Ellen White: The Ultimate X-Factor in Adventist Hermeneutics

In my review of Kwabena Donkor’s paper in the book Biblical Hermeneutics: An Adventist Approach, I welcomed his introduction to the idea of “presuppositions.” I defined this as “the acculturated particulars and accustomed baggage we bring to the interpretive process” and then into our hermeneutics discussions. I now end my selected reviews of this 14-essay compilation with Dr. John Peckham’s “The Prophetic Gift and Sola Scriptura.” Delving into Ellen White’s prophetic role in Adventism is a fitting bookend to these essays. By any measure, she is the ultimate “presupposition,” or we might say, the supercharged engine that drives almost all theological discussions within Adventism.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11795

Thank you very much for giving us the context of the famous reference to “the lesser Light” that is needed to highlight “the greater Light.” It does not quiet tell us that the lesser light is needed because the greater light is being neglected. It is pure marketing propaganda. She is just asking for more canvassers to sell her books, a rather pitiful appeal for salesmen to keep her writing enterprise prospering.


There can be no doubt that EGW was “in it to win it” monetarily given her demands for higher royalties than were paid to other SDA authors. She also revealed her money grubbing attitude when she excoriated SDA publishers for delaying the release of The Great Controversy in order to sell other books that didn’t require the hefty commissions paid EGW, this in an effort to keep their businesses afloat.

I’m also particularly unimpressed by her feigned reluctance to deliver 4,000 pages of incriminations and judgements of members in the church she and her spirit guide created. Anyone who has studied the processes by which the testimonies were manufactured, as did Dr. Kellog, knew that the origins were of a dubious and even devious nature,

Most importantly however, and while I haven’t “darkened the door” of any church in decades, it seems a definitive, binary delineation exists between the pro- and anti-EGW factions within the denomination and that an unacknowledged de facto schism took place some time now. Further, and given that the leaders of the “pro” side are in charge, I don’t think one needs to have a “spirit guide” as verbose as EGW’s to predict that it’s only a matter of time before Article #18 becomes a litmus test for any and all SDA’s and that the non-EGW’s will be shown the door.


i don’t think this statement is intended to convey the idea that people weren’t or aren’t reading the bible…obviously the bible was being read in egw’s day, just as it’s being read in ours…instead i think egw is hitting an important nail on the head, namely that the bible wasn’t and isn’t being read in a way that leads to “self-denial and resolute effort”, which is the defining portion of her “lesser light” statement…in other words, people weren’t and aren’t reading the bible in a way that’s doing them any essential spiritual good…

there’s no question that self-denial - a resolute, sustained war against the natural nature and the world - is a dominant theme in egw…this same theme can be seen in many of christ’s recorded sayings, and also in other important passages in the NT…but typically, this isn’t a theme that’s focussed on in any meaningful way whenever the bible is being studied and discussed…self-denial isn’t where our church is at…but it is where egw is at, and it is where she’s implying the bible is at…

i couldn’t agree more…there should be no attempt to distinguish the inspiration of egw from the inspiration of the bible, in my view…in fact i would be in favour of formally placing her writings on par with the canon, if not within the canon itself…

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There is a question and a very profound one.

Specifically, did Jesus teach self denial or instead, affirm that the individual self is the self of our creator?

This cannot be answered by studying either the NT or EGW as Jesus had no hand in writing either.

In other words, and despite a seemingly infinite number of claims to the contrary, no living person has irrefutable proof that he has access to the mind of Jesus. Unfortunately for such people-but very fortunately for those of us who make no such claims-Jesus “left the building” 2,000 years ago and, as of this comment, has not seen fit to return and address this or any other topic personally.

Further, even if Jesus shows up tomorrow, and clarifies his position on this issue, there would be no way for him to conclusively prove that he understands the mind of god and is authorized to speak for her, him or it.

That’s logic.

So call a Council of Silver Spring for next week and canonize what ever books you and a consensus of fallible SDA’s feel are deserving of the title “holy”. Then simply admit that the product is not binding on anyone, does not have the imprimatur of god and just hope that in doing so, you aren’t ushering in a modern dark age as followed the self-purported “Christian” councils of the forth century.


