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Ellen G. White as messenger of the Lord


What shall we do with Ellen White's ministry through her writings? Should we continue to give her writings the authority we have given them in the past? ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Ellen G. White as messenger of the Lord

Ellen G. White as messenger of the Lord
  • What about her authority?
  • Denis Fortin
  • Australia, February 2005

The Achilles heel
  • The concept of authority has become one of the
    most controversial notions of modern times.
  • Just as much as authority in society is being
    challenged, the authority of Scripture is also

How about the authority of Ellen White and her
  • What shall we do with Ellen Whites ministry
    through her writings?
  • Should we continue to give her writings the
    authority we have given them in the past?
  • Or should we limit her authority?
  • In fact, does she have any authority?

Challenge to Ellen Whites authority
  • Her authority in areas of spiritual discernment
    and homiletical application of Scripture are not
    usually challenged.
  • The challenges to her authority are largely in
    the area of doctrinal authority.

What is authority?
  • Bernard Ramm defines authority as "that right or
    power to command action or compliance, or to
    determine belief or custom, expecting obedience
    from those under authority, and in turn giving
    responsible account for the claim to right or
    power." (The Pattern of Authority, p. 10)

Kinds of authority
  • Imperial authority
  • Delegated authority
  • Veracious authority (authority of truth)
  • Functional authority
  • Authority of custom

Recognition of authority
  • An authority becomes authoritative to a person
    only as that person accepts the authority through
    personal decision. All authority must be
    personally recognized.

Authority in religion
  • Bernard Ramm comments, "When one turns to the
    question of authority in religion the basic
    problem immediately arises is there anything in
    religion which demands that a man think a certain
    way about religion and not another? Is there a
    man, a society, a principle, or a document which
    has the right to prescribe religious belief?

Authority in religion
  • "Nothing could be more foolish in religion than
    the rejection of an authority which contained the
    truth of the living God and nothing could be
    more tragic than the substitution of the voice of
    man for the voice of God." (Pattern of Authority,
    p. 16)

Authority of God
  • God is the supreme and absolute authority in the
  • His authority is intimately related to the
    revelation of himself.
  • He revealed himself to prophets.
  • Prophets were his spokespersons in spoken and
    written word.

Authority of Scripture
  • Word of God spoken and written by prophets has
    both veracious and delegated authority.
  • Thus, to disbelieve the prophetic utterance of
    the prophet is to disbelieve God.

Authority of Scripture
  • 2 Peter 119-21 And we have the word of the
    prophets made more certain, and you will do well
    to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in
    a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning
    star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must
    understand that no prophecy of Scripture came
    about by the prophet's own interpretation. For
    prophecy never had its origin in the will of man,
    but men spoke from God as they were carried along
    by the Holy Spirit.

Authority of Scripture
  • Ramm concludes, The Bible is not the authority
    for the Christian because it was written by
    religious geniuses. Nor is it the Christian's
    authority because it has been pragmatically
    verified through the centuries, nor because it
    inspires great religious experience. The Bible is
    binding upon the Christian because it is part of
    the organism of divine revelation. It is
    authoritative because it shares in revelation. It
    is a divine revelation in written form in various
    literary genres. (Continued)

Authority of Scripture
  • "The Bible is authoritative because it is the
    Word of God. . . . Through the Holy Spirit it
    possesses delegated imperial authority and
    veracious authority in all matters in which it
    intends to teach. All other reasons for giving
    the Bible the supreme role in religious authority
    are defective. The content of the Bible is given
    by the double action of special revelation and
    divine inspiration, and therefore it is for the
    Christian the revealed word of God." (Pattern of
    Authority, p. 38)

Authority of Ellen Whites writings
  • Seventh-day Adventists claim that Ellen White was
    inspired to the same extent as were Bible
  • Yet, we view her prophetic ministry as similar to
    that of non-canonical prophets and that the Bible
    is the only rule of faith and practice.

