. Finite human knowledge combined with a limited set of facts can only ever achieve a “best guess” in regards to what is true or real.

But in the end, as we know salvation cannot be obtained en masse, does any individual have any reasonable recourse other than to boldly rely on his own ability to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e., intuition, logic, subjectivity, skepticism, emotion, etc., to thereby navigate his own path through the distractions, obstacles and dead ends of this life?

And if religion is of any value, whatsoever, doesn’t it lie in the area of enabling and enhancing one’s trust in this inner divinity rather than incessantly reminding him that he can’t be sure of anything, given his equally flawed nature and a necessarily incomplete comprehension of the world around him?

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The only way to win souls is not by distributing Great Controversy, but by preaching of of the simple Word of God. Church has to ‘come out of Her’!

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Given the flaws in all of it, from Socrates, Aristotle, The Canon, the Koran, the reformers, Spinoza, the renaissance, EGW’s writings, Billy Graham, Jimmy Jones, the words of Biden v. Putin, et tout le monde , what is it that enables anyone to determine what is of value in the words of another?

**One must keep two issues distinct but related in governing one’s life either with philosophy and ethics, or religious belief. There are major differences between theories, between religious beliefs, between what we pragmatically learn to understand, between whether pessimism or hope for the future makes sense to us. Yes, in the end we decide, just as we do in politics, but the values that we embrace (or embrace us), the reasoning that makes the most “sense” (in the larger meaning of that term) in relation to all of life, and the beliefs we form in our quest, are all up to us. But the formation of a “community” that seriously follows Jesus and wants to live as much as possible as he did, does have some guidance in both historical record (even if not perfect or provable historically). Currently I would argue that the Christianity defined by some voters is not at all Christian and that can be show by appealing to the one authority (supposedly) that all Christians claim. My point is that “inspiration” of all kinds, per individuals (musicians, artists, and so on) is a blend of factors we can identify up to a point through science, psychology, environment etc. A believing community includes perhaps at least one extra: that the God they worship uses every means possible to “guide” them into moral and theological truth AS A COMMUNITY and motivate them to live lives of service and mutual care. No “reasons” for such a belief can ever be isolated from all the others, and if one points to moments when the “light” comes on for seeing the world and reality in such a different way as being “led” to it, I cannot dispute it.

Doesn’t the most ardent Christian have no choice but to sort through even that which Jesus supposedly said in order to decide what is applicable to his life and when?

Yes, but “applicable” or seems most true? When one person’s life and death challenges all ordinary conceptions of what “power, and justice and love mean,” to accept it as applicable to one’s life is to surrender to it even if it seems almost impossible,

One question: are moral judgments statements of “fact” or of “preference” and “opinion?”

There is a disturbing problem with all of the gyrations that we go through to accept or reject any of this “prophetic” interpretation. That is, why would God give us messages from flawed vessels and then hold us accountable for accepting or rejecting “truth” from these same sources? This is a serious question that no one has been able to give me a good answer to. Even scripture itself, has contradictions which has given us several thousand different denominations all claiming to have derived their belief system from the same book. I hate it when I hear many Christians say “there is no contradiction in scripture”, because it simply shows that they have never read scripture.

In Miller’s case, I see something similar to what I saw in the movie “A Beautiful Mind”. If you play around with scriptures long enough, you can find mathematical correlation for almost anything. Just as the main character in the movie, he kept finding patterns that he “thought” were important, but was actually worthless drivel. The fact that you now have Ellen White substantiating these conclusions simply adds more fuel to the notion that God has not given us very many absolutes. The notion of what happened in 1844 is still in question. But…the term “cleansed”, that Adventists cling to, is actually better translated “restored”. Looking at it in that context, would suggest that the Adventist interpretation of the Sabbath, state of the dead, immortality of the soul, and a non- eternal hell, could all be a more relevant interpretation of what God wanted us to believe. But none of these things saves us. Believing in Jesus and His righteousness is the only way we can be saved is an absolute. Treating everyone as we would want ourselves treated is another absolute. I think we can feel comfortable accepting the 10 commandments as an absolute, but even in that, we have the Protestant and Catholic versions. But that, pretty much exhausts the absolutes. Everything else is much like the output of the character in “A Beautiful Mind”…drivel.

Some time ago, when Adventism began not making sense, I decided to focus on the Jesus of the Bible. I say “of the Bible” because that is all we have of the man, others claim was one of the three-part God. There is no such proof for that claim.

I had wished I had physically met him (on my way to get water at the well maybe ). What would I expect to experience? The woman in the Bible ended up convinced Jesus was the Messiah (whatever that meant to her). Her proof was that he knew everything about her; and deigned to even speak to her. Maybe anyone, with a little gut-feeling, could have correctly guessed her situation; but for her, it was a defining moment. I think we all have that one thing that clicks, and you know this guy is for real. Having said that, even the red printed words have been painted red by someone else, after the presumed fact. The rest of the NT is commentary from various points of view. In fact, even the four Gospels come from different points of view, even with one or two leaning on each other for validation.
For me, there are small hints of legitimacy - and that’s enough.

When it comes to the legacy of the church through the ages— they remind me of that “telephone game” kids play, whispering a message, supposedly the same as it travels down the line; and each kid claiming to hear it correctly. In the case of the church, claiming verification from the third “God-part” - again, no actual proof.

Once we have decided on the identity of the major character of this story, it all comes down to everything else needing to measure up to how we understand him. That’s all we’ve got.

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EGW is not elevated to sainthood. It is clear that Ellen white commended one thing- The Bible and the Bible alone, which is why I do not understand where these attacks are coming from. She, unlike others, did not never called herself prophet, but a lesser light, like the moon. The moon does not give it’s light, but reflects the light of the sun.
Concerning William Miller: EGW held him in high regard, as she did other great men like Luther and Wycliffe and Huss. This does not mean these men were without error. Even David and Solomon were not without error. I believe God reveals his truths little by little. Is it not the hand of God that led Luther to nail his 95 theses on the castle door of Wittenberg. Is it not the hand of God that revealed to him justification by faith?..that amazing truth. The same man who led the first great reformation?..How else could you explain it?. Yet this is the same man who also taught that a woman should resort to a young lover if his old husband can no longer perform in bed.
Like I said, God reveals his truths little by little. Luther lived by the truth present those days. Was not Miller the same?..the truths we hold this days is as a result of millennia of refinement. God’s hand moved Miller, and this is what egw attests to. She, evidently in her works, paid attention to what was important. That “2300 days then shall the sanctuary be cleansed”…was it not accurate in predicting the ministry of Christ? Miller lived by the truths he had, the present truth at that time, even though he was not always right.

Apologies for the grammatical errors.

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If my morality is a commandment “written on my heart” can I say it’s a “fact”-even if I insist that “god put the word there”-given that I have no tangible evidence to show that it is more than an opinion based on hearsay?

Look at most of the later translations of the text. They don’t say “cleansed”, they say “restore” Nothing about cleansing happened by Jesus going from one chamber to the other. But the truths that worked their way out of the early Adventist movement did help to “restore” what the scriptures intended for us to understand. To me, the most important principal was the fact that the soul is not immortal, that people are not going to burn forever and ever in excruciating agony. Yet 99% of Christianity believes this ridiculous concept. I can’t think of a more disgusting picture of God than one who will punish you forever for an infinitesimally short existence on this earth. This simple proof of this is the fact that Jesus, who paid for all of our sins, was only in the tomb for less than 3 days. If we are lost an burn forever, then Jesus didn’t pay the full price and the whole thing is a sham.

That’s fair. In moral philosophy the challenge to moral “facts” is they cannot be established unless two things seem to be true (not withstanding the major contributions from Kant and others): as Aristotle pointed out, humanity must have a “telos” or purpose which fulfills human nature. If one denies these two affirmations, it’s difficult to argue that there are “moral facts.”

To my mind, the term Christian has been defined in so many ways as to render the word meaningless.

For example, many say it’s all quite simple, based on John 3:16. However-and setting aside the assertions of some Bible scholars who believe that this particular text is an insertion from an unknown, more recent source rather than part of the original manuscript-there are multiple, contradictory but biblically-based paths to salvation other than accepting Jesus as god’s only son:

So in my efforts to make Jesus “good news” meaningful at least to me, I’ve adopted what I call “Occam’s Christianity” which, much like Jefferson’s Gospel, always looks for the most obvious, least miraculous explanation for anything and everything.

In other words, if Jesus’ self-professed sycophants began to claim, years after the point when the events could have been verified, that their master could teleport, walk on water, return to life after a few hours in a tomb, etc., I suspect there is a more mundane explanation, just as you allow may be the case with the woman at the well.

Even more importantly, no claim of supposedly miraculous events can ever do anything to prove or disprove any part of Jesus’ reported “do onto others” philosophy. If Jesus had turned water into wine and then said, “Because of this feat, everyone must now accept my claim that the moon is made of green cheese,” the Apollo Astronauts would still have landed on a dusty, cold rock.

IOW, there is no causal connection and miracles invariably prove nothing.

By defining Christianity in the manner, I consider myself to be such but only to the extent that I find the thought processes to be both emotionally and rationally confirmable.

The bad news however, is that using this definition I might also be called an adherent to almost any ism, even some really hideous one, as I suspect there is an element of such truth in all of them.

:wink:

“I fear thou doth protest too much”. You need to do a deeper dive into all this religious stuff.

There seems to be much embellishment and variant readings of these Bible stories. For an example, the “water into wine” story was never meant to be simply miracle for the sake of miracle. It was a declaration by Jesus right at the beginning of his mission, that he was bringing a new take on this old religious system. Nobody puts “New wine into old vessels”. The old is passing and a new “world order” is about to make itself known through Jesus’ life and teaching.

Keep digging.