|At Issue Index EGW Index Index Part II|
Presented at the Sligo Church, Oct. 22, 1980
[Because of time limitations, not all of the following material was presented during this series. All of the research was completed by the date indicated. Additional editing was done March 1986 and April 1994]
IntroductionIn late 1898, G. A. Irwin, president of the General Conference, wrote Mrs. White describing the campmeetings then being held within the United States. In noting the "unusual degree of the spirit and blessing of the Lord," Irwin told Mrs. White, who was then in Australia, that the "most spiritually- minded" leaders were sent to conduct the meetings. Those named were Mrs. S. M. I. Henry, A. F. Ballenger, William Sadler, and J. A. Brunson. The only problem was that all, at that time, had already begun the path that Mrs. White would later define as "mystical," "spiritualistic," "pantheistic," and subversive to the fundamentals of the church.
Within a decade, 3 of the 4 names by Irwin would be actively working against the church. A score of others involved in the movement known as the "Receive Ye the Holy Ghost" movement would likewise leave and work against the church. Those who left were regarded as the most dynamic preachers and leaders within the church.
The question to resolve is why did this happen? I would suggest that an important reason relates to their mistaken concepts of the role of the gift of prophecy within the church and the disunity that erupted within the church over those concepts of the role of Ellen White. The evidence I have examined spans the decade 1896 to approximately 1906 and illustrates the truth of the following Ellen White statement found in Volume 5 of the Testimonies, p. 654:
"As the end draws near and the work of giving the last warning to the world extends, it becomes more important for those who accept the present truth to have a clear understanding of the nature and influence of the Testimonies, which God in His providence has linked with the work of the third angel's message from its very rise." [EGW, 5T, 654]
Please observe that Mrs. White is not raising a question relating to the importance of believing the Testimonies, but rather one of understanding their "nature and influence."
I would suggest that this counsel is vitally relevant to us today.
General Observation: I suggest that the work of Ellen White within the church was intended to be a corporate or cooperative experience and that by assigning to her roles that were designed to be the responsibility of the corporate body, or by failing to fulfill those roles that were the responsibility of the corporate body [the church], we might have rendered the gift of prophecy irrelevant in certain areas that I consider should be vitally relevant today. I am really suggesting that we have not taken the writings of Ellen White seriously enough since we have been content with quick, ready answers to complex question by relying on a phrase or two, usually taken without understanding the contextual situation she was addressing. By a corporate approach to understanding the gift of prophecy, I am not suggesting that we all, in a sense, have the spirit of prophecy, but rather that the church as a whole is involved in the process of understanding how God blessed the church with this gift. There were many examples when Ellen White was shown things in vision that she, herself, did not understand and hoped that church leadership would understand.
In considering the history of our church during the last 25 years of Mrs. White's life, I wish to center upon three major contributions of the gift of prophecy that I believe have deep relevance to us today. The list is selective and many additional contributions could be enumerated.
1. Mrs. White sought to create an atmosphere where understanding of the balance between law and the gospel would prevail. In other words, she worked to create the conditions for the receptivity of the message that was designed to prepare the world for return of Jesus. Notice that I am not saying that Mrs. White gave us the message, or the fullest understanding of the balance between law and gospel, but that she sought to prepare the church to perceive that message.
2. She provided counsel that was designed to avoid the fanaticism and false revivals that were then current within the church and related those issues to past and future errors that seek entrance into the church in the last days.
3. She gave long-term counsel relative to the resolving of theological disputes, especially when those disputes involved or seemed to involve her writings.
I expect to deal essentially with the initial two points in this first meeting and with the third at the next meeting.
I think we will recognize that we have not fully benefited from these contributions of Mrs. White that I consider major.
1. We are not united in our understanding of the balance between the law and the gospel. In other words, we are not united in our understanding of the plan of salvation.
2. We are not prepared to recognize the subtleties of the deceptions that would be similar, but more devious than those faced during the pantheism crisis, 1896 to 1906.
3. We don't practice the counsel given concerning doctrinal controversies that involve Mrs. White's writings.
If this analysis is correct, or partially correct, we must ask ourselves "Why?"
Also, if it is correct, or partially correct, it means that we have rendered the gift of prophecy of less than full value to us in areas that I believe were significant contributions of Mrs. White.
Here's another "I would suggest." We have varying understandings of the role for the writings of Ellen White that fit into two broad categories that a layman like myself might consider as "exegetical" and "non-exegetical" functions of Ellen White.
EXEGETICAL: Strict exposition of Biblical passages that lead to a final conclusion of the meaning of those passages. How we get to a theological conclusion. I believe this is the corporate responsibility of the church and was not designed to be the function of Ellen White.
NON-EXEGETICAL: Any other Ellen White roles fit here. For my purpose they are better defined by illustration: "John Harvey Kellogg teaches 'pantheism,'" "Albion Ballenger mystifies the gospel," "William Prescott has truth mixed with error," etc. These non-exegetical functions often represent a conclusion, but do not outline the theological route to the conclusion. In other words they don't resolve the theological problems of Kellogg, Ballenger or Prescott; the theological resolution of those problems was left to Kellogg, Ballenger and Prescottand to the church.
I believe that both exegetical role and non-exegetical functions are vital to fully solidify a conclusion. I suggest that the exegetical role was not intended for the gift of prophecy and that throughout out history, the Lord intended a cooperative relationship between Ellen White and the church and that those who have attempted to place exegetical responsibilities upon the gift of prophecy have paid a heavy price personally and cost the church greatly.
Ellen White and the Law-Gospel Interrelationship
As we read the history of our denomination, we cannot help but to be impressed with the warfare of Satan to subvert the message that God intends for the world to receivethat delicate relationship between the law and the gospel.
