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Concepts of Revelation and Inspiration


Concepts of Revelation and Inspiration Denis Fortin Writings of Ellen G. White The Issues Most difficulties with the writings of Ellen White stem often from a faulty ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Concepts of Revelation and Inspiration

Concepts of Revelation and Inspiration
  • Denis Fortin
  • Writings of Ellen G. White

The Issues
  • Most difficulties with the writings of Ellen
    White stem often from a faulty understanding of
    how God gave her messages and how her writings
    are inspired.
  • Thus, people not well informed regarding the
    processes of revelation and inspiration are more
    vulnerable to a loss of confidence in her
    ministry when they discover information contrary
    to their views.

Ellen Whites view of her ministry
  • Introduction to the Great Controversy
  • "In harmony with the word of God, His Spirit was
    to continue its work throughout the period of the
    gospel dispensation. During the ages while the
    Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament
    were being given, the Holy Spirit did not cease
    to communicate light to individual minds, apart
    from the revelations to be embodied in the Sacred

Ellen Whites view of her ministry
  • "The Bible itself relates how, through the Holy
    Spirit, men received warning, reproof, counsel,
    and instruction, in matters in no way relating to
    the giving of the Scriptures. And mention is made
    of prophets in different ages, of whose
    utterances nothing is recorded. In like manner,
    after the close of the canon of the Scripture,
    the Holy Spirit was still to continue its work,
    to enlighten, warn, and comfort the children of
    God." (GC viii)

Ellen Whites view of her ministry
  • "The Spirit i.e. the gift of prophecy was not
    given--nor can it ever be bestowed-- to supersede
    the Bible for the Scriptures explicitly state
    that the word of God is the standard by which all
    teaching and experience must be tested." (GC vii)

Modes of Revelation
  • 1. Visions
  • In her early years of ministry, Ellen White
    received visions often attended by striking
    physical phenomena.
  • Unconscious of earthly surroundings
  • Temporary cessation of breathing
  • Unblinking eyelids
  • Supernatural strength

Ellen White's first vision
  • "While I was praying at the family altar, the
    Holy Ghost fell upon me, and I seemed to be
    rising higher and higher, far above the dark
    world. I turned to look for the Advent people in
    the world, but could not find them, when a voice
    said to me, "Look again, and look a little
    higher." At this I raised my eyes, and saw a
    straight and narrow path, cast up high above the
    world. On this path the Advent people were
    traveling to the city, which was at the farther
    end of the path." (EW 14)

Modes of Revelation
  • 2. Prophetic Dreams
  • These were visions received during her sleep.

San Francisco Earthquake
  • "While at Loma Linda, California, April 16, 1906,
    there passed before me a most wonderful
    representation. During a vision of the night, I
    stood on an eminence, from which I could see
    houses shaken like a reed in the wind. Buildings,
    great and small, were falling to the ground.
    Pleasure resorts, theaters, hotels, and the homes
    of the wealthy were shaken and shattered. Many
    lives were blotted out of existence, and the air
    was filled with the shrieks of the injured and
    the terrified. . . . The awfulness of the scenes
    that passed before me I cannot find words to
    describe. It seemed that the forbearance of God
    was exhausted, and that the judgment day had
    come. Terrible as was the representation that
    passed before me, that which impressed itself
    most vividly upon my mind was the instruction
    given in connection with it." (3SM 40-41)

Natural Dreams
  • Prophetic dreams must be distinguished from
    natural dreams
  • by the information and content
  • by the presence of the same angel as in prophetic
    daytime visions

Genuine visions and dreams
  • "I would call especial attention to the
    remarkable dreams given in this little work, all
    with harmony and distinctness illustrating the
    same things. The multitude of dreams arise from
    the common things of life, with which the Spirit
    of God has nothing to do. There are also false
    dreams, as well as false visions, which are
    inspired by the spirit of Satan. But dreams from
    the Lord are classed in the word of God with
    visions and are as truly the fruits of the spirit
    of prophecy as visions. Such dreams, taking into
    the account the persons who have them and the
    circumstances under which they are given, contain
    their own proofs of their genuineness." (1T
    569-570 1867)

Modes of Revelation
  • 3. Short visions during periods of prayer or
  • Well, while I was praying and was sending up my
    petition, there was, as has been a hundred times
    or more, a soft light circling around in the
    room, and a fragrance like the fragrance of
    flowers, of a beautiful scent of flowers. (Ms
    43a, 1901)

