Liked your post.
But the reality at the “pew level” is that if one desires a DISCUSSION on
a topic or a Bible Text when in a Sabbath School class, a “thus saith Ellen
White” stops ANY discussion. She is the Last Word, REALLY!!
The last 12 years I have become “spoiled.” At my Sunday church there is a
continuing Bible Class where we sit around and comment on the Sunday
Lectionary Readings for the day – Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament,
Gospel. It is free flow. No moderator. Just a Time Keeper. We allow 15
minutes for any spontaneous comments per Reading. When the 15 minutes
are up we move on to the next Reading.
It is a Great Learning activity as we ask questions, and make comments.
I miss that Freedom in my SDA Sabbath School classes.
How many SDA S.S. classes are either a “sermon” or just a Re-Reading of
the Quarterly, page by page?
Jeffrey, I think you are correct that back in time (when I became an SDA in the 1960s) Ellen White was generally considered the lesser light. You might be aware that the current administration has reversed positions taken before about Ellen White and made her equal with the Bible. A statement on this was presented at the NAD meetings this year and will be considered and voted in this year at G.C. Many Adventists are horrified at this, but the usual practice from the top down is to announce what they are going to do, allow discussion on it and then vote it in anyway. This is M. L. Andreasen’s Adventism in charge, wearing armour with sword out to win the battle. The idea of making us all comply with the leadership’s rulings is a very real prospect, starting with ministers and teachers and informing our S. S .pamphlets and other written material. The compliance threat has already begun with union leaders. This is what I understand from afar; others will correct me.
Yes! Those “compliance threats” were set up to prevent asking Questions
and seeking Answers. [They were based upon the Fact that ALL the
Questions had been asked long ago, ALL the Answers had been found
long ago. This pertained to ALL Theological Study, pertained to ALL
Science Study, especially any that asked Questions of the Earth.]
The THREAT of implementation is Still out there. We have no idea
WHEN the chopping block will be implemented.
Steve you are of course right about this, or I think as often people just avoid talking Ellen White at all… in more liberal or middle of the road churches.
Of course what I am humored by is that even the hard line conservatives are willing to abandon Ellen White when she does not conform to their beliefs. The appropriateness of celebrating Christmas being one area.
Not quite Ellen White but I am sadly humored by folks like Doug Bachelor and the whole of the Michigan conference who demand the church follow the dictates of the GC in session except when it comes to women elders and in that case they know better than the GC.
Gillian, Sadly I seem to find you are correct in your view of our current members and administration views on “compliance” etc. The original church founders came from varied religious backgrounds and chose to not force their individual religious beliefs on each other but let God Lead. When did we decide our leadership was better than God’s leadership?
According to various theories of the mind, the root of fundamentalism is the inability to consider that an alternative to a belief can exist. The template of this phenomenon is thought to be an outcome of the failure of the child to emerge from a narcissistic state is which the mother is not recognized as a separate entity/person. A newborn child’s needs are anticipated and met by his mother and this environment is described as an “infantile omnipotence” with the child believing that his needs bring their own gratification, not knowing that it really is a function of mothering. Thus the child’s earliest mental task is to develop from an omnipotence to a recognition that his mother exist as a separate entity. As the child matures, he becomes more demanding of his mother and it is the mother’s survival of the child’s destructiveness that forces the awareness that the mother is a separate being, having a life of her own. Thereafter, as the child matures and grows cognitively, he learns how to deal with his mother in a mutual interpersonal relationship. Once the child becomes cognizant of his mother’s mind, the two proceed in a long travel to a new level of intersubjective relating in which each sees the other as a separate entity. Building on this foundation, the child develops the capability of knowing how his mother feels, even when it is different from his own feelings, and realizing that his mother is capable of knowing his feelings, even when they are different from her own. This in turn serves as the foundation for the child to not only accept difference but also to love the other for the difference. Both of which are absent in a fundamentalist world.
One complication in our evaluation of Ellen White’s writings is that for most of her life she was not a Christian. She did not present herself as a Trinitarian, as a Christian, until the latter years of her life. We can debate where the line should be placed that divides her early non-Christian writings from her later Christian writings. But to regard her early non-Christian writings in the same way we regard her later Christian writings is not something that a Christian can do.
A second complication is that we know very little about how God acts upon the person and thoughts of the human author. We know from our understanding of linguistics, which is a subsidiary discipline of hermeneutics, that the words written by the human author are not divinely inspired. And we know that God inserts Himself in the human author’s time and space, resulting in a conveyance of inspiration that is historically conditioned. But that’s about it.
A third complication is that our debate about inspiration misses a crucial point, which is that most people have never been taught how to interpret a text. Misinterpretation of the Bible and the writings of Ellen White is ubiquitous in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Most Seventh-day Adventists do not even attempt an interpretation; they just read the words. Ironically, leaders in our faith community have thought so little of these texts that learning how to interpret them has been of no interest or concern. The texts are read in the same manner as a violin is played by a poorly-trained child. The more time spent reading, the more ingrained bad habits become.
Christians believe that only Trinitarians are Christians. This belief has been part of the bedrock of Christendom for many centuries. As explained by Athanasius, the greatest exponent of the Trinity in the history of Christendom:
“Yes, surely; while all of us are and are called Christians after Christ, Marcion broached a heresy a long time since and was cast out; and those who continued with him who ejected him remained Christians; but those who followed Marcion were called Christians no more, but henceforth Marcionites. Thus Valentinus also, and Basilides, and Manichaeus, and Simon Magus, have imparted their own name to their followers; and some are accosted as Valentinians, or as Basilidians, or as Manicheees, or as Simonians; and other, Cataphrygians from Phrygia, and from Novatus Novatians. So too Meletius, when ejected by Peter the Bishop and Martyr, called his party no longer Christians, but Meletians, and so in consequence when Alexander of blessed memory had cast out Arius, those who remained with Alexander, remained Christians; but those who went out with Arius, left the Savior’s Name to us who were with Alexander, and as to them they were hence-forward denominated Arians.” Four Discourses Against the Arians.