Notice Mrs. White's statement about the death of her husband: [James White died Aug. 6, 1881]
"At times I felt that I could not have my husband die. . . . We had designed to devote the coming winter to writing. My husband had said, 'Let us not be turned aside from our purpose. I think we have made a mistake, in allowing the apparent wants of the cause and the earnest entreaties of our brethren to urge us into active labor in preaching when we should have been writing. While our mental powers are unimpaired, we should complete our contemplated books. I design to arrange my business affairs, go to the Pacific Coast and devote the winter months to writing. It is a duty to which we owe to ourselves and to the cause of God to rest from the heat of battle and to give to our people the precious light of truth which God has opened to our minds. I feel assured there is a crisis before us. We should preserve our physical and mental powers for future service. The glorious subject of Redemption should long ago have been more fully presented to the people; but I have allowed myself to be called into the field, to attend camp-meetings, and have become so worn that I could not engage in writing,'" [Ellen White, "A Sketch of Experience," in "In Memoriam: A Sketch of the Last Sickness and Death of Elder James White,"pp. 54-5.]
A decade after her husband's death, Mrs. White made this significant statement relating to law-gospel interrelationship:
"We must look more to the presentation of God's love and mercy to move the hearts of the people. We must have a sense of both the justice and mercy of God. Those who can blend together the law of God and the mercy of God can reach any heart. For years I have seen that there is a broken link which has kept us from reaching hearts; this link is supplied by presenting the love and mercy of God. There has been a sentiment creeping in that we should not present the claims of the Sabbath so strong. Why not? Is it not true that the man of sin is raising up the counterfeit and undermining the law of God, and should we not raise up the standard against him?" [Ellen White at Council of Presidents Meeting, March 3, 1891.]
[This statement by itself presents an interesting picture of the way inspiration was operating upon Mrs. White. It appears to relate to the vision given her at Salamanca, New York, in 1891, but she would remember it in 1905 and see in the Ballenger attack an attack upon all the fundamentals of the church.]
Mrs. White, on a number of occasions, equated this law-gospel balance issue to understanding the relationship between the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. She affirmed, "This is the law and the gospel." As she addressed herself to the erroneous doctrinal incursions, she likewise would relate to that balance. Notice these statements she made in relationship to the Kellogg crisis:
"The pleasing sentiments of pantheism will lead many souls into forbidden paths. . . . The last testimony published opens to our people the danger of these theories, and the testimonies published in the future will urge still more strongly the necessity of lifting up and carrying high the banner on which are inscribed the words, "The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." God's people are to let no one take this banner from their hands." [Ellen White, "A Warning Against Deceptive Teaching," June 23, 1904, in WCW bk. 29, p 703]
[The "forbidden paths" Mrs. White was referring to related to the "strained views of sanctification" then embraced within the Kellogg theology]
Mrs. White also had written: "There is a strain of spiritualism coming in among our people, and it will undermine the faith of those who give place to it, leading them to give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils."
She clearly connected the Living Temple theology with false claims of sanctification and often alluded to "the wrong theories which in the past have been met many times and in many places," and observed: "The sanctification that they claim is polluted by the most seductive sin, which in their estimation is righteousness. This corrupting, spiritualistic view of matters is blinding the spiritual eyesight. . . . Men who are supposed to be helping have deficient spiritual eyesight. Some things may be said which appear to be excellent. The fruit may apparently be fair and beautiful, without a flaw, but break the apples open, and we see the work of destruction going on at the core."
Listen to this dire prophecy and consider the need to prepare for it [In this sense, we are to do the "exegetical" work of analysis: "Satan will continue to bring in his erroneous theories and to claim that his sentiments are true. Seducing spirits are at work. I am to meet the danger positively, denying the right of any one to use my writings to serve the devil's purpose to allure and deceive the people of God. God has spared my life that I may present the testimonies given me, to vindicate that which God vindicates, and to denounce every vestige of Satan's sophistry. One thing will follow another in spiritual sophistry, to deceive if possible the very elect." [Ellen White, "Dear Brethren and Sisters in the South," Jan. 22, 1904, p 2, 11; Ellen White, "A Warning Against Present Dangers," Nov. 27, 1903, pp2, 7.]
Certain of Mrs. White's statements made at the 1901 General Conference session are of extreme importance when seen in this contextual setting. Here's what she wrote Kellogg:
"Before I went to the  General Conference, I was instructed that I could help you. The Lord told me that I must bear my testimony at this meeting against the incorrect ideas that had been coming in regard to forbearance and Christlikeness [sanctification]. My work was to present the standard of Christianity that had been presented to me. As one with God-given authority, I was to bear my message against the wrong principles that had been coming in." [Ellen White to Kellogg, Nov. 11, 1902]
Again notice: Here is Ellen White giving Kellogg a message from the Lord. Even though that message is of considerable importance, however, it was not designed to resolve Kellogg's need to himself struggle over where he was wrong. He needed, with the help of his brethren, to resolve that problem exegetically.
Here's a statement recently released [in 1908] Ellen White is here writing A. G. Daniells, Dec. 14, 1903: "There is another matter upon my mind about which I must speak to you. I have often been warned against overstrained ideas of sanctification. They lead to an objectionable feature of experience that will swamp us, unless we are wide-awake.
"Extreme views of sanctification which lead men to criticize and condemn their brethren are to be feared and shunned.
"During the General Conference of 1901, the Lord warned me against sentiments that were then held by Brethren Prescott and Waggoner. These sentiments have been as leaven put into meal. Many minds have received them. The ideas of some regarding a great experience supposed to be sanctification have been the alpha of a train of deception. [This statement clearly has significance in relation to her later expression connecting J H Kellogg with an "Omega" kind of apostasy]
"If ever there was a time when our brethren should blend in unity it is now." [Notice her connection between false views and unity. If Satan can foment disunity during times of theological aberration, his victory is just about assured.]
Consider the "exegetical" possibilities from the previous statement. Ellen White has received information from the Lord that Kellogg was upon a false path. The interrelationship between the law and the gospel was being upset by "overstrained ideas of sanctification."
The interest regarding these statements regarding 1901 and the importance upon unity heightens when we consider another matter. At the 1903 conference, both W. W. Prescott and E J Waggoner sought a meeting with Mrs. White for the purpose of presenting a new view of the "daily," of Dan 8:13. This new view had been the generally accepted view in Europe probably since 1898, but seemed to conflict with a statement in Early Writings.
W C White would later assert that Mrs. White "was instructed" not to listen to those views of Prescott and Waggoner because they were "mingled with views that were misleading." We recall from the previous testimony, that both Prescott and Waggoner held "extreme views of sanctification." This seems to be very close to Mrs. White's reaction when A F Ballenger presented his sanctuary views in 1905. Note again, however, that in neither case did Ellen White dispute the theological issues presented.