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See, Jeremy Vandieman, just for example self - denial : Thath is an issue of the Bible - and also ( I believe, without the Biblicasl solution!) in Stoicism, also to be found in Kant’s texts, also to be found in - - - and in Continental German Pietism of XVIII th and XIX th century. (my heritage coming fgrom the eraly SDAs in Wuppertal / Vohwinkel, Gernany ) - -And we have to share these principles also with postmodernist folks. in the SDA Church - and in missions to those around us !

But our solution for ultraconservatrive SDA Austria ? Well, study EGW !!! There we have it ! No pepper - take Cardamon ! (not for women in pregnancy, not for children, not for - - - beware, can induce hallucinations ! - -) )- No chess (leads to gambling) and cards - play Rooks ( oh, she does only condemn playing “Cards”), no vinegar (poison!), no dancing ( oh, call it gymnastics with music) - Mary is Mary is Mary (of Luke 8 and in Betahny) - because EGW says - - ,

We need an interpretation of the words in 1 Joh 2 : 15 - 17 (love not the world and the things in the world - - ) or Gal 5 : 19 - 23 (works of the flesh - fruit of the Spirit) . We have to pay attention of how to follow Heb 12 : 10 an 14 ( - the way holiness shows my and your reality today - ) We urgently need to depict our ideas here and now to Heb 13 : 4 ( - and be the bed undefiled - ), but not with endless quotatios out of the Victorian spirit of the eagerly translated compound “Mind, Character and Personality” - -

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Equally so, with the inspiration of hundreds of source authors, for her so called ‘spirit of prophecy’ writings, beginning with Pope Gregory I to William Hanna!

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I deeply appreciate this timely, factual, thought provoking article.

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*ALL *scripture is given… right?!?!


Actually her secretary is the one who should be canonized in the “SDA Hall of Inspiration”. In the process, she was driven to a nervous breakdown, and I can’t even remember her name.


No, our individual self is not the self of God–because we are selfish and God is not

luk 11:13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

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All Scripture given, what further need have for the lesser lights?


Does the following statement meant that we do not need lesser lights?
We need not the dim light of truth to make the Scriptures comprehensible. As well might we suppose that the noonday sun needs the glimmering torchlight of earth to increase its glory . The utterances of priest and minister are not needed to save men from error . Those who consult the divine Oracle will have light…Search the scriptures, for they are the voice of God speaking to the soul” (8T, p. 157, Testimony written in 1895, To the Medical Superintendent of a Large Sanitarium, Copyright, 1948 [published 1904]).
However, I don’t think she was referring the “dim light” to her writings.

Jesus taught self-denial and re-birth…there’s no mystery here…the bible says plainly that Jesus “knew what was in man”, Jn 2:25…in other words, he fully understood the devastation in the human genome that original sin had wrought, and that a complete makeover, rather than some kind of adjustment, is needed…this is also why he figuratively taught plucking out an eye and chopping off an arm, rather than retraining them through some pathetic minimal effort…

i think this is your “logic”…good luck with getting anyone who understands logic to agree with you…

what is needed is an intelligent, comprehensive understanding of what egw actually teaches…as this article mentions, part of the problem with understanding egw is the editorial slant in many of her compilations, done without her knowledge, and by people who obviously didn’t have a broad comprehension of her message…

one difference between egw and these sources is that egw picks and chooses from their writings what is genuine truth, and leaves out what is error, while these sources present truth with error together…keep in mind that egw leaves out of her writings much more material from these sources than she includes…i think it’s an evidence of her inspiration that the material she chooses fits so consistently into her great controversy meta narrative, and so unyieldingly prosecutes the apostolic war against the natural fallen nature…

i think you may be referring to Fanny Bolton, who was independently mentally ill…egw hired her because she felt sorry for her and wanted to give her an opportunity to improve herself (egw may not have understood mental illness)…but egw should have considered much more closely the demands of the position, which poor Fanny had no ability to navigate…

i do agree that some of her editors, especially Marian Davis, deserve honorable mention…

So let me understand this. God chose Ellen to “communicate” special information to a specified group of people - WHY?