There is no serious disagreement with the consensus of Seventh-day Adventist Church historians that Ellen White did not present herself as a Trinitarian until the latter years of her life.
Is that right? Please tell me what kind of Trinitarian you believe allows one to be a Christian? If you were to say, one must believe that Jesus is the Divine son of God - “True God and True Man,” - “The Eternal incarnated,” then yes, a Christian must believe this.
I myself do believe in the Trinity, however
When you, " up the ante" to say - Only Trinitarians are Christians, what version of Trinity are you speaking of ? “The Eternal Generation of the Son”?
What about a modelist view ?
If you turn to the creeds to answer my question, then you are using “Counsels” and Church Fathers like some use Ellen White - as an final authority. Don’t do that!
A Trinitarian is one who believes in the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Such a person bears the Savior’s name. For a further explication of my views of the Trinity, you can read my review of the Seminary’s video series on the Trinity.
In some ways, this discussion of inspirational infallibility of Ellen White mirrors the debate over papal infallibility at Vatican I in the 19th century. Those who were opposed to the doctrine of infallibility pointed to the example of Pope Honorius I in the 7th century who unadvisedly issued a statement supporting a faction advocating that Christ and the Father were entirely of the same will as opposed to Christ having separate human and divine wills. His failure to consult with both parties in the debate before responding resulted in his condemnation by several later councils and popes. His error supported the idea that popes were not infallible. Therefore the party at Vatican I that wanted a doctrine of papal infallibility were somewhat hamstrung. The doctrine of Mary, mother of Jesus, being herself immaculately conceived, hung in the balance. The need for infallibility to support that papal declaration regarding Mary and also to accommodate the obvious error of Honorius forced a compromise that declared that the pope was infallible, but only when speaking ex cathedra.
We seem to be struggling with a similar issue, a desire for Ellen White to be infallible in her declarations in order to make her edicts the normative rules for our faith, but at the same time we are confronted with her own statements that she is not infallible. (Letter 27, 1876 & Selected Messages, Book 1, pp 415 & 37) Does the Roman Catholic example then provide us with a way forward through this debate? I had a recent discussion with a fundamentalist in our denomination regarding this very issue, and not knowing of the previous Catholic determination, they offered up a very similar solution wherein the church makes a determination as to when Ellen White was speaking infallibly and when she was not. It appears that the attempt made to resolve this issue of literal inspirational infallibility in the introduction to “The Great Controversy” is no longer adequate to resolve issues of interpretation and subsequently derived praxis. Are we therefore at a crossroads? Do we assert prophetic infallibility for Ellen White and draw nearer to the Roman Catholic understanding of inspired utterance, or do we admit to prophetic fallibility and distance ourselves from Rome, but at the same time open the door for a more metaphorical and less literal approach to scripture based on the possibility of inspired but fallible biblical authorities? Perhaps there is a limit to systematic theology’s ability to provide cogent answers. Perhaps the more notable error is in our felt need to resolve such issues. After all, isn’t the striving for a perfectly defined theology simply another form of perfectionism? Is it allowed in the face of an ineffable God to simply allow that we do not know the answers to such esoteric questions without shipwrecking our faith? Can we live with a fallible prophet?
About 15 years ago I sat on the only SDA nominating committee that I will ever sit on. (Fool me once…) Having come previously from a church and conference with women elders I was taken back when I was told that “we don’t have women elders here”. I asked what was done when an issue arose that required counsel to a woman in the congregation on a sensitive topic and was told that in those circumstances maybe an elder’s wife would be called in. I dropped the subject and we moved on
Since that time I’ve come to understand that the SDA church is actually quite a diverse group. It functions more like congregationalism in that each individual church implements the beliefs of the denomination in the way that fits best with their local culture, however not like it in that it shares a highly bureaucratic structure and financial system. Somehow the top leadership (and many congregations) don’t want to acknowledge this functional diversity of thought and practice. After all, ignoring tough issues then doubling down on fundamentalism has worked so well up until now, as evidenced by this discussion of the 1919 Bible conference…
The criticism of Ellen’s book is still valid to this day. I have found it by my own research comparing Ellen White’s Life of Paul with Howson’s The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, vols. 1&2,1852, 1853 online. She had copied from these books on a wholesale! My research covered all the 32 chapters of the Sketches from the Life of Paul, 1883. Another major source she had made use of was The Life and work of St Paul by F. W. Farrar. Other minor sources were, The Footsteps of St. Paul by John Ross Macduff; History of Nero by Jacob Abbott; Matthew Henry’s commentary; Daniel March’s Night scenes in the Bible. However, there was no mention of any of these authors in her book, instead, this is what the publisher’s note says: “The writer of this book, [Ellen White] having received especial help from the Spirit of God, is able to throw light upon the teachings of Paul and their application to our own time, as no other authors are prepared to do. She has not suffered herself to be drawn aside to discuss theories, or to indulge in speculation. No extraneous matter is introduced. Consequently much that is contained in other books, which is interesting to the curious, and has a certain value, but which is after all little more than theory, finds no place in this work.” – Sketches from the life of Paul, pp. iii, iv, 1883. Was this an honest claim?
She followed Howson closely, and where he is not elaborate or clear, she would draw that from Farrar and other writers. It would be a great crime (or sin) to clear her of the plagiarism of her book on Paul.
It is true in a sense that she was not infallible (as a sinful human being). On the other hand, she always believed and taught what she had written was inerrant and infallible because she had received it through inspiration.