In 1901, on the contrary, she suggested that Waggoner and Prescott present their views on the "daily" to Uriah Smith and get his opinion. I don't believe Mrs. White even considered that her Early Writings statement should be used to resolve the issue, and in fact, she later urged that it not be so used.
It seems that Mrs. White always left to the church the corporate responsibility of Biblical exegesis.
Notice how Prescott reacted to this 1901 experience, as Daniells relates his reading of Mrs. White's statement to Prescott:
"I have read with care what you say regarding the question of sanctification as presented in the statements by Brethren Prescott and Waggoner at the General Conference of 1901. I have read this to Brother Prescott, and talked with him freely regarding the matter. I can not fully grasp all that there seems to be in this matter from your brief reference to it. Brother Prescott says he can see very clearly the dangerous path he and Brother Waggoner were traveling in. He says that it had gradually been dawning upon his mind in England before he came to the Conference. I think that what occurred at the Conference set Professor Prescott to thinking; for since that time, it has seemed to me that he has taken up the fundamental truths of the third angel's message, and given them a prominence that they have not received for many years." [Daniells to Ellen White, Jan. 4, 1904, 11 bk. 32, p 929]
Ellen White Versus Fanaticism
Through Ellen White, many warnings were given the SDA church of the 1890s about a developing apostasy that would subvert the basic message of Adventism. The warnings , however, important as they were, were not of an "exegetical" nature [to use terminology designed to illustrate our thesis]. The church and its members needed to perform that kind of function to detect the specific errors the Lord was warning the church about. Notice this Aug. 8, 1906 statement by W. C. White:
"Mother has told us several times during the last few months that the early experiences of the pioneers in this message, and especially her experiences in meeting fanaticism and opposition and all sorts of error ought to be printed and reprinted in various forms so that our people would be familiar with it."[To A. G. Daniells, G. A. Irwin and W. W. Prescott, WCW bk. 32, p 55]
Ellen White herself stated: "Christ has given many warnings to the effect that false doctrines, false prophets and false christs would arise, and deceive many. From the light that God has been pleased to give me, his humble servant, I know that these prophecies have been fulfilling, and testimonies have not been few that have been given to meet these things as they have come up all along through our religious experience."
Note, however, her reaction to those who wanted to use her writings as a short-cut to exegesis:
"Many from among our own people are writing to me, asking with earnest determination the privilege of using my writings to give force to certain subjects that they wish to present to the people in such a way as to leave a deep impression upon them. It is true that there is a reason why some of their matters should be presented; but I would not venture to give my approval in using the Testimonies in this way, or to sanction the placing of matter which is good in itself in the way which they propose." [Ellen White to Brother Littlejohn, Aug. 3, 1894] In this next statement, Ellen White seems to be reacting to the "Receive-Ye-the Holy-Ghost" movement when she states: "My brother, there is danger of those in our ranks making a mistake in regard to receiving the Holy Ghost. . . . There is danger that original devisings and superstitious imaginings will take the place of the Scriptures. Tell our people be not anxious to bring in something not revealed in the Word." [Ellen White to Brother and Sister Haskell, July 4, 1900]
Referring to this same movement, Mrs. White later wrote Haskell, "I am at times made very sad as I think of the use made of the Testimonies." [Ellen White to S. N. Haskell, Oct. 10, 1900]
Here's another Ellen White response to the aberrant theology developing in the 1890s: "Let none of God's people believe the fables advanced by some regarding the color of the hair. The idea that persons who are deformed must be healed in order to be saved is a fable originated by some one who needs inward cleansing before he can receive the seal of God. In the great day of God all who are faithful and true will receive the healing touch of the divine Redeemer. The Lifegiver will remove every deformity, and will give them eternal life." [Ellen White to S. N. Haskell and G. A. Irwin, Dec. 15, 1899]
Notice the exegetical possibilities that can be derived from the previous statement. In effect, if it is analyzed carefully, it destroys the Scriptural base of the Waggoner - Jones - Ballenger - Kellogg theology that demanded physical benefits as a resulting of overcoming sinning. If Ellen White's conclusions had been carefully analyzed, I do not believe the church would have suffered from the Living Temple trauma of 1902 to 1906.
Mrs. White frequently mentioned the fact that the church as a corporate body should have discerned the error in the Kellogg book, The Living Temple. It was not the Lord's intention, she affirmed, that it should have been necessary for her to expose the falsity of his teaching. She affirmed; "The sentiments in Living Temple regarding the personality of Gad have been received even by men who have had a long experience in the truth. . . . That those whom we thought sound in the faith should have failed to discern the specious, deadly influence of this science of evil, should alarm us as nothing else has alarmed us." [Ellen White, "Decided Action to Be Taken Now," Oct. 1903]
In 1904 she wrote: "Many are so blind that they do not yet discern the misleading character of some of the sentiments contained in the book Living Temple. Such ones, whether they be ministers, doctors, or teachers, would better go apart and study the Scriptures alone with God." [Ellen White, "The Berrien Springs Meeting," July 25, 1904]
She frequently alluded to Kellogg's misuse of Scriptures as well as his misuse of her writings to support his teaching, but significantly, she never pointed to the particular texts that he misused. It would seem that there are corporate responsibilities in our relationship with Ellen White.
The testimony of Ellen White to A. F. Ballenger, given him during the 1905 General Conference session, reads almost like a replay of the Kellogg testimonies. Indeed, we can very well see that the roots of their teachings were similar.
It would appear, however, that neither of them took the testimonies seriously enough to exegete the roots of their error and it likewise is apparent that the church also failed to do so.
Without a close analysis of the times when Ellen White wrote her messages to the church, we will fall victim to many problems concerning the nature of her inspiration. By close analysis, however, I believe that even such difficult questions as the following can be answered:
1. Why was the erroneous teaching allowed to develop for so long? Indeed, Kellogg could point to statements he had made throughout the 1890's, and published throughout denominational literature not different from what he wrote in Living Temple.
2. Why did not Ellen White point out his specific theological errors and the Scriptural basis for refuting them? Indeed, he could even question Ellen White's use of the term "pantheist," for he certainly believed in a "personal God who sat on His throne in heaven,' as he stated.
