How Biblical is Ellen White? On Steve Daily's Book "Ellen G. White, A Psychobiography"

Steve Daily, in his book, achieves a description of E. G. White on various levels. While not necessarily agreeing with all of his conclusions, the stimulus of this reading is very positive. The author highlights not only the human dimensions of a prophet but also the gray and borderline areas. In contrast with a hagiographic tendency that aims to deify the prophet, Daily reminds us of the human element, linked to social and cultural conditioning, and to the psychological rootedness that every prophet has. A prophet’s character is not a synthesis of the positive traits of all other human character types. Each one has a specific character that influences and conditions their message and ministry in a consistent and cross-cutting way. No prophet has a neutral ministry or speaks from some zero-point of truth and does not necessarily present an objective, universal message that is valid for all times. The objectivity and universality that the prophet has, or claims to have, is always mediated by subjectivity and cultural roots. For this reason a church community cannot blindly submit to its prophet and give carte blanche no matter what he or she says or does. Just as scrutiny must be exercised with leaders in general – presidents, secretaries or treasurers – in the same way this must be applied also to one's prophet. This is a positive central point of Daily, even if in this he indulges in some intemperance concerning descriptions and conclusions. Ellen White cannot be above a critical analysis of her writings and work. Each community must pursue an unbiased evaluation of its prophet in order to grasp what is binding for us today. We might wish for an easy way to know if a prophet is true or false in toto. Unfortunately, the prophet can be true in some points, ambivalent in others and perfectly contestable in others, without this implying rejection. Believers cannot simply give total approval to their prophets. It is the interpreting community that also determines which aspects and messages of the prophet are relevant for today and which are not. Therefore White's real and true acceptance does not imply acceptance of everything she said and did. Is there a danger in this? Of trivializing or not listening to one's prophet? Certainly. And this risk is significant. But the opposite hazard would lead us to uncritically accept whatever the prophet has said or done – and this is surely worse.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11360
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This is the most insightful examination of the relationship of Ellen White and the Bible I have ever read. As an argument against the use of her interpretation of a biblical texts as the final word, it is incontrovertible. I thank Hans Gutierrez for his magisterial exposition of the limitations that must be taken into consideration when reading what any prophet wrote.

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The matter of Ellen White’s conformity to Scripture is one of great concern and should not be brushed over lightly. While there are areas in which she elaborates on the Bible in such a way to make the reading of her work more pleasurable than the reading of the Bible itself, her elaborations are sometimes so extensive to be unjustified. See, for example, the chapter about the “wise men” in “The Desire of Ages”.

Then there is the matter of the “sanctuary” in “The Great Controversy”. There, in two chapters, she has assembled Bible texts in an arrangement that reflects the thinking of her contemporaries rather than that of the Biblical authors. See, as one small example, the three at the foot of page 482. While she introduced them with “Jesus will appear . . . (after October 22, 1844)” their authors (writing in the 1st Century) wrote them in the present tense.

Have you considered the matter of hellfire? She has taught that, and this has been defended, for the thousand years following the Second Advent, the “saved” will be involved in a process of determining the length of time that the “wicked” will suffer in the fire. Of course she neither believed not taught an eternally-burning hell but she both believed and taught a torturous one which will be quite lengthy for some. I have documented and commented on this in Appendix 11: HELL in my website www.angusmcphee.com

It was Dudley Canright in his “Life of Ellen White” who wrote in the final paragraph, “her works contain many good things in themselves.” We all agree, I think. However, we all do have a responsibility to compare her words and works with Scripture and to critique them.

Finally, and seriously, neither she nor we are above the Bible.

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This is the essential idolatry of all language based religions.

The Bible is a work of human intellect.

Worshipping its words as if they can or ever could rise above that essential fact is to engage in magical thinking where reason and intuition are either debased, trivialized or ignored.

To place EGW’s works and visions in a similarly special category, or to refer to her as a “prophet” as if this means she was somehow superhuman, is to accept an equally fantastic and logically fallacious belief.

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Th XIX th cetury for me is remarkable because of the treasures it provided for us - the ideas of Romantic medicine, the backlash against enlightenement, the rediscovery of J.S. Bach, the laities interest on matters of theBible, including card games or puzzle play material or Bibles for children - - -but what for today ? - not getting reactionary ?!

Well, there are myths, so the sinner (Luke 7: 36 ff) = Mary Magdalene = Mary of Bethany.is a myth out of early medieaval times. . On this matter Gerhard Pfandl, then principla in Bogenhofen, , now retired from BRI, at a ministers meeting in Bogenhofen , our Unions academy,: “Jesus according to the Gospels most probably was anointed more often by different persons. . But Mrs. White ( an affitrmative statement, not tongues in cheek !) only wrrites about ONE woman and TWO anointements !” so there were only TWO ! Or me , just for interest asking around about the author of the Book of Hebrews, me questioning how Bible students read differing texts : The answerv of Hannes Kovar, Bible teacher, Greek teacher in Bogenhofen : “Mrs. White names Paul three times as the author, so I have no reason not to accept him as the author.”.

