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Ellen White and Her Writings Are Under Attack
Ellen White and her writings are under attack. Any search engine on the internet will find scores of anti-Ellen White sites. The following titles are taken directly from those types of web sites:
"Plagiarism. Where did Ellen White get the material for her books?
"The Great Controversy: White copied both words and pictures.
"Proof that White's 'I was shown' visions were even copied.
"Prophecy blunders of Ellen White:
In the 1850s Mrs White said Jesus was to return in a few months.
Adventists living in 1856 would be alive to see Jesus return.
She would be alive when Jesus returns.
Christ would return before slavery was abolished.
"Mrs White saw Enoch on Jupiter or Saturn.
"Mrs White said that we have animal organs in our brains and the wearing of wigs would cause insanity.
"Mrs White did not practice what she preached regarding unclean foods.
"Mrs White contradicts herself.
Pork is a nourishing, strengthening food.
Pork should never be eaten under any circumstances.
"Mrs White taught the door of salvation is forever shut.
"Mrs White taught some races are a mixture of man and beast.
"Mrs White said her writings never contradict the Bible! She said, "There is one straight chain of truth without one heretical sentence in that which I have written."
"Mrs White taught:
There was only one Herod.
The Tower of Babel was built before the Flood.
"We have clearly shown just a few examples that prove Mrs White does not fulfil the biblical tests of a prophet. A prophet needs only one false prophecy to be disqualified.
"Although Seventh-day Adventism claims virtually all of EGW's writings came right from the throne, members are very selective about what portions they decide to heed. If they really went all the way with Ellen White:
There are many thousands of pages on different web sites with these kinds of statements. Added to this are the many books and videos aimed specifically at Seventh-day Adventist Christians with the stated purpose of destroying faith in the integrity and calling of Ellen White. One suspects that often the objections come from former Seventh-day Adventists revolting against a legalistic upbringing by parents who may not have had an enlightened understanding of Ellen White's ministry.
In the past when attempts have been made to realistically deal with some of the above material, those who have tried have received
responses from members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church not unlike the following: "How much confidence can anyone have in material said to be written by God's inspired prophet to His last church if 'some of what Ellen White wrote was wrong,' and by inference, may sometimes be in conflict with the Bible. And, also, if 'some is not even her own'?"
"The comment that 'some of what Ellen White wrote is wrong,' surely would not inspire anyone to overcome their apathy. Busy people don't want to spend time reading books acknowledged to be wrong. If this 'honest' admission is true, then how is anyone to know which of her writings are right and which wrong? Please supply supporting evidence to inform church members of the things known to be wrong. I was taught that Ellen White was inspired by the Holy Spirit in the same manner as biblical prophets, and therefore her messages were just as inspired and reliable"
"The question I have is. Where is [Ellen White] wrong? I've never found it. She says that her work is either of God or the devil."3
While not all church members would react in this way, the comments reflect where a significant number are in their thinking. On the other hand when some members seriously consider this type of material it has a devastating affect upon not only their confidence in the work of Ellen White, but also in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and for some, their confidence in Christ.
A few years ago I received a letter from a woman who had been shaken by some of the material presented to her. Here is part of the letter I received.
"Dear Pastor Bradford,
"I have left the Adventist Church for good. I cannot be a participant in the deception that is going on in regard to the church doctrines and Ellen White . . . I have never heard the church talk about the problems with Ellen White's unfulfilled visions in all the time I have been in it—that's because the church doesn't give a balanced view of her. It purposefully hides from people what it believes would damage their reputation and lessen the chances of new converts. . . . My daughter was having studies for baptism when I left the church. It was the hardest decision that I think I have ever had to make. I agonized over it for months . . . I know that the church will continue to teach that Ellen
White was a prophet . . . but it will not honestly and openly present all the failures with her visions. . . . There is only one reason that the church doesn't teach the full truth of Ellen White. It knows that, when armed with the full truth, people will reject her as a prophet."
To many sincere people within Adventism today it is disturbing to read this letter and to the above challenging statements made about the ministry of Ellen White. And yet as you read these statements you say to yourself "Could a deceiver give us books like Desire of Ages, Steps to Christ, and Christ Object Lessons?
About 100 years ago there were some in Adventism, like J. H. Kellogg and A. T. Jones, who felt that everything Ellen White wrote had to be believed and would always be the truth. They had a view of her work that could be described as very rigid. On the other hand there were some like Willie White, A. G. Daniells and W. W. Prescott who held to a more flexible approach to understanding her work.4 They claimed they had a more realistic expectation of her performance and, in their favour, they had worked with her in preparing her books for publication. Eventually information came to hand regarding her work that had an effect on Kellogg and Jones, and those like them. The new information did not fit into their narrow views of her work. Instead of changing their views they chose to leave Adventism. In contrast those who belonged to the Willie White, Daniells and Prescott understanding did not lose their confidence in her writings.5
Today we also have new information coming to hand regarding how Ellen White did her work. Some, as we have seen, go into a state of denial and become angry at any suggestion she could be wrong. Others find their faith is destroyed in Adventism and, often, in Christ as well. However there is a third way we want to explore in this book. That is to build upon the understanding of Willie White, A. G. Daniells and W. W. Prescott.
It is my contention that these men had a correct understanding of how the prophetic gift should function. From their conversations at a Conference we discover that they got their ideas not so much from Scripture as from their association with Ellen White. Prescott, in particular, was surprised when she asked him for help in the preparation of some of her works. It did not fit into his expectation of how the gift should function. He was probably typical of most in his time in having
these concepts. After his association with her in preparing books for publication he was forced to change his views.
Today we can see from recent scholarship that the concepts they gained from associating with her were biblically sound. These concepts which we will explore if understood and accepted afford a powerful apologetic for her genuine prophetic ministry.
In order to correctly evaluate her ministry we need to make an in depth study of what the biblical expectations are of a genuine prophetic messenger. This is what this book is all about. And so we will first develop an understanding of the biblical expectations of the function of the gift of prophecy, and then see how the work of Ellen White matches this expectation. Few Christians, Seventh-day Adventists among them, have given much thought to this subject. In fact, it may be that most Christians have some wrong ideas on the subject.
Some readers may wonder why I feel a need to go into biblical inspiration so deeply. Those who have been confronted with what is found on the internet, in books and videos will understand immediately why I labour the point. Hopefully, by the end of this book all will understand how the points made regarding biblical inspiration do have profound bearing on how we understand and appreciate the prophetic ministry of Ellen White.
3 South Pacific Record, May 15, 1999, page 13. Section on Letters to the Editor where some readers are responding to a previous editorial which suggested that Ellen White may not have always got her facts correct. [back]
4 We will read of their conversations in Ch. 18, "The 1919 Bible Conference and its aftermath". [back]
5 Spectrum, Vol. 12, No. 4, "Ellen White and Doctrinal Conflict: Context of the 1919 Bible Conference", Bert Haloviak and Gary Land. pp. 19-34. [ back]