3. Why did Ellen White publicly praise Kellogg and other "pantheists," but privately send them testimonies of warning?
4. Why did not Ellen White condemn others holding similar theories? The facts are that Kellogg [a non-theologian] did not originate the Living Temple theology.
Corporate Responsibility and Ellen White
It would appear that throughout our history the work of Ellen White was closely interrelated and dependent upon a corporate approach.
There were times when Mrs. White herself could not interpret a particular testimony and expected that the church leadership, who should have been more familiar with the overall scope of the work than Mrs. White, would, after prayerful consideration, properly interpret a testimony. The details of her vision concerning the dangers of consolidation provides irrefutable evidence of this point.
There were times when Ellen White herself could misinterpret a vision or misstate or imperfectly express what had been revealed to her. Note what her son, W. C. White stated to Kellogg: "Sister White was not infallible in stating things revealed to her." There are at least 3 examples where Ellen White apparently misstated or misunderstood something revealed through vision: Eve touching food in the garden of Eden and death as the result; the number of generations contemporaneously living at the time of the flood; use of the Southern Publishing facilities as a depot.
It thus seems that W. C. White's call for a united approach to explain the logic for certain Ellen White counsels was entirely reasonable. He alluded to the great privilege that was ours by uniting together to combine scientific, Biblical, historical reasons for some of the general counsels given by Ellen White.
In this sense, we can see that the church has the responsibility not only of exegeting doctrinal issues, but also those of a more general nature. [Obviously, I am here stretching the meaning of the term "exegesis" almost to the breaking point. But part of our problem in this area is to find some acceptable term that will allow us to deal with the problem. In the past we have used the term "verbal inspiration' or Ellen White in primarily a "pastoral function," but those terms, in my opinion, either do not solve the problem, or create such misunderstanding that all kinds of controversy is generation. My use of the term "exegesis" is a blatant attempt to avoid controversy.]
Here's how W. C. White expressed the issue: "[Mother] talks freely about the general situation, but when it comes to pressing her to say just what we shall do, she says that that is not her part of the work; but that you must study and pray, and turn, and overturn." [Letter to A. G. Daniells, date??]
Notice the logic used by W. C. White: "The Lord did not at any time use the gift of prophecy in a way which would excuse men from the study of the Scriptures, or from prayerfully carrying forward the work, exercising their faith in God at each step of the way. This is well illustrated in the selection of locations of our schools and sanitariums. Through Ellen White, governing principals were laid down. The type of surroundings and the ideal conditions were pointed out. Then the work of choosing the place was left with the men in responsibility, who endeavored to find the place that harmonized with the instruction given. In this way those who carried the responsibilities of leadership were ever made stronger in their work rather than dependent upon the Lord's messenger."
Let's now look at the consequences of denying this corporate responsibility. Let's look at some examples of what happened when we demanded more than the Lord intended and used Ellen White as a sort of short-cut to an earnest seeking for truth.
Wrong Exegesis Using Ellen White
We have had the problem of the wrong use of the Ellen White writings throughout our history. I believe that historical exposure can help in the resolution of the problem, without in the least injuring Ellen White's true role in the church. In each of the examples that I will give, the theological issue involved was eventually resolved by going to the Scriptures for its resolution, even though many initially tried to short circuit that methodology by going to Ellen White to resolve it.
Because he depended upon Ellen White for exegesis, A. F. Ballenger lost his confidence in that gift over three words: "within," "daily," "Babylon."
He depended upon Ellen White [in a way that she never intended] for his understanding of the terms "within the veil."
He depended upon Ellen White's statement in Early Writings for the meaning of the term "daily."
And he relied upon Ellen White's statement in Early Writings for the meaning of the term "Babylon," in Revelation 13 and 17.
When Ballenger later relied upon Biblical exegesis for the meaning of those terms, he believed they conflicted with Ellen White's usage. In other words he set up a straw man and left when his straw man failed. It's too bad, because Ellen White denied using the terms "Babylon," and "daily," in a theological or exegetical sense. Scholars have recently also pointed out that Mrs. White used the term 'within the veil," in diverse or non-exegetical ways also.
The point is, by attributing to Ellen White a role that she never claimed, A. F. Ballenger needlessly gave up his faith in that gift.
The same thing could be shown with a host of denominational leaders who left the church over Ellen White. Even those who stayed within the church had to wrestle with this problem. Examples:
1. W. W. Prescott was rated as "unorthodox" for years because of his view of the meaning of the term "Babylon." After Great Controversy was reissued in 1911, he was again orthodox because of the change concerning that term in the new edition.
2. Time to begin the Sabbath issue. When J. N. Andrews did the Biblical exegesis in 1855 on the time to begin the Sabbath, and he concluded that the Bible supported sundown to sundown Sabbath observance, some very prominent church leaders argued that the new view was contrary to the teaching of Ellen White.
3. The same type of argument was used in regard to the change from systematic benevolence to tithing. Stephen Haskell and a number of others argued that the proposed change would violate those writings of Ellen White that endorsed systematic benevolence.
4. Concepts of interpretation of the 6th Trumpet issue. Few today accept literally the statements in Great Controversy regarding Turkey and the 6th Trumpet.
5. David Paulson, J. H. Kellogg and others believed they found support for the theology of Living Temple in Mrs. White's writings. It appears that one of the reasons Ellen White finally publicly opposed Kellogg's book and its theology was the assumption that her writings supported that theology.
6. R. S. Donnell, leader of the holy flesh movement in Indiana, some three years prior to his role in Indiana, widely quoted from Ellen White in support of the beginning phrases of his apostasy. Provides an example of zeal without proper theology and the resulting consequences and also an explanation of why his error went undetected for so long. Since he quoted from Ellen White so vigorously, he seemed to be quite orthodox.
7. L. H. Crisler and his stand upon butter. His leaving the church after volume nine of the Testimonies was published. Leaving the church because he made butter the test of orthodoxy.
8. Kansas City church and its split over volume nine of the Testimonies for another reason: the position on Sunday labor. The Wightmans leave over that issue. In the majority of these issues, Ellen White was used by those who left as exegeting those points for everthat is, for finally providing the true Scriptural answer to those issues. An inspired exegete does not change and thus, when full Scriptural analysis pointed another direction, those that left saw Ellen White as a false prophet.