The last sermon in my life - no, I am simply too old for the pulpit of today ! - had the title “From Nard to
Myrrh”. Quite 6 months for research and experiments. Buying nard from Nepal and myrrh from the pharmacy… Requiring pharmacological studies. Tasting myrrh . Swallowing the tenfold daily dosage of myrrh (in capsules , obtained from the local drugstore, as tinctura myrrhae) - - -then finding out that it is a myth for nearly two milleniums about the distinguished ladies of Jerusalem providing an ananaesthetic, even narcotic drink for one brought to crucification - this drink Jesus refused simply .was a mockery, Read Mrs. White about it.

See Hebrews 9 : 4. This error of the author I found mentioned already in Tholucks “Kommentare zum Briefe an die Hebraeer” out of 1836 (and out of the library of my grandfather, a SDA minister ordained 1906). Try to discuss this with SDA theologians ! Where does Mrs. White locate a censer ?

Just some examples.

Roma locuta, causa finita.

Thousands of thanks to Hanz for his commentary on Steve Daily ! The same to “Spectrum” !

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Guttierez final comment “Bottom line: Ellen White just cannot not be the last word of a healthy reading of the Bible or the conclusive word for Adventism.” leaves me a bit confused. Does he mean “Ellen White cannot be (or should not be) the last word of a healthy reading of the Bible” or does he mean something else? If he means anything other than this, I disagree with his conclusion. Something Ellen White wrote should NEVER be the last word in a healthy reading of the Bible. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), guiding each person to the truth as they (not Ellen White) read the Bible.

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Quite an easy one to dispute…All anyone has to do is understand that Jesus Christ paid the price for the sins of all. Many will not accept that gift but, I repeat, Jesus Christ paid the price for everyone’s sins…and how long was he in the grave? Some texts refer to it as hates? Three days, actually late Friday until Sunday morning early. So if your thinking that some, such as Hitler will be writhing in pain for years…I am sorry to disappoint you. Actually, I would like to see Hitler tortured for years myself, but God’s grace is grater than ours. It would be inconsistent for someone to be tortured in hell for longer than Jesus who paid for all our sins. Simple fact.

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Dr. Weiss,
There is an interesting discussion of thesen issues on Steve Daily’s Facebook. He is posting a new topic every day, open for comments and discussion -n with many people participating. It’s all related to the content of his book.

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Thank you for the info

Let me apologize - I found the material of yesteryear. I still see at least two anointments of Jesus (maybe more ! ) - The sinner in Luke 7.and the woman in Bethany. Gerhard Pfandl also found two anointments and hints for more. But since EGW - his explanation for the authoritative statement - only saw ONE, there is only ONE (sinner = Mary Magdalene = Mary in Bethany)

Jesus actually suffered only from early Friday morning to Friday afternoon. I suppose he didn’t suffer after he died. Being an imperfect human being (like someone else here) I think that would be too short a punishment for some. Thinking of the martyred, many of which suffered for much longer than that, and terribly so, wouldn’t it be justice for those who tortured them for so long to suffer in proportion to what they had caused others to suffer? (“an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”). Well, that’s my human mind. We have to leave all that with God, who is both Love and Justice. Interestingly, Ellen White once wrote:

“In order to determine how important are the interests involved in the conversion of the soul from error to truth, we must appreciate the value of immortality; we must realize how terrible are the pains of the second death; we must comprehend the honor and glory awaiting the ransomed, and understand what it is to live in the presence of Him who died that he may elevate and ennoble man, and give to the overcomer a royal diadem.” 5T 620

This doesn’t say anything about the length of the punishment. But, perhaps, the punishment cannot be understood just in comparison to the length of Jesus’ punishment, but also to the intensity of his suffering. I think no man has experienced such mental agony as did Jesus in Getsemane and on the cross.

Some think Ellen White’s limited hell is a terrible idea, but it actually is absolutely nothing in comparison to some other Christian’s idea of an eternally burning hell. Her hell is compatible with both justice and mercy. The other idea is compatible with neither justice, love nor mercy. There is no comparison at all, as the difference is infinite.

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“If you believe what you want in the Gospel and disbelieve what you want. You believe in yourself rather than in the Gospel.”