In the meantime, Ellen was chosen, but, needed someone else to decipher her poor writing abilities, to the point where this other person had to often choose the actual wording of these crucial messages from God. Who is the more inspired - the person who couldn’t verbalize God’s message, or the one who had to make critical choices of the wording by which God’s message was to be given? Words have consequences.

What then, was Ellen’s role in this process of God communicating with “God’s people”? It seems that Ellen’s secretaries had a whole lot more input in this process than she did.


The BIG problem with the SDA dependence on a third party legitimizing the existence of its unique belief system; and itself identity to be a “special” people is that once you catch the message in an error, you tend to ditch, not only the denomination and its message, but it causes you to question everything - especially if you have been whole-heartedly involved. Big claims need big proofs. And, no, it’s not about a lack of faith. Our faith is not supposed to be in any man-made organization or its representatives. God does not need an intercessor between Himself and each man/woman. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. Our faith needs to be in God’s ability to give us each, all we need to have a proper faith relationship with God. The point of this excercise we call religious faith, is not to establish a loyalty to the church, its special teachings, or its representatives.


As a lad I always felt something “wasn’t right” with the EGW veneration in the SDA church, especially when I was taught the utterly silly notion that Revelation 19:10 was the “proof text” establishing her writings as the “spirit of prophecy”. But it was only when I compared Genesis 3 with EGW’s embellishments in “Patriarchs and Prophets” that I definitively consigned her tomes to the “fan fiction” genre of literature.

I knew nothing of the plagiarism or her use of her role as prophet for profit, but I knew that if the SDA church applied the same exacting standards to her that they do for other alleged prophets, where one error is enough to discredit him or her, the SDA church would have discarded her a long time ago.

The Hebrews authorship question raised in the article is telling, where the official church will deliberately double down on error rather than admit that EGW’s writings may not be 100% accurate. Within the silly wing of the church, veneration for her writings is even greater; with some going to such ridiculous lengths as posting articles defending EGW’s statements about amalgamation of man and beast being observed in some races of men. So preposterous are these positions that a neutral observer could easily be excused for thinking the articles to be satire, but alas, some are so far gone down the rabbit hole of delusion as to seriously defend these positions. It’s all rather quite strange.


One of the reasons I find logic appealing is that it doesn’t involve luck!

You clearly missed my point and I have no interest in repeating it just as there’s no reason for you or @DarrelL to invoke memory verses that I heard years ago and dismissed as being irrelevant to me, personally.

Might it be our fundamentalist mind-set and misunderstanding of what prophetic inspiration means that’s causing this confusion regarding Ellen White’s extra-canonical role in relation to Scripture?

Thus, Michael W. Campbell writes:

A helpful interpretative lens for understanding Adventist Fundamentalism is perhaps that of a continuum between those who saw themselves as more open to change, versus those traditionalists who embraced a much more conservative mindset that included a push toward inerrancy.15 This continuum is helpful for understanding Adventism because Adventist Fundamentalism was far from monolithic. Adventism paralleled the wider Fundamentalist movement by having a common enemy, theological modernism; much of the internal strife centers upon the nature, inspiration, and authority of Ellen G. White’s writings. Now that she was no longer alive, Adventist hermeneutical debates centered upon the interpretation of her writings.

my best guess is that he had initiated IJ, and so the church needed to know about it, Amos 3:7…the Millerite band that had kept their faith through the disappointment were his church at the time, and so god tapped three people from within the ranks of these Millerites to be a his prophet…

strictly speaking, though, egw is like any of the biblical prophets…her message is universal…our church has been privileged to hold this message, but we don’t own it…

i think if you compare some of egw’s rough drafts to the finished products under Marian Davis, for example, you’ll see that the message was indeed egw’s, even though it is expressed in Marian’s polished English…Marian was careful not to add or detract from egw’s original intentions…and of course they worked side by side and could confer readily if there there was any doubt…

this set-up reminds me a bit of god’s choice of Aaron to be Moses’ spokesperson, Ex 4:16…Moses felt he wasn’t eloquent enough for his call, but Aaron was apparently quite glib…together they appear to have been an effective team…

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