9. Controversy over the law in Galatians and the covenants: the central issues during the 1888-90 justification by faith controversy. Note how W. C. White [who attended the 1888 Minneapolis conference] analyzed the issues:
"Those who stood for the old position regarding the Huns, and for the old position regarding the law in Galatians, argued long and loud that it would be very detrimental to our work to change our position. They did not regard the new doctrine itself as of such serious importance, but they believe that the old positions had been sanctioned by the Testimonies, and to make a change would unsettle the confidence of our people everywhere in the testimonies; and this, they regarded as the most serious feature of the whole question." [Note that this would be precisely the reasoning that made the issue of the "daily" such a volatile issue during the next decade.
Note Mrs. White's statement about the Galatians controversy, however [to Uriah Smith, March 8, 1890]: "You have turned from plain light because you were afraid that the law question in Galatians would have to be accepted. As to the law in Galatians, I have no burden and never have had."
Despite the major argument that the new position would destroy confidence of believers in Ellen White, Mrs. White would claim that she had "no burden" to prove one way or the other on that issue.
Consider the implication of that Ellen White position: Ellen White had written mentioning the Galatians issue in 1857, in 1872, and in 1883 in the Life of Paul and in several other places and in all those places it appeared that she had taken positions contrary to that presented by E. J. Waggoner in 1888. How then could she say, "As to the law in Galatians, I have no burden and never have had." Her statement, I would suggest, seems to indicate that she did not consider her previous statements to be of an exegetical or theological nature, and not to be seen as a hindrance to an exegetical resolution of the issue.
It seems to me that, if we take the position, we thereby don't need to consider Ellen White as changing positions on that issue, nor do we need to consider her diverse uses as inconsistent. She just did not exegetically resolve theological issues.
Tragically, however, neither the Galatians issue nor the covenants question were dealt with exegetically and I would suggest that the church consequently paid a heavy price, for these were the theological underpinnings of justification by faith. After the turn of the century Uriah Smith, G. I. Butler, and probably many others confided that they never accepted the new positions on those issues. [Note, however, that at least by 1896, Ellen White did accept the Jones-Waggoner Galatians position.]
Other consequences are apparent:
1. Disunity resulted in a failure to detect a developing apostasy within the church until its erroneous teachings were strongly entrenched. [Some 20 of the major theologians were teaching the core of the holy flesh error for a decade and most eventually left the church.]
2. Those theologians that remained within the church [primarily the "pioneers"] avoided the fanaticism of A. T. Jones, E. J. Waggoner, J. H. Kellogg and others, but continued to reject the theological underpinnings of justification by faith.
3. A. F. Ballenger believed his sanctuary teaching to be a natural conclusion from the new views relative to the covenants. He seemed to have been correct in that the central focus of the new view regarding the covenants sought to make justification by faith relevant to Old Testament times. He seems to have been wrong, however, in its literalistic applications. The issue, however, is that a united church could have been a help to Ballenger to guide him away from his extremism and also to have profited from his beneficial insights.
4. E. E. Andross and his 1912 response to Ballenger, together with R. A. Underwood and the 1907 Sabbath School lessons on the covenants, effectively set the theological stance back to the pre-1888 positions.
Here's how the General Conference Committee responded to the manuscript prepared by E. E. Andross:
"When you adopt the interpretation which you follow in your manuscript, you really deny the efficacy of the new covenant pervious to the cross. . . . This seems to us to be a very serious perversion of the teaching of the gospel, and that it involves if possible, worse consequences than the teachings of Ballenger. We believe that the new covenant, although not ratified until the death of Christ was yet in full force for all purposes of salvation from the time the promise was made to our first parents in the Garden of Eden, as recorded in Gen. 3:15, and we are unwilling to adopt any line of argument which in the least degree weakens the force of this covenant."
The manuscript by Andross was published, however, since it is far easier to have conflicting interpretations of Scripture than of Ellen White.
Thus by 1912, the traditional positions on Galatians, covenants, were well back to its pre-1888 stance. The church pays a heavy price when it fails to work properly with the gift of prophecy, but instead uses Ellen White to stifle theological discussion. The theological path to righteousness by faith still awaits full acceptance by the church.
What then was the purpose of the testimonies to Ballenger, Kellogg, Donnell, and others if Ellen White did not provide the precise theological roots of their error?
If each had considered carefully the Divine Source of the counsel given them, they should have looked closely at the roots of their teaching and should have seen their error. In addition, it becomes apparent by anyone looking closely at the period, that the counsel of Ellen White, even though it did not specify the precise theological errors, still saved the church from disintegration and erroneous teaching. This, of course, is an extremely vital contribution.
Still, the church could have done more. It never looked closely enough to point out the Scriptural basis for the A. F. Ballenger-J. H. Kellogg, R. S. Donnell error. Until it does so, I don't believe we can fully profit from the divine counsel the Lord gave us to combat future similarly-erroneous teachings. The false scriptural base of J. H. Kellogg and all the other pan[en]theists error has not been destroyed. We still see some of its overtones within the church today.
Ellen White's statements re: pantheism clearly exhibit doctrinal authority, but the theological-exegetical path to those errors needs to be made available to the church. Here is what I suggest is the use of the gift of prophecy as a corporate experience.
Note this W. C. White example of shared authority: "The class of matter written by Mrs. White, in which she used the writings of others, is comparatively small when considering the vast field covered by her writings. It is in the delineation in prophetic and doctrinal exposition that we find that she used the words of others or had closely paraphrased them. In the vast field covering thousands of pages of messages of encouragement, reproof, and spiritual instruction, she worked independent of all other writers, also in her divine prediction of future experiences through which the church must pass." [W. C. White and D. E. Robinson, "Brief Statements Regarding the Writings of Ellen White," August 1933, pp. 19-20]
Here's how James White wrestled with a similar concept: "God in much mercy has pitied the weakness of his people, and has set the gifts in the gospel church to correct our errors, and to lead us to his living Word."
This cannot occur if we go to Mrs. White for exegesis as a shortcut. That does not lead to the Word.