Ellen White Exalted the Bible
The truth of God is found in His word. Those who
feel that they must seek elsewhere for present
truth need to be converted anew. They have wrong
habits to mend, evil ways to be abandoned. They
need to seek anew the truth as it is in Jesus,
that their character building may be in harmony
with the lessons of Christ. (8T 192)
Ellen White Exalted the Bible
In the Bible the will of God is revealed to His
children. Wherever it is read, in the family
circle, the school, or the church, all should
give quiet and devout attention as if God were
really present and speaking to them. (5T 84)
A Proper Relationship
Brother J would confuse the mind by seeking to
make it appear that the light God has given
through the Testimonies i.e., Ellen Whites
writings is an addition to the word of God, but
in this he presents the matter in a false light.
God has seen fit in this manner to bring the
minds of His people to His word, to give them a
clearer understanding of it. (4T 246)
James Whites position
The Bible is a perfect and complete revelation.
It is our only rule of faith and practice. But
this is no reason why God may not show the past,
present, and future fulfillment of his word, in
these last days, by dreams and visions, according
to Peters testimony Acts 217-18. True
visions are given to lead us to God, and to his
written word but those that are given for a new
rule of faith and practice, separate from the
Bible, cannot be from God, and should be
James Whites position
Every Christian is therefore in duty bound to
take the Bible as a perfect rule of faith and
duty. He should pray fervently to be aided by
the Holy Spirit in searching the Scriptures for
the whole truth, and for his whole duty. He is
not at liberty to turn from them to learn his
duty through any of the spiritual gifts. We
say that the very moment he does, he places the
gifts in a wrong place, and takes an extremely
dangerous position. (Review Herald, October
16, 1855)
G. I. Butlers position
They the visions or writings of Ellen White
everywhere direct us to the Scriptures as the
great source of true instruction, and to the
example of Jesus Christ as the true pattern.
They never claim to be given to take the place of
the Bible, but simply to be a manifestation of
one of those spiritual gifts set in the church by
its divine Lord and as such should have their
proper weight. (Review Herald, June 9, 1874)
Ellen Whites perception of her authority
  • During the night season I was specially
    moved upon by the Spirit of God. My soul had been
    drawn out in earnest supplication to God. I was
    distressed on account of the backsliding of His
    people. (Continued)

Ellen Whites perception of her authority
  • While lying in bed, unable to sleep because
    of the burden resting upon me, I was pleading
    with the Lord. I fell asleep, and in the night
    season I was taught of God. My guide said, "I
    have a work for you to do. You must speak the
    words given you by the Lord. After these words
    have been spoken, your duty here is done. You are
    not required to enter into details before
    individuals, whatever may be their position or
    work, if they do not recognize the voice of God
    in the message He gives you to bear in His name.

Ellen Whites perception of her authority
  • All your efforts to remove their doubts will
    be of no avail if they gather the clouds of
    darkness about their souls. If you enter into
    particulars, you weaken the message. It is not
    you speaking, but the Lord speaking through you.
    Those who want to know the will of God, who do
    not desire to follow their own will and judgment,
    will be easily entreated. They will be ready to
    discern the right way. (Continued)

Ellen Whites perception of her authority
  • The whys and wherefores are concealed from
    you yet speak the words I give you, however
    painful it may be to you. The ways in which God
    leads His people are generally mysterious. You
    have asked to know God's way. Your supplication
    has been answered. God knows better than you do
    what is good and essential for His children. He
    never leads them otherwise than they would wish
    to be led, if they were able to see as clearly as
    He does what they must do to establish characters
    that will fit them for the heavenly courts. . . .

Ellen Whites perception of her authority
  • You are to act your part, and then leave the
    rest to God. You will have startling, surprising
    messages to bear, but if those who hear cannot
    see the import of these messages, explanations
    from you will not lead them to understand any
    more clearly. They have ears, but they hear not.
    Satan takes control of their unsanctified reason,
    and leads them to misunderstand and misapply.
    (Ms 29, 1900 in UP 339)

Ellen Whites writings
  • The Conflict of the Ages series
  • "Sister White is not the originator of these
    books. They contain the instruction that during
    her lifework God has been giving her. They
    contain the precious, comforting light that God
    has graciously given His servant to be given to
    the world." (CM 125)

Ellen Whites writings
  • The periodical articles
  • "I do not write one article in the paper
    expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God
    has opened before me in vision--the precious rays
    of light shining from the throne." (5T 67)

Ellen Whites writings
  • The Testimonies
  • "Those who carefully read the testimonies as
    they have appeared from the early days, need not
    be perplexed as to their origin. The many books,
    written by the help of the Spirit of God, bear a
    living witness to the character of the
    testimonies." (Letter 225, 1906 in 1SM 49)

Ellen Whites writings
  • The unpublished letters (testimonies)
  • "Weak and trembling, I arose at three o'clock
    in the morning to write to you. God was speaking
    through clay. You may say that this communication
    was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but
    prompted by the Spirit of God, to bring before
    your minds things that had been shown me. In
    these letters which I write, in the testimonies I
    bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord
    has presented to me." (5T 67)

Prophets are human . . .
  • Used fallible and imperfect modes of
  • Influenced by culture and personal subjectivity
  • Limited in their knowledge
  • Their influence upon people and events is limited

. . . but have a supernatural work
  • Sometimes supernatural phenomena accompany their
  • Given supernatural knowledge of past, current,
    and future events
  • Given supernatural understanding of issues
    related to events and people
  • Their writings are inspired

Primarily a commentator
Throughout her writings, but primarily in her
Conflict of the Ages series, Ellen White
commented on the Biblical story from the origin
of sin in heaven to its final eradication from
the universe after the millennium. She
articulated her thoughts around her major themes
great controversy, love of God, salvation in
Jesus, and second coming of Christ.
Types of biblical interpretations
  • Typologies
  • Moralisms
  • Character sketches
  • Biblical analogies and parallelisms
  • Spiritual warfare
  • Exegesis

  • Moses is described as a type of Christ his
    intercessory ministry on behalf of Israel
    parallels that of Christ (PP 330)
  • Elijah the prophet is compared to Gods remnant
    people at the end of time.