Modes of Revelation
  • 4. Precognitions
  • Literal eyewitness-style revelations of persons
    she did not know or events that had not yet
  • "Sometimes the things which I have seen are hid
    from me after I come out of vision, and I cannot
    call them to mind until I am brought before a
    company where that vision applies, then the
    things which I have seen come to my mind with
    force." (2SG 292-293)

Modes of Revelation
  • 5. Impressions
  • When I am speaking to the people I say much
    that I have not premeditated. The Spirit of the
    Lord frequently comes upon me. I seem to be
    carried out of, and away from, myself the life
    and character of different persons are clearly
    presented before my mind. I see their errors and
    dangers, and feel compelled to speak of what is
    thus brought before me. I dare not resist the
    Spirit of God. (5T 20)

Function of Inspiration
  • In contrast to revelation, which is a process of
    wholly divine initiative and control, the process
    of inspiration involves a union of divine and
    human elements.
  • Inspiration is the work of the Holy Spirit upon
    the prophet.

Union of Divine and Human Elements
  • "The Ten Commandments were spoken by God Himself,
    and were written by His own hand. They are of
    divine, and not of human composition. But the
    Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the
    language of men, presents a union of the divine
    and the human.  Such a union existed in the
    nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the
    Son of man. Thus it is true of the Bible, as it
    was of Christ, that 'the Word was made flesh, and
    dwelt among us.' John 114." (GC v-vi)

Role of the Holy Spirit
  • "Each Bible writer, under the guidance of the
    Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly
    impressed upon his own mind--a different aspect
    of the truth in each, but a perfect harmony
    through all." (GC vi)

Role of the Holy Spirit
  • "God has been pleased to communicate His truth to
    the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by
    His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them
    to do this work. He guided the mind in the
    selection of what to speak and what to write."
    (GC vi)

Role of the Holy Spirit
  • "I am trying to catch the very words and
    expressions that were made in reference to this
    matter, and as my pen hesitates a moment, the
    appropriate words come to my mind." (Letter 123,
    1904 8MR 35)

Role of the Holy Spirit
  • "I have all faith in God .... He works at my
    right hand and at my left. While I am writing out
    important matter, He is beside me, helping me. He
    lays out my work before me, and when I am puzzled
    for a fit word with which to express my thought,
    He brings it clearly and distinctly to my mind. I
    feel that every time I ask, even while I am still
    speaking, He responds, "Here am I." (Letter 127,
    1902 2MR 156-157)

Role of the Holy Spirit
  • "Through the inspiration of His Spirit the Lord
    gave His apostles truth, to be expressed
    according to the development of their minds by
    the Holy Spirit. But the mind is not cramped, as
    if forced into a certain mold." (Letter 53, 1900
    in 1SM 22)

Where does this divine-human union occur?
  • The dictation theory of inspiration virtually
    asserts that the earliest point at which a human
    element becomes part of the writing is at the
  • In other words, every word and detail is
    pre-selected and dictated by God and the only
    part of the prophet really involved is the
    prophet's hand.

Where does this divine-human union occur?
  • The term "verbal inspiration" has today such a
    wide range of interpretations that it has lost
    much of its precision.
  • As understood by early Adventists, however, it
    denoted the idea that every word of the prophet's
    utterance was pre-selected by God without any
    human participation, hence could not subsequently
    be altered, even by the prophet.

Where does this divine-human union occur?
  • The verbal/dictation view was specifically
    rejected by the 1883 General Conference, in a
    resolution offered by W.C. White, and clearly
    representing Ellen White's understanding of
  • The context for this resolution was the need of
    reprinting Ellen White's Testimonies for the
    Church which had gone out of print.

Where does this divine-human union occur?
  • Whereas, We believe the light given by God to His
    servants is by the enlightenment of the mind,
    thus imparting the thoughts, and not (except in
    rare cases) the very words in which the ideas
    should be expressed therefore - Resolved, That
    in the re-publication of these volumes such
    verbal changes be made as to remove the
    above-named imperfection, as far as possible,
    without in any measure changing the thought and,
    further - Resolved, That this body appoint a
    committee of five to take charge of the
    republication of these volumes. (Review and
    Herald, November 27, 1883, p. 741 see also 3Bio

Conceptual or Thought Inspiration
  • Ellen White taught that the union of the divine
    and human in the process of inspiration took
    place at the level of the "mind and will."

Conceptual or Thought Inspiration
  • The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is
    not God's mode of thought and expression. It is
    that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not
    represented. Men will often say such an
    expression is not like God. But God has not put
    Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial
    in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God's
    penmen, not His pen. Look at the different

Conceptual or Thought Inspiration
  • It is not the words of the Bible that are
    inspired, but the men that were inspired.
    Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his
    expressions but on the man himself, who, under
    the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with
    thoughts. But the words receive the impress of
    the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused.
    The divine mind and will is combined with the
    human mind and will thus the utterances of the
    man are the word of God (Manuscript 24, 1886 in
    1SM 21).

Implications of Conceptual Inspiration
  • If the union of the divine and the human in
    inspiration takes place at the level of
    "thoughts," and involves a "combining" of "mind
    and will," it follows that the faculties of both
    understanding and choice were fully operant as
    the prophet wrote.

Implications of Conceptual Inspiration
  • How the divine mind and will is combined with
    the human mind and will remains a mystery, but
    it suggests that in formulating or choosing
    "words and expressions" to represent the
    "thoughts" received from God, the prophet
    exercised both human intellect and choice, in
    cooperation with the "divine mind and will."

Implications of Conceptual Inspiration
  • Ellen White clearly understood this process to be
    a live, dynamic one that continued as long as the
    prophet remained under the influence of the Holy
  • She claimed full dependence of the Holy Spirit in
    writing and that
  • she had full responsibility and freedom to choose
    her words.

Implications of Conceptual Inspiration
  • "Although I am as dependent upon the Spirit of
    God in writing my views as I am in receiving
    them, yet the words I employ in describing what I
    have seen are my own, unless they be those spoken
    to me by an angel, which I always enclose in
    marks of quotation." (RH, 8 Oct 1867, also in 1SM
    37 and 3SM 278)

Implications of Conceptual Inspiration
  • In summary, Ellen White understood the
    combination of the divine and human mind and will
    to be an ongoing process in the prophet's
  • Inspiration guided the prophet as communicator,
    not only in the initial formulation of thoughts
    into words, but also in the subsequent
    improvement of those expressions by herself or
    with the help of others.

Characteristics of divine-human writings
  • Individual styles of writings and diversity (GC
    vi 1SM 21-22)
  • Variety of viewpoints, yet perfect harmony
  • "The Creator of all ideas may impress different
    minds with the same thought, but each may express
    it in a different way, yet without contradiction"
    (1SM 22).

Characteristics of divine-human writings
  • Imperfect language, yet trustworthy message
  • "The treasure was entrusted to earthen vessels,
    yet it is, nonetheless, from Heaven. The
    testimony is conveyed through the imperfect
    expression of human language, yet it is the
    testimony of God and the obedient, believing
    child of God beholds in it the glory of a divine
    power, full of grace and truth" (GC vi-vii).

Characteristics of divine-human writings
  • "The Bible is not given to us in grand,
    superhuman language. Jesus, in order to reach man
    where he is, took humanity. The Bible must be
    given in the language of men. Everything that is
    human is imperfect" (1SM 20).

Characteristics of divine-human writings
  • While Ellen White insists that God alone is
    infallible yet she believed in the trustworthy
    reliability of Scripture as a whole (1SM 17).
  • "In His word, God has committed to men the
    knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy
    Scriptures are to be accepted as an
    authoritative, infallible revelation of His will.
    They are the standard of character, the revealer
    of doctrines, and the test of experience" (GC

Characteristics of divine-human writings
  • While the human vessel of inspiration is fallible
    and imperfect, the product of inspiration is
    infallible albeit imperfect.
  • Divine inspired writings are not exempt from
    insignificant mistakes due to limitations of
    languages or of comprehension. But the message
    is trustworthy and infallible.

Characteristics of divine-human writings
  • Erroneous concepts of inspiration lead inevitably
    to misinterpretation and misuse of inspired
  • Overemphasis on the human elements in inspired
    writings leads to diminished appreciation for
    their true value and authority.
  • De-emphasis of the human elements leads to rigid,
    inflexible, and authoritarian applications
    confusion of rules and principles.
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