James White continues: "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 [the Scriptures] to learn his duty through any of the gifts. [If only A. F. Ballenger, J. H. Kellogg, and hundreds of others in our history had practiced this] We say that the very moment he does [that is, turns from Scriptures and relies on spirit for his exegesis] he places the gifts in a wrong place, and takes an extremely dangerous position. The Word should be in front, and the eye of the church should be placed upon it, as the rule to walk by, and the fountain of wisdom, from which to learn duty in 'all good works.' But if a portion of the church err from the truths of the Bible, and become weak and sickly, and the flock become scattered, so that it seems necessary for God to employ the gifts of the Spirit to correct, receive, and heal the erring, we should let him work."
The Dilemma of John Harvey Kellogg
Kellogg denied espousing mystical teachings. He denied a belief in pantheism and affirmed that he believed in a very personal God. He further states his dilemma: "When I found Prescott objecting to [Living Temple] I did not believe in his sincerity, because he had said the same things that I had said, and had published them in the Review again and again, and had spent weeks laboring to impress the same things upon our students and doctors here at the Sanitarium, and we all know it. Second, I found similar statements to those which I had made in Desire of Ages and other books that Sister White had written. . . . Third, because I had publicly taught the same things at camp meetings and at several General Conferences, and my address had been published in the General Conference Bulletin at several conferences in successionCollege View, South Lancaster, and especially the last conference of 1901, at which Sister White was present, and no one had ever made objection either to the publication of these views or to their expression. Prof. Prescott, Dr. Waggoner, and Eld Jones had been teaching the same things and I had heard no objection to their teaching." [Kellogg to Sarah McEnterfer, January 28, 1906, photocopy.]
The implications from that statement are many. But notice, in particular, that he assumes that because Mrs. White was present at the 1901 session and either heard or may have read his lectures [which are clearly theologically aberrant, by the way], that she thusly should have pointed out his errors then. He also assumes that, since he held those views throughout the 1890s, it was nothing more than a scheme to get him when those views came under attack after 1902. An additional flaw in Kellogg's reasoning can be seen in this reaction to E. S. Ballenger in 1941. Here's the advice he has for Ballenger, who was then attacking the church:
"I have always had a great respect for you and have always had a friendly feeling for you, but if I were you I would not spend a minute in the kind of work that you are doing. A man of your talents ought to be engaged in evangelistic work. Mere theological doctrines have very little influence upon character. It is the saving principles of the gospel and fundamental ideas of integrity and equity that build character and not theological tactics." [Kellogg to E. S. Ballenger, May 23, 1941, photocopy]
Kellogg is yet another example of the consequence of a religious zeal without proper theology. His deemphasis upon theology obviously precluded him from a close examination of his faulty theology. He thus had no means of accepting the testimonies from Ellen White and went for other explanations of those testimonies, concluding that Ellen White received her messages, not from the Lord, but was being influenced against him by others.
Kellogg's subjective stress upon character development seemed to be all he felt was necessary. His path out of his dilemma was his conclusion that W. C. White influenced the testimonies. He apparently never accepted the fact that false views of sanctification could be harmful to the church.
Kellogg was not alone in facing a dilemma relating to that false teaching. Waggoner apparently did not consider that he himself was not theologically perfect, or that he could have been the father of the theology embraced by Kellogg. His dilemma increased after Ellen White issued testimonies against the Living Temple which he, along with other pantheists endorsed. Note this report of a conversation between W. W. Prescott and E. J. Waggoner:
"In my talk with Brother Waggoner over his present attitude toward the [Living Temple] teaching, he said to me that he acknowledged the Testimony, and did not wish in any way to argue against it or parry the force of it; but at the same time he was obliged to say that the mere statement that he was wrong did not impart the correct principles to him, or enable him to see at once where he had departed from the line of truth." [W. W. Prescott to J. H. Kellogg, Oct. 25, 1903, 11 bk. 31, p. 938]
Once again the corporate responsibilities involved with Ellen White are exhibited. The Lord left E. J. Waggoner to be guided by the Holy Spirit, as he sought to discover the roots of his error.
Albion F. Ballenger
The Ballenger experience represents the combination of personal and denominational tragedies of the period we have been examining.
We have already mentioned Ballenger's literalistic approach to the gift of prophecy. His reading of Great Controversy and Ellen White's statement that the term "Babylon" in Revelation 17 could not refer to the papacy placed him literally in a traumatic dilemma for over 3 months. He concluded after that period that Ellen White could not be inspired. He concluded similarly regarding the term "within the veil," noting that exegetically it had to refer to the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. Upon taking that position, he made it known that he saw no way to harmonize that position with Ellen White.
Ballenger assumed that Ellen White, as part of her inspiration, used terms that thereby assumed final theological exegesis for the terms she used. His hidden assumption when he challenged the denominational sanctuary positions in 1905, was that Ellen White was not inspired.
Ballenger needed a unified church to assist him. This was true throughout his ministry. He was the most popular of the "Receive-ye-the-Holy-Ghost" speakers and was widely sought after.
As did A. T. Jones, A. F. Ballenger saw justification by faith as "God's special work to prepare his people to 'receive the promise of the Spirit through faith' [Gal. 3:14], or the 'latter rain' as a preparation for the giving of the loudest cry of the 'loud cry.'" [RH, Aug. 17, 1897, p. 523]
Notice his use of Ellen White in this Ballenger statement published in the 1899 General Conference Bulletin [p. 96]: "We are in the time of the latter rain, yet we can not have it until we are victorious over every besetting sin. Why is that? Let me tell you. It is true, because God has said so."
In his call for sinless perfection prior to the reception of the latter rain, Ballenger equates an Ellen White statement that obviously has a context as though they were the direct words of God Himself.