  • Weaving moral lessons from events that happen to
    biblical people.
  • Aarons behavior in the chapter Idolatry at
    Sinai in Patriarchs and Prophets.
  • The story of Nadab and Abihu a few chapters later
    is fraught with moral lessons for Gods people.

Character Sketches
  • Given the overarching theme of the great
    controversy in her writings, how people relate to
    God in this controversy between good and evil
    allows her to illustrate how ones life today
    should be lived in order to be victorious or to
    be defeated by the foe. Plenty of character
    sketches illustrate her narratives.
  • Among her favorites in the Scriptures Joseph,
    Daniel and the apostle John.

Biblical analogy and parallelism
  • Ellen White draws parallels between various Bible
    stories, events, people, or texts.
  • In the chapter Idolatry at Sinai, she draws a
    biblical analogy between Gods judgment of
    idolatry with what is predicted will happen at
    the end of time (PP 326).

Spiritual Warfare
  • Ellen White presents to her readers the behind
    the scenes events, conversations between Christ
    and Satan, or between evil angels, how God
    interprets or reacts to events, etc. This
    approach is closely connected with her
    understanding of the great controversy.
  • Chapter 29 in Patriarchs and Prophets, Satans
    Enmity Against the Law

  • Although Ellen White was not a trained biblical
    scholar she nonetheless interpreted Scripture and
    in her commentaries expounded on its meaning.
  • Books such as Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing
    and Christs Object Lessons are genuine Bible

Ellen Whites emphasis
The space she devotes to Biblical events and
persons is not always proportional to the space
given in the Bible. Her emphasis on certain
events or persons depends on how she believes
those events and persons contribute to the
unfolding of the Great Controversy Theme.
(Herbert Douglass, Messenger of the Lord, 419)
So what about her authority?
  • If we claim that Ellen White was inspired and
    that her writings bear the imprint of God than we
    must conclude that her writings are
    authoritative that, although secondary to
    Scripture, they are an authoritative source of
    guidance, instruction, and correction for the
  • But what kind of guidance and instruction?

So what about her authority?
  • Ellen Whites writings provide authoritative
    guidance in the following areas
  • Spiritual life and growth
  • Pastoral life and activities
  • Doctrinal insights
  • Theological focus and context

Spiritual Guidance
  • Ellen Whites writings have provided our church
    with spiritual guidance.
  • She emphasized our need for
  • a close walk with God,
  • of regular Bible study,
  • of witnessing for Christ,
  • of living a genuinely committed Christian life.

Pastoral Guidance
  • Ellen Whites ministry has provided pastoral
    guidance to the whole church.
  • Her writings have provided
  • Guidance to church leaders and pastors
  • Guidance for the establishment and activities of
    church institutions
  • Focus for the mission of the church

Doctrinal Insights
  • Beyond the spiritual and pastoral guidance and
    correction provided by the writings of Ellen G.
    White, her writings also provide doctrinal
  • valid applications of biblical teachings
  • interconnectedness of biblical doctrines
  • steering Adventists away from errors of

Doctrinal Guidance
  • Ellen White showed doctrinal authority when the
    church was confronted with difficult doctrinal
  • Centrality of Christs death on Calvary
  • Kelloggs teachings on pantheism
  • Ballengers teachings on the sanctuary
  • Importance of healthful living

Centrality of Christs death
  • The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin
    is the great truth around which all other truths
    cluster. In order to be rightly understood and
    appreciated, every truth in the word of God, from
    Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the
    light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I
    present before you the great, grand monument of
    mercy and regeneration, salvation and
    redemption,--the Son of God uplifted on the
    cross. This is to be the foundation of every
    discourse given by our ministers. (GW 315)

Kelloggs pantheistic views
  • "God's handiwork in nature is not God Himself
    in nature. The things of nature are an expression
    of God's character by them we may understand His
    love, His power, and His glory but we are not to
    regard nature as God. . . . So, while nature is
    an expression of God's thought, it is not nature
    but the God of nature that is to be exalted." (8T

Ballengers views on the sanctuary
  • I have been pleading with the Lord for
    strength and wisdom to reproduce the writings of
    the witnesses who were confirmed in the faith and
    in the early history of the message. After the
    passing of the time in 1844 they received the
    light and walked in the light, and when the men
    claiming to have new light would come in with
    their wonderful messages regarding various points
    of Scripture, we had, through the moving of the
    Holy Spirit, testimonies right to the point,
    which cut off the influence of such messages as
    Elder A.F. Ballenger has been devoting his time
    to presenting. This poor man has been working
    decidedly against the truth that the Holy Spirit
    has confirmed. (Continued)

Ballengers views on the sanctuary
  • When the power of God testifies as to what
    is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the
    truth. No after suppositions contrary to the
    light God has given are to be entertained. Men
    will arise with interpretations of Scripture
    which are to them truth, but which are not truth.
    The truth for this time God has given us as a
    foundation for our faith. He Himself has taught
    us what is truth. . . . We are not to receive the
    words of those who come with a message that
    contradicts the special points of our faith
    (Letter to J.A. Burden, 11 December 1905, in 1SM

Theological Focus
  • Perhaps more crucial to Adventism is how Ellen
    Whites writings have provided the church with
    theological guidance, with interpretative themes
    and motifs for a proper understanding of Gods
  • Major themes
  • Great controversy between good and evil
  • Love of God for humanity
  • Salvation in Jesus
  • Second coming of Christ
  • Christian living and character development

Theological Guidance
  • Ellen Whites theological themes provide
    Adventism and Christianity with theological
    presuppositions and assumptions (like a pair of
    eye glasses) with which to study Scripture and
    understand its meaning for our lives today as we
    wait for Christs second coming.
  • But can she think theologically?

Thoughts on inspiration
  • Ellen White is often accused of plagiarism but in
    the following comparison one can see that she
    borrowed wording from another author, she did not
    borrow his thought.
  • To find out more about the issue of plagiarism
    see the lecture Plagiarism or Literary
    Borrowing How did Ellen White write her books
  • Calvin E. Stowe Origins and History of the Books
    of the Bible (1867), pp. 19-20.
  • Ellen G. White Manuscript 24, 1886 (published in
    1SM 21)

Thoughts on inspiration
  • Stowe -- It is not the words of the Bible that
    were inspired, it is not the thoughts of the
    Bible that were inspired it is the men who wrote
    the Bible that were inspired. Inspiration acts
    not on the mans words, not on the mans
    thoughts, but on the man himself so that he, by
    his own spontaneity, under the impulse of the
    Holy Ghost, conceives certain thoughts and give
    utterance to them in certain words, both the
    words and the thoughts receiving the peculiar
    impress of the mind which conceived and uttered
    them, and being in fact just as really his own,
    as they could have been if there had been no
    inspiration at all in the case. . . . Inspiration
    generally is a purifying and an elevation, and an
    intensification of the human intellect
    subjectively, rather than an objective suggestion
    and communication though suggestion and
    communication are not excluded. The Divine mind
    is, as it were, so diffused through the human,
    and the human mind is so interpenetrated with the
    Divine the utterances of the man are the word of
    God, that for the time being.
  • White 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.

Thoughts on inspiration
  • Discussing the literary dependency of this
    example is difficult because although the words
    are the same, the theological thought is not. Had
    Ellen White simply copied Stowes words without
    thinking carefully through their ramifications,
    she might have adopted a theology of inspiration
    similar to that later developed by theologians
    such as Karl Barth or Emil Brunner. Stowe
    advocated a theory of inspiration in which the
    subjective elements of the prophet are
    predominant and in which inspiration is an
    encounter between the divine and the human. There
    is no actual transmission of objective
    information between God and the prophet.

Thoughts on inspiration
  • Although much of Ellen White's wording is taken
    from Stowe, the two views are very different. It
    seems obvious from this example that she had
    Stowes text nearby when she wrote her own. Yet
    she did not mindlessly copy from Stowe but
    carefully weighed the concepts and understood the
    difference she wished to emphasize in her own
    understanding of the process of inspiration.

Is Ellen White too old for Adventism?
  • I think through the last 150 years, Ellen Whites
    ministry and writings have given spiritual,
    pastoral, doctrinal, and theological guidance to
  • Who we are and what we do is largely the result
    of her ministry and guidance.
  • Who we will be in the future depends to a large
    extent on what level of guidance and authority we
    will still allow her writings to provide.

Kelloggs comment on the humanity of the prophet
  • This talk of the human side of the Testimonies
    has been a snare to us. No doubt there is a
    human side to the Testimonies but with all that
    there is so much more divinity in the Testimonies
    than there is in us that God will never permit us
    feeble mortals to show up or point out this human
    side. A weaker thing can never destroy a
    stronger thing. We must treat whatever comes
    form that source with the highest respect and
    seek God for wisdom how to apply it to our lives
    and our course. (Quoted by David Paulson in a
    letter to Frank Belden, Dec. 7, 1913)
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