Later this year, at the General Conference Session, delegates will have to vote on a statement about whether Ellen G. White's writings are inspired by God and help to understand what the Bible says. The text of the statement was translated into Latvian and posted on Facebook. Several commentators expressed their views that Ellen White was a false prophet, was hysterical, and most likely a mentally ill person. I also entered into a discussion with my objections. However, after lengthy discussions, I came to the conclusion that once again I have to look honestly at everything I can read and find in her articles and articles about her. After all, I have had contradictory thoughts when reading E. G. White's books, too. In prayer I told God that I could not judge everything myself, but I wanted to read anything with an open heart and mind. If I'm wrong, I want to admit it. I asked God for help to be honest with all the arguments that can be read. In the following days, I devoted my free time to finding and reading everything I could find in connection with E. G. White. What are my conclusions?
Fascinating topic. The whole issue of “inspiration” is complex and I doubt I will obtain answers to my satisfaction this side of mortality.
The main issues in my opinion (and this applies not only to EGW but to the Bible as well) are:
What does it mean for a writing to be “inspired”; is the written text infallible? or does it convey the author’s conception of God or the topic being discussed
By what authority does a religious body declare a writing to be inspired? One will note that there is actually no text in the bible giving us guidance as to which writings to include in the canon and which to exclude (and even if there were, by what criteria do we judge whether or not such guidance was itself “inspired” and true). It’s facile to blindly accept the decisions of the early church councils regarding canonicity, but I will note that Adventists reject many of the other decisions of these early church councils.
What do we do with a text when an “inspired” text is obviously in error (e.g. EGW’s comments on amalgamation of man and beast, her views on volcanos, certain historical errors in The Great Controversy, etc.).
How do we handle inconsistencies and contradictions among “inspired” texts (e.g. the irreconcilable inconsistencies among the 4 gospel accounts; inconsistencies between Chronicles and Kings)
What do we do when an inspired author’s views changed or evolved over time.
What do we make of texts with claims to inspiration that are not part of the canon?
Adventists (and others) are wont to discard competing texts on a basis of a single error (e.g. a single error in Augustine’s writings are sufficient to toss his entire oeuvre on the scrap heap), but errors/inconsistencies in EGW’s writings are ignored.
(this is really a subset of my point 3 above) What do we do about the claims of a “Young Earth Creation”, which is obviously wrong except to the most obstinate people who refuse to consider truth. EGW (along with all of Christendom at the time) endorsed YEC and Bishop Ussher’s dubious calculations. These views cannot be reconciled with what we observe in nature. Is this sufficient to discard EGW as a false prophet? Does “inspiration” require 100% accuracy in all things?
It can be comforting to embrace the myth that EGW’s writings were delivered from “on high” with an error-free text, but this view simply isn’t tenable. And if we don’t accept EGW’s writings as infallible, is there anything to be retained from her works, or must one necessarily abandon the SdA movement which is so dependent on her legacy.
With regards the Bible, it can also be comforting to embrace the myth that the canon was delivered from “on high” with an error-free text (and error-free translation), but this view too simply isn’t tenable. And if we don’t accept Bible’s writings and the early church’s politically-motivated votes on canonicity as infallible, is there anything to be retained from the book, or must one necessarily abandon the Christian movement which is so dependent on the ecumenical councils of the early Christian period.
This is so interesting. With some minor differences, my path through the Ellen White phenomenon resembles yours in many of the details. I accepted Ellen White as someone that “came with the territory” - because I accepted the faith system that surrounded her. I was born in Estonia (your neighbour) but got out before the Soviets arrived. My home was an Estonian home no matter which country we lived in. I say that because I think there is a certain cultural reluctance to accept authority of any kind just because it’s demanded.
While attending AUC (SDA college) I ran across the same EGW statement you quoted, basically saying that “if we read the Bible as we should, there would be no need to refer to Ellen White” (my own words). This stayed with me; and I have wondered why SDAs haven’t taken that to heart. Most Bible study is done with EGW statements side by side with the Bible, “explaining” everything, as if we can’t read and understand for ourselves.
Amazingly, I took the same path, including Morris Venden and Des Ford, in particular. I especially liked Venden’s warning analogy that “hanging apples on a tree doesn’t make it an apple tree”. The fruit grows naturally if watered properly.