As we might expect A. F. Ballenger was very popular in Indiana, home of the holy flesh movement. He told the Indianians; "When I am conscious that I am not clean, I can not preach with power; neither can I preach with 'unwonted power' when I know that my people are not clean. Cleanse the Seventh-day Adventist Church of all uncleanness, and I will promise the loudest cry of the loud cry the same day." [RH, Nov.. 8, 1898, p. 720]
Ballenger followed the path of A. T. Jones, E. J. Waggoner, J. H. Kellogg, John Brunson and many others by assuming that "the gospel includes sanctification of the body." As long as sin was put away, "the healing of the sick must . . . follow the preaching of the Word." Notice his view of the atonement: just as Christ bore our sins upon the Cross, so he bore our physical illnesses. As long as our sins are put away, we must have the accompanying physical benefits of the atonement. Ballenger's teaching, as did the teaching of the other pantheists, shifted the emphasis away from the truth of justification by faith that was to be a message for the world and instead focused upon the inward-looking preparation they believed necessary in order to get the power to give the message of justification by faith. Indeed, Ballenger titled his book, Power for Witnessing.
We can thus see that this concept of the atonement would naturally influence his sanctuary teaching in various particulars. It is certain that Ballenger was strongly identified with the fanatical manifestations of faith healing. It is also certain that wherever those influenced by this brand of pan-an-theism held sway, the fundamentals of the church were absent. Such fundamental teachings as the three angel's messages, the return of Christ, etc., the Sabbath were seen as of lesser relevance. This was done less by design than by result. Why need the Lord return when His people are sinless and enjoying perfect health?
It seems quite natural thusly that Ellen White should accuse A. F. Ballenger as Kellogg also of "delaying the return of the Lord" by their teachings.
Ballenger had yet another dilemma, however: If there was one thing central to the messages of 1888-1890, it was the development of the concept that justification by faith indeed was fully effective prior to the Cross. This conclusion was reached by those who exegeted on the covenants and the law in Galatians. As we have noted, however, this exegesis was not accepted by major segments of the church.
Ballenger considered that his sanctuary positions were a natural conclusion from the new positions on the covenants taken by E. J. Waggoner and endorsed by E. G. White.
Let's see if I can restate Ballenger's dilemma: Ellen White endorsed the new insights concerning justification by faith, but didn't provide the exegetical roots to justification. Jones and Waggoner provided the exegetical roots, but the new position was not endorsed by the pioneers who believed it was out of harmony with the Ellen White writings. Now, on the basis of the new position, A. F. Ballenger comes to new conclusions regarding the sanctuary teaching, but his view also contains the aberrant pantheistic theology.
The dilemma continues: E. E. Andross decides to refute Ballenger, but he does so on the basis of the pre-1888 exegesis [on covenants]. The General Conference Committee, which was asked to review the Andross manuscript sees his exegesis using pre-1888 theology as, "if possible," an erroneous teaching having worse consequences than the Ballenger teaching. Nevertheless, the Andross book was published as A More Excellent Ministry. Naturally Ballenger had a field day refuting it.
A number of lessons can be illustrated from this situation, but I think central is the concept that the church lost in a number of ways because of the wrong assumptions taken relative to Ellen White. Also to be learned is the fact that Ballenger needed to profit from other segments of the church for certainly his literalism relative to a pre-Cross priestly ministry for Christ needed modification.
The testimony sent to A. F. Ballenger in 1905, if believed by him, would have shown him his ties to the pantheist movement, but neither he nor the church looked at the faulty path he had been traveling. All the ingredients were there if the testimony was taken seriously, but Mrs. White did not exegete his specific theological error for him. Her role functioned within a corporate setting within the church, but by this time, Ballenger didn't believe in it. His problem: he erroneously gave Ellen White exegetical responsibilities.
It would be profitable for us at this point to notice just how Mrs. White did react to fanaticism that was developing within the church.
Mrs. White and the Fanaticism of the 1890s
Any major listing of prominent SDA ministers of the 1890s would include the following: A. T. Jones, E. J. Waggoner, J. W. Scoles, A. F. Ballenger, J. A. Brunson, Harry Champness, A. R. Leask, William Robinson, G. C. Tenney, L. A. Phippeny, R. S. Donnell, S. S. Davis, William Hutchinson, E. J. Dryer, L. H. Crisler. Most of these dynamic preachers and leaders would be outside of Adventism before the ending of the first decade of the 20th century.
Among the contributing factors to their eventual leaving the church was their embracing what became known as the "Receive-ye-the-Holy-Ghost" message. That message was seen as the "last call of the last call of the third angel's message." It was called an extension of the justification by faith message. The rationale went something like this: "In order to give the final message, we must have the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Since the Holy Ghost could not place his seal upon sin, those giving that message "must be freed from sin and kept from sinning." [A. T. Jones editorials in the Review. For over a year Jones ended every editorial of the Review with the words 'receive ye the Holy Ghost."]
The movement advanced beyond the realm of spiritual perfection when it stressed the interrelationship between the medical and evangelistic lines of work. Note this Review editorial by Jones:
"Perfect holiness embraces the flesh as well as the spirit; it includes the body as well as the soul. Therefore, as perfect holiness can not be attained without holiness of body, and as holiness of body is expressed in the word 'health,' so perfect holiness can not be attained without health.
"And 'without holiness no man shall see the Lord.' [Heb. 12:14]. Since this is eternally so, and as perfect holiness includes the body, and holiness of body is expressed in the word 'health.' do you not see in this the whole philosophy of health reform? Do you not see by all this that in the principles of health for the body, and righteousness for the soul, both inwrought by the Holy Spirit of God, the Lord is preparing a people unto perfect holiness, so that they can meet the Lord in peace, and see him in holiness?
"Can you, then, despise or slight true health reform, and expect to see the Lord in peace, which means only to see him in holiness?" [RH, Nov. 22, 1898, p. 752]
The message of Minneapolis became so firmly intertwined with the message of the Holy Ghost Movement, that it is difficult, even today, to illustrate the difference.