Against Faustus , 17, 3, 400 A.D. St Augustine

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I agree with a merciful hell for the wicked. I think it will, most likely, be one of realization of what they have lost, what they could have had, more than a physical pain. Still emotionally painful. But I am 1000% sure it won’t be an eternal torture as 95% of Christians believe. What purpose would a tortured suffering serve. It isn’t as if they can change their behavior, it’s too late for that. The only reason for a torturous hell would be for people who were harmed by this person to feel some sort of revenge or satisfaction, but that too falls short, as those people will be in heaven and will be there because they have truly forgiven their trespassers. And I am sure that it would give God no satisfaction to see someone, even a Hitler suffer. So, In my mind, a torturous hell is totally inconsistent with the character of God. A God of Grace, even for the wicked.

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Please : We do not discuss EGW s sometimes quite fancy ideas ! We discuss the indebtedness to her sometimes quite casual views and interpretations of the Bible - evaluating her version higher than clear Bible words !

Sorry, I didn’t realize that I was elevating her version in any way. It certainly wasn’t with intension. I guess I find it more important to share my own view, which is that God is more gracious than we even give Him credit for.
My intent was to demonstrate that torturing or even physically punishing the wicked serves absolutely no purpose. None, Zero, Nada. It only becomes a means of retribution, something that I am quite sure is not the action of a loving God.

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EGW once wrote that we didn’t need modern translations since we have Jesus’ exact words in the KJV. (When she quoted Him or her angel, they spoke to her in “Bible English”, too often ungrammatically. Why in the world would Jesus and angels converse in an outdated dialect?

Consider her history of Satan. She said that Satan’s name was Lucifer from his very beginning. Not true. Lucifer is a combination of two words from the final form of Latin. The Bible does not say that Satan’s name was ever Lucifer.

The “fathers” of the post-NT church arbitrarily scrambled together metaphorical descriptions of the king of Babylon, the king of Tyre and others, and declared that the resulting amalgamation’s name was Lucifer (and Satan).

The Babylonians taught that the morning star, which they called the brilliant one was concurrently the King of Babylon. When the translation of the OT into the Latin Vulgate was produced, the New Latin name for Venus was Lucifer the light bringer, the herald of the “most high” sun…

Nobody referred to Venus as Satan, or vice versa until Tertullian, et al did so. The only mention of Lucifer in the KJV (in Isa 14) Is NOT A REFERENCE TO SATAN. Mrs. W’s story of Lucifer came from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, not the Bible.

The word “Lucifer” does not occur anywhere in the original manuscripts of the Bible. The Lucifer theme of The Great Controversy is “historical fiction”, about the periodic rising of the Morning Star [Latin ,Lucifer]“above the heights of the clouds” EGW misunderstood this description and supported Tertullian’s imagined history of Satan.

SDA theology is unaware that Isiah 14:12’s “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning”, is not God addressing Satan, or God addressing anyone, or anyone addressing Satan. (It’s dead kings addressing the King of Babylon. We need to study the Bible more meticulously.

Back to: How Biblical is Ellen White?

Not so much.

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There can be little reasonable doubt that EGW is substantially less than Biblical.

But that brings one back to the question of “So what?”

If one starts with the belief that the Bible is comprised of the inerrant words of an omniscient, perfect god, of course the accusation of being “not biblical” is an unpardonable sin.

(But then again, a perfect god would be able to create a perfect book that would convey perfect and inarguable understanding to every reader, right? So the Bible we have clearly isn’t that.)

However, if one rejects that first principle and sees the Bible as just another human production which itself is in no way absolutely authoritative and not the last word on anything, there is room for growth in wisdom and advancement in every philosophical system.

This is why no reasonable philosopher starts from the premise that you must “play with my loaded dice” or accept any part of his philosophy as being unquestionable, particularly given that everything of human manufacture is based on a limited intellectual capacity, subjective assumptions about a more or less random collection of sensory input and an admittedly incomplete set of facts.

Not defending EGW, just sayin that even if she had been 100% “biblically correct”, that wouldn’t guarantee her being absolutely “right”, nor would such an alignment of vision be prima facia evidence that she was the definitive answer to every modern problem, as I was taught in my youth!!!:rofl:

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Here’s my published book review of Daily’s book for some additional insights.

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It depends what the ultimate goal is. If the goal is growth and experience through failure and learning… then you get what you get.

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Is the above statement correct or does she contradict the Bible?

(In the following comment, all emphases are mine.)
Ellen wrote the following, referring to Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus, ‘There was no exercise of supernatural power to harden the heart of the king.’
But the Bible says (God speaking to Moses), ‘When you return to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in your hand, but I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.’
I don’t see how a plain reading of Scripture can fail to see that the above two sentences are contradictory.

Ellen also wrote, referring to Pharaoh, ‘God speaks to men through His servants, giving cautions and warnings, and rebuking sin. He gives to each an opportunity to correct his errors before they become fixed in the character; but if one refuses to be corrected, divine power does not interpose to counteract the tendency of his own action. He finds it more easy to repeat the same course. He is hardening the heart against the influence of the Holy Spirit. A further rejection of light places him where a far stronger influence will be ineffectual to make an abiding impression.’

So, was Pharaoh’s character so fixed by himself that God could do nothing to change it, as Ellen says? To put it another way, was God’s will no match for Pharaoh’s, or is Ellen wrong and God successfully imposed His will using divine power?

The Bible tells us the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.’
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.’

God said He would show His power in Pharaoh - not just by the plagues.
So the Lord was ‘manifesting His power’ by the plagues but also by hardening the heart of Pharaoh.
Also it doesn’t sound like Pharaoh made his own heart ‘more and more hardened’ as Ellen says, because twice he actually asked Moses to pray to the Lord on his behalf.
Read the passage yourself in Exodus ch 6-13. You will see that in each of the last five plagues, a plain reading of Scripture reveals that the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was indeed ‘an exercise of supernatural power’ by God.
So, do you believe Ellen or the Bible?

Another example of how Ellen’s interpretation differs from the Bible is found in the story of Samson.
Ellen wrote, ‘Had Samson obeyed the divine commands as faithfully as his parents had done, his would have been a nobler and happier destiny. But association with idolaters corrupted him. The town of Zorah being near the country of the Philistines, Samson came to mingle with them on friendly terms. Thus in his youth intimacies sprang up, the influence of which darkened his whole life. A young woman dwelling in the Philistine town of Timnath engaged Samson’s affections, and he determined to make her his wife.’

But the Bible says, ‘Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines. So he came back and told his father and mother, “I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumscribed Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me.” However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.’
Another contradiction between Ellen and the Bible. She says Samson’s attraction to Philistine women was his own doing, the Bible says it was ‘of the Lord.’
So, do you believe Ellen or the Bible?

Here is another example of misunderstanding the Bible by Ellen:
Concerning the story of Rehoboam and his heavy taxation of the people which split the kingdom apart, Ellen wrote, ‘Had Rehoboam and his inexperienced counselors understood the divine will concerning Israel, they would have listened to the request of the people for decided reforms in the administration of the government. But in the hour of opportunity that came to them during the meeting in Shechem, they failed to reason from cause to effect, and thus forever weakened their influence over a large number of the people. Their expressed determination to perpetuate and add to the oppression introduced during Solomon’s reign was in direct conflict with God’s plan for Israel, and gave the people ample occasion to doubt the sincerity of their motives. In this unwise and unfeeling attempt to exercise power, the king and his chosen counselors revealed the pride of position and authority.’
She also wrote, ’The story of Rehoboam and his rash and unwise decision to impose more conscripted labor on his people is a sad event in the life of the kingdom of Israel. The king sought counsel from two groups of advisors, but his final decision to follow the counsel of less-experienced young men his own age brought a catastrophe on the kingdom…Hence, a division occurred among God’s people that never should have been there and that was never God’s plan for His people.’

But in the Biblical account recorded in 1Kings 11 we are given insight into the real reason this split in the kingdom occurred. It was a judgment of God on the Jewish nation because of Solomon’s sin in being unfaithful to God (vs 33).
Through the prophet Ahijah, God told Jeroboam, who was to become king of Israel (the ten northern tribes), ‘See, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you…’ (vs 31).
After Rehoboam announced his decision about worsening the financial yoke on the people, we read, ‘So the king did not listen to the people; for it was a turn to of events from the Lord, that He might establish His word, which the Lord spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat (1Kings 12:15).

The Bible tells us that the decision about further increasing the taxes was not Rehoboam’s or his counsellors’ idea, it had already been mandated by God as his method of ‘tearing the kingdom’ from Solomon for his sins. The resulting division of the kingdom was not in direct conflict with God’s plan for Israel as Ellen wrote, but according to the Bible it was God’s plan for Israel as God explained to Solomon while Solomon was still king and well before Rehoboam took his place on the throne. (1Ki 11: 11-13).
Once again, Ellen has contradicted the Scriptures.
So, do you believe Ellen or the Bible?

Do you see the common thread in these examples? Can you recognize one crucial point at which Ellen and thus Adventist theology depart from the Bible? Can you see what evidently the article’s author cannot see?
The problem is that Adventism does not accept the sovereignty of God over His creation, and that God can and sometimes does overrule our wills to accomplish His purposes. So, passages in the Bible that prove this point are ignored or distorted, or worse, flat out contradicted.

It’s fascinating to me that learned Adventist scholars refuse to acknowledge this fundamental contradiction to the Bible in Adventist theology. Can they not see it? Perhaps God, in His mercy, prevents them from recognizing it because it would call into question a foundational, erroneous element in their theology: the belief that man’s will, not God’s, is paramount.

I have given a few examples from the OT; this crucial misunderstanding of Ellen’s carries over into the NT and I believe must cause great difficulty for Christians attempting to comprehend the gospel while trying to concurrently regard her writings as authoritative…

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