My take on Ellen White? I’ve read her books; studied about her in college; and have decided long ago, it doesn’t matter what I think of Ellen White. I don’t know what exactly she was about; but my faith in God and my standing with God does not depend on what I think of Ellen White. What I do object to is the church demanding Ellen White being equal to the Bible writers in their authority. So, many of the problems created by Ellen White are actually not her doing; but the church’s. If we can look past that (if we’re allowed to look past that) then I’m fine. Time will tell…
“We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible… The rebuke of the Lord will be upon those who would be guardians of the doctrine, who would bar the way that greater light shall not come to the people. A great work is to be done, and God sees that our leading men have need of greater light.”
Perhaps, the hagiarchy in the GC should not only read this EG White quote, but post it on a plaque on the wall of their office. This is a total rebuke of their desperate effort to keep women away from the pulpit.
I think this issue is overthought. It is not so difficult, but does require accepting evidence that one might not like, but that is real.
It is not that difficult to discern the inspiration of the Bible. Just compare the books that the ancients, both OT and NT saints, choose with those they rejected. It is like comparing Shakespeare with bad poetry. There is a difference. I was reading The Shepherd of Hermas, a book considered, but rejected by the church from the cannon. You can tell why they left it out. Read some of the gnostic gospels. Again, not the caliper of the NT. And it is not just the early church that accepted these, it has been Christians throughout the ages. We have their testimony as well. We may ask questions, but God has given clues.
Ellen is the same way. I remember first reading the DofA as a freshman in high school. I fell in love with the Jesus portrayed there. God spoke to me through the words of that woman. There was no question that it was inspired. Was she mistaken on occasion? Yes. She was human. But you seem to expect that inspiration will mean perfection. I am not sure God has said that will be so. His saints have never been perfect. He has said he will guide us, but apparently has reserved perfection to himself.
The inconsistencies merely show that the writers had different perspectives, or were impressed by different things they saw. That is characteristic of eye witnesses, and testifies to their veracity and shows they did not collude. And since the authors were human, it is normal for them to change their views over time. If they didn’t that would be a problem.
Hmmm… Pretty strong words about those obstinate people.
The age of the earth is a problem for YEC’s. And I have not heard a good explanation for the apparent age.
But evolutionists have similar problems with their theory. I have not seen any evidence for the way body plans could have changed without divine input. Lots of nice stories about how it could have happened. All speculation.
Life’s origin is impossible without divine input (see James Tours, “Mystery of Origin of Life” Youtube, March 18, 2019). To believe that life with its vast complexity could, using simple chemical processes, have come about spontaneously is to believe in a miracle, a position I sense you would characterize as “obstinate”.
I am troubled by your requirement of inerrancy. You seem to depend on science, which is constantly requiring correction, and is quite a human exercise, with all its errancy, but will take nothing with a human element as reliable (“is there anything to be retained from her works”) from God. Just look how far the small group of people accepting her works have come, with huge educational and medical systems that have benefited millions, etc. Adventist’s longevity can only be attributed to her.
I think that clearly shows inspiration. But that is my take on this.
When the Scriptures are studied first and then Ellen White
is consulted for clarity
There is complete harmony between them.
The problem that I frequently see is that folks have twisted White
They make her say what she did not say
and then they go with a false teaching apart from Scripture
then the “Whiteist Adventists” get confused.
I was 19 when I first spoke with a religous person. I bought a Bible and started to read it. Not long after I had a scary paranormal presence in my room which an impefect prayer to God caused to leave. A few months later I came in contact with the SDA Church. While doing baptismal studies I was told about EGW and was initially sceptical. However, as soon as I opened the first book, The Great Controversy, I immediately recognised that she really was a prophetess of God as she was clearly inspired by the same Spirit that had been leading me along the way.
Various contributors on this stream have made very good points that some critics seem to be aiming at something else rather than EGW. From what I have read by critics is that they don’t seem to be very good at English comprehension. Others seem to have something that is dear to them that doesn’t get a pass from EGW so they hate her. One critic says he is sola scriptura, but rejects totally EGW, which to me indicates that he really rejects the Bible as well as he never proves anything with the Bible.
I look forward to meeting EGW and her fellow pioneers after praising Jesus when He collects His saints in the very near future.
Like de “Shut Door Doctrine,” for example? Folks just twisted her?
What about “twisting” parts of her writings that she merely copied from others without mention or credit. Folks may be twisting ideas they assume are hers when they are actually someone else’s.
I am glad I haven’t twisted her now for 40 years. The Bible IS sufficient, and since it is in harmony with EGW’s writings, I am perfectly satisfied with its integrity. Will keep Sola Scriptura.
Not sure, but it seems that you are referring to my comment.
Yes, I see the Bible as the ONLY source of doctrine - aka Sola Scriptura principle. EGW was an amazingly prolific writer who produced a lot os inspirational religious books. Many people came to Christ reading her books. She was a good evangelist. But, by principle, the Bible must be sufficient to establish doctrine, therefore, I opted for that source only. From a Christian point of view, what could possibly be wrong with this?
You are right, I never - ever - quote the Bible in my posts. In all these years, I only did it once. And your conclusion (judgment!) is that I “really reject the Bible as well?” I intentionally do not quote the Bible in my posts. Reason being that I don’t believe in the text proof method, therefore if I quoted a verse I would also need to go into its context, and since I am not here to teach anything to anyone, I just focus on the ideas being discussed - but expressing my views according to what I believe is Biblical. I never use the verses in the Bible as single bullets against what other people think/believe. After all, who am I to pretend that I have the right to judge others??? Judging other requires a special ability that I do not have.
English is not my primary language, it’s actually the 4th. I live in the US for 30 years now, so I hope I was able to explain myself in this post in a way that is understandable to people of good will… Also, I do not fall in that category you mentioned of people who do not understand EGW well because of some deficiency in their comprehension of the English language. I read ALL of her writings available at that time in my primary language, Portuguese. Except what was kept a secret by the WE, everything available in English was already available in Portuguese in the 60’s.
Forgive me if I responded to a comment of yours that may not have actually been directed at me. Happy Sabbath!
Many people are sola scriptura in their views with no input from EGW. Whether they do not know of her or reject her writings, one doesn’t need them or her to know God through Christ, be counted as belonging to his covenant family, and to be transformed by the gospel and the power of the Spirit. You make judgements that go a bit too far…
Yes, you can introduce Ellen to people.
Use the 1Corinthians 14 interpretation of a Prophet, as given
by Paul, though.
Prophet – [NOT one who fortells the future] One who edifies,
exhorts, comforts, counsels.
THIS is the Spirit of Prophecy, the Testimony of Jesus.
In reality, the source and root of your disagreements is not with EGW but in your cognitive maturation and development. What TW and his administration is trying to accomplish by mandating EGW writings to be equal with the Bible is to stunt or abort the church members’ cognitive development to match the maturity of their own cognitive level, that of a six year old. Talk about uniformity in belief.
What you need is a consultation with mental health professionals the likes of George @GeorgeTichy. “Scary paranormal presence” is not caused by “imperfect prayer to God” but by the mind trying to find reasons to explain what it cannot comprehend.
That was a pretty interesting article, Elmer. But, what about young children with imaginary friends? My mother would bring up a recollection, now and again, about me with her saying that I would sit alone in a room talking to someone that wasn’t there. She said she used to get a real kick out of it. I don’t recall any of these conversations with this invisible friend, LOL. She says I was just two, or three at the time.
Thank you for this wise “Whiteological autobiography.” Many will be blessed by your thoughtful and balanced approach.
I teach one course for students entering one or the other of the health professions, many of whom are not SDAs, which consists almost entirely of them reading one chapter a week from “Ministry of Healing” and writing a 1,000 word report which (a) summarizes it, (b) indicates what they found most helpful and (3) explains what they found least helpful.
I make no special claims for EGW other than she urged that our school be started despite opposition from the denomination’s leaders and that she has a lot of influence in SDAism. Most of them love the experience and give the chapters high reviews.
Yet there is one chapter which gets very bad reviews year after year. It is the one in which she urges that we not spend too much time and money on our homes. This one consistently irritates my students until I show them a picture of Elmsheaven. “Oh…!,” they say. “Now we understand what she meant by living ‘simply’. Not shabby. Pretty good, actually!”
Give EGW a decent chance, one that does not make doubtful claims on her behalf, and she does more than well enough.
egw is definitely one of the first people i hope to meet in the new earth…what an honour and experience was hers during her life here on earth…
there’s nothing like a paranormal experience to wake one up to the reality that there is an invisible world operating in the background…one of the big reasons i believe egw is so important and relevant is the way she constantly connects the invisible world with our own…no-one else, not even the bible writers, does this so well…i believe that the ongoing dreams and visions she experienced during her ministry is why her writing is so vivid, and really in a class by itself…
I was thoroughly shocked when I read the first chapter of GC, 1911ed as part of my research, on discovering amount of information drawn from many authors, all in the guise of inspiration! Most of the supernatural events found in it were just Jewish fables. Moreover, this chapter, as a whole had been dealt with by many authors centuries before her. She was the last person to deal with “the destruction of Jerusalem”.