One of the major theologians of the 1890s, who later left, taught this:
"God himself thus tells us that there are those among us who are Sabbath-keepers, and are acquainted with the truth, but who will not be prepared for the Lord when he comes. Their characters will not have reached that degree of perfection in Jesus Christ that entitles them to translation. . . . More is required of the candidates for translation than from any other people. We are to live, you know, without a mediator. . . . Did you ever stop to think why we are to live without a mediator?Because there is no necessity for one. . . . [Brunson went on to note that the latter rain could not come until God's people were cleansed from] every defilement of flesh and spirit." [J. A. Brunson, General Conference Bulletin, 1899, pp. 39-40]
How do you suspect that this teaching impacted upon the fundamental teachings of the church. Here is A. T. Jones' observation:
"We shall preach Christ, and Christ only, and yet be so overflowing with the doctrine that, without saying anything about it, the people will see in Christ the sanctuary, the coming of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, holiness . . . the sovereignty of God, the Sabbath, life only in Christ, Christian perfection, yea, every doctrine of the Word, because it is in us." [RH, July 11, 1899]
E. J. Waggoner; "The very same power that forgives sins is the power that heals disease. . . . As long as we may expect forgiveness of sins, we may likewise expect healing of disease. . . . Therefore in the forgiveness of our sins by the life which we lay hold of by faith, we have the healing of all our diseases, if we but grasp the fact. . . . The healing of all our diseases is as sure as the forgiveness of all our sins; and whether the healing be effected instantaneously or gradually, it will be permanent. Then do not think that the age of miracles is past, or that God's power or willingness is diminished in the heart." [Waggoner, Present Truth, April 16, 1903, pp. 243-44]
"The Gospel includes the healing of disease as well as the forgiveness of sins." [Ibid., June 18, 1903]
By 1908, the same message was preached in offshoot publications by those campmeeting theologians of the 1890s. The essential difference was that by 1908, they were all outside of the church, calling for the "true" remnant to leave the denomination.
Within that category was A. F. Ballenger.
Dimensions of the Pantheism CrisisWas the crisis over "pantheism" a largely manufactured crisis, a way for Daniells to overcome the powerful influence J. H. Kellogg was exerting upon the denomination?
In Daniells' view the Living Temple issues involved the very integrity of the denomination. He wrote this to former General Conference president, George Irwin:
"There is no doubt in my mind but what Satan has made a master effort to wreck this work. I believe he has tried to leaven this whole message with poisonous and devilish theories calculated to destroy the force of the truths God has given us for this time. He has tried to switch us off from our track, and imperceptibly lead us away from the work God has given us to do." [Sept. 29, 1903, AU 11, 1903-04D]
In alluding to the Living Temple issues, W. A. Spicer observed: "When once the plague is let loose not even those who let it loose can stop it. As we have been told, the results of the evil devising will break forth again and again. . . . We simply know that the third angel's message can never mix with this pantheistic philosophy. . . . It is remarkable to see how these ideas that have secured a foothold within our ranks are sweeping through the other denominations. . . . We need not expect the evil one to label his wares properly when he comes to deceive the very elect." [Spicer to A. G. Haughey, April 5, 1905, RG 21 bk. 40, pp. 751-52]
He wrote Irwin: "I tell you we can appreciate the experience that you had to pass through in the years in which this element was preparing for its later manifestations. It is no accidental development that we are facing . . . a definite, far-reaching plan to ruin this denomination." [April 6, 1904, AU 11, 1903-04S]
Mrs. White noted that the church had allowed the apostasy to drift so far and so fast that it was now compelled to take steps designed to save the denomination from ruin." [A. G. Daniells to W. C. White, Mar. 22, 1905, RG 11 bk. 36, p 691]
Those who observed Mrs. White in her public testimonies on the crisis seemed to see "a most oppressive burden upon her." She seemed terrified, they had never seen her "so fearfully stirred over anything." She seemed to have "terrible revelations" and been "terrified day after day and night after night." [Daniells to G. A. Irwin, Aug. 11, 1903, RG 11 bk. 34, p. 735; to Edith M. Graham, Aug. 11, 1904, ibid., p. 730]
Mrs. White observed that if the entire church expended its entire resources for the duration of the lives of those then living, the consequences of the evil influences that had taken root within the church could not be fully undone. She noted that God alone could counteract the evil of that false teaching. Again she blamed the ministers for not being alert to detect the error. [A. G. Daniells to W. J. Stone, Feb. 12, 1904, RG 11 bk. 33, p. 406]
Ellen White's testimonies seemed designed to teach the church its helplessness, unworthiness and dependence upon Christ while the core of the Living Temple theology focused upon the supposed perfectibility of the believer.
W. C. White observed that the false theology "which is leading the world captive and has come very close to us, teaches the opposite" to the Ellen White focus upon dependence upon Christ.
Conclusion [For Part 1]
In 1909, E. J. Waggoner, who was by then outside of the Seventh-day Adventist church, had a conversation with H. W. Carr, president of the Western New York Conference.
Waggoner told Carr that since he found that everything was in the testimonies was, in principle, also in the Bible and thus he found no real use for the testimonies since they became a lazy way of studying the Bible.
Carr's response was somewhat stunning to Waggoner. Carr asked Waggoner to find in the Bible the concept that the book Living Temple contained pantheistic teachings.
I believe this experience illustrates one of the vital functions of the gift of prophecy and one that is fully relevant today: exposing doctrinal error. Such exposure is, however, irrelevant to us today, except as a historical curiosity, as long as the roots of that apostasy are not exposed. To expose that apostasy we need to recognize a corporate responsibility.
We have one additional great need. In 1902 E. J. Waggoner penned a very meaningful statement:
"No man drops in one day from perfect faith to gross error; much less do multitudes of people apostatize all at the same time. Error is insidious in its working, and the people who fall away are rarely conscious that any change is taking place in them." [Present Truth, Jan. 30, 1902, p. 69]
I would suggest that that is why the Lord has designed that the church should continue diverse personalities: we need each other.
Note this report of an interview C. C. Crisler had with Mrs. White, Oct. 14, 1913. The words are Crisler's, but are based on his interview with Mrs. White:
"Men of varied minds, varied temperaments, varied experience, are to be associated in Christian work; and as they take counsel with one another, and exchange views and convictions, and humble themselves before God, and pray together for heavenly wisdom, light will be given them, and they will be enabled to go forward unitedly, pulling in even lines, and allowing God to rule. This is not after the natural heart of man; it is God's way of managing His work; man is prone to set up his individual judgment as a criterion for others to follow. . . . She made plain, perhaps plainer than before, the possibility of a man's being sincere in his understanding of her counsel, and yet mistaken."
I believe we continue to have a relevant gift of prophecy within the church, but we must unitedly fulfill our responsibilities. Tremendous challenges lie ahead for the church in this area.
Mrs. White wrote this in 1899: