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Section III. How, Then, Shall We Use the Writings of Ellen White?
John and Charlotte Pocock,71 earnest Sunday-keeping Christians, migrated from England to Australia late in the 1880s. During 1892-3, an evangelistic series conducted in Parramatta (a suburb of Sydney) by Robert Hare and David Steed astonished them with the truth that the seventh day is the Sabbath, and they commenced keeping Saturday immediately. The 1890s were difficult enough for parents with a growing family, given the country's pervasive problems with a depressed economy. Sabbath-keeping created a serious employment problem for John Pocock: Saturday was the busiest day of the week for his trade, coach maintenance and repair; all his skills as a cabinetmaker, coachbuilder and wheelwright now seemed useless. John Pocock built a small home on a rocky hillside north of Sydney, meanwhile eking out a meager living and evangelizing his neighbors with the help of Ellen White's books.
The Pococks' relationship with Ellen White was strengthened while the Avondale School for Christian Workers was being pioneered at Cooranbong. As one of the tradesmen working on the college buildings, John Pocock lived in Ellen White's "Sunnyside" home for about seven months. At that time Ellen White was busily writing on the "The Life of Christ," and supporting the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Australasia and overseas with constant testimonies. According to John Pocock, by breakfast time (7am), she had up to 40 handwritten pages ready for her secretaries to transcribe. His memory may have inflated the number of pages, but perhaps not, in view of the fact that sometimes Ellen White commenced writing before midnight, though more often about 3am. On 2 April 1899 the Pocock family moved from the Sydney region to Cooranbong so the husband and father could continue work on the college buildings, and the children could be educated there. On 13 August 1900 the Pococks wrote a page for the album which was presented to Ellen White as she embarked for North America after nine years in the Antipodes.
Amelia Patrick and her three young sons, Charles, Sydney, and William, met Ellen White at the 1898 Brisbane camp meeting. Amelia, a widow and a recent convert nurtured in the faith by A.G. Daniells, was encouraged by Ellen White to transfer to Cooranbong for the education of her sons. After being a neighbor of Ellen White and the Pococks, Amelia Patrick also wrote an entry in the album of 1900.
Hence my mother, Bertha Emma Pocock (1902-1986), and my father, William Nelson Patrick (1892-1972), were profoundly influenced by their parents' accounts of Ellen White's ministry. To this early nurture was added the vigorous emphasis given to Ellen White's prophetic gift during my years at Avondale College. These two influences were reinforced immediately after my graduation in 1957 by the first-ever Seminary Extension School in Australasia, at which Elder Arthur L. White offered the course entitled "Prophetic Guidance." It is understandable, then, that one of my goals as a young minister was to have in my library a copy of everything which Ellen White ever wrote, to read on every sermon text all the "comments" she had penned on that passage of Scripture, and to determine every issue of Adventist faith and practice in harmony with her counsel.
Four decades later I still have a passion to understand and apply Ellen White's prophetic testimony, to benefit my own spiritual journey and that of the church. But it is essential to recognize the research in Adventist heritage and the writings of Ellen White which has been undertaken by Seventh-day Adventists during the past three decades. My purpose in the final section of this paper is to ask, In view of all we now know, how shall we use responsibly the writings of Ellen White to equip ourselves and our church for the mission God has for us in the twenty-first century? Toward this end, we shall contrast two symbols: that of the all-encompassing encyclopedia and that of the pioneer explorer.
ELLEN WHITE'S WRITINGS AS AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING ENCYCLOPEDIA
You can imagine the eagerness with which I greeted the 1962/1963 publication of the three- volume Comprehensive Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White.72 We now had a better way to find published references to a given Bible text or subject. Further, the treasure-trove of Ellen White's writings was being augmented by new compilations, then by collected volumes of articles, and (much later) by the publication of manuscript releases and sermons. Thus, increasingly, her encyclopedic coverage of Adventist thought and practice was being extended, and, as even more comprehensive indexing was developed, it was becoming more and more accessible to Adventists worldwide.
Let us explore, then, the viability or otherwise of using Ellen White's writings as an all-encompassing, authoritative encyclopedia.
Amalgamation of Man and Beast
Ellen White often proclaimed God as the Creator of life and beauty, and Satan as the destroyer of life and loveliness. In 1864, within a discussion of those larger themes, she told the newly-organized Seventh-day Adventist Church: Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men.73
This understanding of amalgamation, implying the interbreeding of humans and animals, created a vibrant debate during the 1860s. Uriah Smith weighed in on Ellen White's side, dealing with this and 51 other issues in a series of articles in The Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. Smith's series was soon collected in the book which James White endorsed strongly and sold widely at camp meetings.74 Smith not only defended the notion that inter-breeding between animals and humans had occurred, he went on to affirm that the results could be clearly seen amongst nineteenth-century people-groups. Such an explanation of racial characteristics is unthinkable to us, by reason of what we now believe to be scientific fact. But as late as 1870, the paragraph from Spiritual Gifts was grammatically adjusted, yet it was essentially unchanged as it was republished in the first volume of The Spirit of Prophecy: The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels. 75
Geology and Earth Sciences
Ellen White often commented on the Genesis accounts of Creation and the Flood. Sixty- three pages of these comments have been collected under the title, "Ellen G. White Statements Relating to Geology and Earth Sciences."76 Most scientists with a knowledge of the scientific subjects treated would be unwilling to seriously consider some of Ellen White's remarks as sustainable. Note, for instance, the problems inherent in her statements about earthquakes and volcanoes. God causes large quantities of coal and oil to ignite and burn. Rocks are intensely heated, limestone is burned, and iron ore melted. Water and fire under the surface of the earth meet. The action of water upon limestone adds fury to the intense heat, and causes earthquakes, volcanoes and fiery issues77
Ellen White, from 1863 onward, demonstrated a deep interest in the subject of health. In response to her counsels, Seventh-day Adventist have developed a worldwide system of clinics and hospitals which in most instances win a profound respect from the communities they serve. What would be the effects if we literally followed Ellen White's ideas with reference to the causes of certain diseases, the influence of heredity, or the application of such nineteenth-century ideas as vitalism? For instance, observe the following quotation which infers that acquired characteristics are transmitted from one generation to the next. Some women have naturally small waists. But rather than regard such forms as beautiful, they should be viewed as defective. These wasp waists may have been transmitted to them from their mothers, as the result of their indulgence in the sinful practice of tight lacing, and in consequence of imperfect breathing.78
From 1858 to her death, Ellen White's literary efforts concentrated more often on the cosmic war between Christ and His angels and Satan and his angels than upon any other theme. As an eager student in History I at the University of Queensland in the 1950s, I wrote an essay on the development of religious toleration in Europe, using The Great Controversy as a major source. At the next residential school I was perplexed when essays were returned to all the other students, but mine was not handed back. Rather timidly I approached the lecturer, to be told my essay had already been reproduced and mailed to everyone else in the class as an example of how the assignment should be handled. I had taken Ellen White's philosophy and fleshed it out with the help of other historians. However, back then, we Adventists were also likely to settle detailed historical questions on the basis of what Ellen White said, something we now know we must avoid. Twenty years after I wrote that essay the Adventist church learned that The Great Controversy is not useable as a source for the details of history. Notice this account from the historian who most-carefully researched this issue. ..the historical portions of The Great Controversy that I have examined are selective abridgments and adaptation of historians. Ellen White was not just borrowing paragraphs here and there that she ran across in her reading, but in fact following the historians page after page, leaving out much material, but using their sequence, some of their ideas, and often their words. In the examples I have examined I have found no historical fact in her text that is not in their text. The hand-written manuscript on John Huss follows the historian so closely that it does not even seem to have gone through an intermediary stage, but rather from the historian's printed page to Mrs. White's manuscript, including historical errors and moral exhortations.79 It would be decidedly perilous in the 1990s to use Ellen White's writings in a way which appeared viable in earlier times.
Ellen White was a lifelong, devout student of the Scriptures, with a remarkable breadth in her knowledge of the Word, a fact amply proved by looking at an index of the Scripture passages which are used in her writings. During the 1970s, major Bible conferences were held in various locations, including North America and Australia. One of many important issues which came to light at that time as the fact that Ellen White approached Scripture in a variety of ways, a dozen of which were identified. 80 A conclusion from this research is evident: we stand on very slippery ground if we give her writings exegetical control over our understanding of the intent and meaning of the Bible.
Between 1844 to the end of her ministry seven decades later, Ellen White developed a symbiotic relationship with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She was present with the struggling groups of believers during the seven years when the "Shut Door" idea was a dominant explanation of 1844. She toiled with the movement as it came to terms with the identity of the law in Galatians, with a definition of clean and unclean meats, with the mystery surrounding the nature of Christ, and with the necessity to refine its understanding of righteousness by faith. It is now clear that our earlier concepts of continuity and change in the Seventh-day Adventist movement must be updated to incorporate the fact that not only did our community of faith grow and change in its understandings, Ellen White also grew and even changed as well.81
Ellen White gave a great deal of attention from the 1870s onward to the matter of "true education." This has been enormously fruitful in its effects. But Adventists have long debated a host of issues which arise from her comments, such as the age at which children should begin schooling, variously hoping or denying that Ellen White could give us a definitive answer. The nature of these debates has frequently been destructive. Often it has been claimed that she gave us a "blueprint" for Christian education, but this symbol has proved less and less adequate as time has progressed. 82 In many such instances, our expectations of Ellen White have created a problem, rather than the problem being inherent in her statements. 83
Therefore, an important observation needs emphasis at this point. As the Seventh-day Adventist Church has come to a fuller understanding of both the content of Ellen White's writings and the religious and social context in which they were penned, we have found it necessary to stress that her writings are not inerrant.84 Further, in view of the traditional ways in which so many of us had used Ellen White's writings, it became necessary for the church to make and publish a specific list of affirmations and denials.85
There is truth which lies behind each of the seven illustrations cited above. Smith noted that Ellen White's concern in her "amalgamation" statements was to illustrate "the deep corruption and crime into which the race fell."86 The message that God is Creator is vastly more important than any nineteenth-century notions about the earth's crust. Ellen White has influenced, profoundly, the health of millions of people, despite the specific limitations of her health-related counsels. Since she learned history largely by ordinary means, and we have access to better sources on which to establish our historical understandings, she cannot help us with the basics of history. But, on the other hand, she can help us in the far more important task of finding God in the mazes of history. We can rightly affirm her devotion to the Scriptures, and be challenged to go to the Bible with a desire similar to hers to learn the truth. We need to be as open to constructive change as she was, knowing we too have "many things to learn, and many, many to unlearn."87 Further, we do well to avoid claims which her writings neither encourage nor sustain.
It is clear that Seventh-day Adventism would become an anachronism were we to adopt the writings of Ellen White as the definitive and authoritative encyclopedia of our faith and practice. In the process, we would destroy her credibility as a prophetic witness, and damage the mission of the church which was so precious to her. If the symbol of the all-encompassing encyclopedia is no longer an adequate way to depict the writings of Ellen White, is there not a more appropriate way for us to portray her writings?
ELLEN WHITE: PIONEER EXPLORER
Little was known about continental Australia at the end of the eighteenth century, but by 1862 intrepid explorers had pioneered an understanding of the country's mountains, plains, and deserts. To use the maps of these explorers to find the way to the center of Sydney, the popular automobile racetrack over the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, or the internationally-known monolith in the Northern Territory, would involve us in considerable frustration. Yet, without the orientation provided by the explorers, contemporary life would be impaired, if not impossible.
Seventh-day Adventists were uniquely helped by Ellen White's prophetic gift during their first seventy years. Her writings will continue to speak to us as long as time shall last, 88 but the longer time lasts the more challenging it will be to constructively apply them in the ongoing journey of the church. At this point, let us remind ourselves, again, of the importance of the direction- setting ideas with which section one concludes and those stated at the end of this paper, concepts which have a continuing and powerful significance for the church's thought and mission.
But there are other ways to symbolize Ellen White's work which merit exploration. Ellen White is, of all Adventist women, best fitted to be called the mother of the church. We need to recognize that in the providence of God we owe a great deal to her and that we will never outgrow the values which she has deeply embedded in our corporate psyche. The fact that her writings do not qualify as a comprehensive, all-encompassing, authoritative encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventist thought and practice means that we, her children, are called to a measure of adultness which increases constantly as we move further from the historical matrix of her seventy-year ministry. An adult attitude which accepts individual responsibility, and wisely employs her writings and the spiritual gifts presently manifested within the church, will most fully appreciate her role as the foremost explorer in our movement, one uniquely used of God to determine the essential directions of our pilgrimage in this last segment of time. That metaphor accords well with the notion that Ellen White is the mother of Seventh-day Adventism.
My mother's parents were, as stated earlier, personal friends and neighbors of Ellen White. They were able to give my mother only about the same amount of formal education as Ellen White herself received. My mother nurtured me lovingly and set my direction decidedly on a long road of discovery that caused me to finish the primary schooling she did not complete, plus high school, and academic programs at Avondale College and four other tertiary institutions. The longer we lived, the less my mother and I saw and understood things in the same way.89 But our mutual love and respect were not impaired by that reality. Often, faithfulness to the spirit of my mother's nurture demanded a radical revision of what she had taught me and what she still believed. I can never dismiss the importance of her influence upon my life, nor can I be true to her and remain bound by her categories of thought. The application to Ellen White as a spiritual mother of the church is obvious. The Christian life is (according to Proverbs 4:18) like the light of dawn that shines more brightly until that noonday when (according to 1 Corinthians 13) we put childish things behind us and the smoked glass of this life is taken away.90
For some Seventh-day Adventists it may be appropriate to symbolize Ellen White as giving "a jet-aircraft vision of crucial realities in an age of spiritual surface travel." 91 Others may identify with her best as the church's mother. 92 Indeed, it could be useful for each of us to give that symbol a personal application in that none of us can accomplish such a task effectively for our colleagues, due to the limitations of our knowledge about each other.
A further symbol also invites exploration. In an insightful reference to paradigms, Claire Monod Cassidy uses a metaphor which she notes has been popular since the 1940s, "The map is not a road." 93 Ellen White has given us a sketch map for the spiritual journey of the Advent movement. God did not give us through her a road, nor in His wisdom did He give us a contour map with all the details for which some of us long. What He did give us was, however, a map of profound significance. In the 1990s we must neither undervalue nor overdo the relevance of that map.
SOME PRIORITIES FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE
There is a continuing need for a more comprehensive approach by the Seventh-day Adventist Church if we are to respond adequately to the issues raised in this paper. Several points appear to be worth consideration with reference to the church's understanding of the life and writings of Ellen White. I suggest that the church might give careful study to a range of constructive plans, including the following.
1. What steps may be taken to develop a more informed and resilient relationship between thought leaders and administrative leaders so that the kind of dialogue and dialectic which benefited the church in its early years, for example, during the Sabbath Conferences, 1848- 50, and the Civil War, 1861-65, might be re-experienced? This might benefit scholars, save administrators some of the painful investigations of institutions and ministers which they deem to be necessary at present, and build a greater sense of community and partnership in fulfillment of the church's mission.
2. Are there ways to develop an enhanced participation in the process of discovery and experimentation94 by White Estate personnel and the staff of the Ellen G. White/SDA Research Centers around the world? This might help to better identify both the problems and the promise of the discussion about Ellen White in relation to matters now on the church's agenda, and renew a sense of trust in the church.95
3. Would it be constructive to monitor such processes by a carefully-structured "think- tank," a group inclusive of the church's talent in administration, biblical studies, systematic and historical theology, mission, history, science, anthropology, sociology, psychology, medicine, literature, and pastoral care? This group could also generate and receive suggestions as well as explore and field-test ways to raise the level of awareness about Ellen White in the church at large.
4. Are there ways in which the church might profitably nurture (worldwide) its editors and publishing committees so it can be sure the magazines, journals, and books it supports are accurate and unifying in their content relating to Adventist heritage and Ellen White? 96
5. Could the Biblical Research Institute lead the church in an open, frank discussion of the ways in which Fundamentalism has impacted the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Could this study explore the incompatibility between Fundamentalism and the prophetic gift as known in the experience of Ellen G. White? Then, might the church consider how these findings should influence its activities, the way it understands related issues (includingthe inspiration as manifested in Scripture and Ellen White's writings), and the way it treats people?
6. Might it be fruitful for the Adventist Society for Religious Studies and the Adventist Theological Society to consider participating in an open, collegial dialogue on these issues in a search for ways in which their societies might better support the unity and mission of the church with reference to Ellen White's ministry?
7. How might the church mount a sustained effort to find and foster apt symbols which will accurately convey the ministry of Ellen White for Seventh-day Adventists as they enter the new century? The symbols suggested herein-a jet-aircraft panorama, a pioneer explorer, a mother, a sketch map-might all be discarded in favor of better ones, but the importance of the task demands that serious attempts be made to find and foster adequate metaphors without delay.97
One of the great challenges which the church faces at the dawn of the twenty-first century is to understand the attitudes within the present generation of young Adventists, including those who have grown up estranged from the church's mother. These young people are potential recruits for the army which, rightly trained, may well complete the task at which those who presently lead the church have toiled so earnestly. Step-by-step the church has laid a foundation for a more comprehensive and accurate picture of Ellen White and her ministry;98 we need at this time to judiciously continue this endeavor.99 Perhaps we can say with a Christian leader who was appointed to an important post recently, "Our greatest challenge is to live as the modern-day Christians that we are-and as those who are faithful to our founders' vision." 100
As we proceed with this important agenda, we need to rise above controversy and highlight the constructive spiritual ministry of Ellen White for ourselves as individuals and for the church we love. I shall conclude this paper by listing a few of the many constructive emphases which we may choose to emphasize from the writings of Ellen White. Such a list could be expanded readily; these suggestions are given as hints of possibilities inviting exploration.
1. The link between the cosmology and eschatology, first things and last things. The doctrine of creation has powerful environmental implications. Prophet though she was, with a compelling sense of mission, Ellen White exemplified a mature delight in the entire world of nature, even to pansies, peaches, and potatoes. A recovery of her comprehensive interest in this theme would speak powerfully to our age.
2. The connection between health and religion, spiritual and physical well-being. We are currently allowing our culture to edge ahead of us in some aspects of this endeavor; to recover the authentic voice of Ellen White could make us the head and not the tail. 101
3. The "Great Controversy" theme, the controlling idea in Ellen White's entire corpus of writings. According to Herbert Douglass, a focus on this theme would help us to better understand Ellen White and Adventist distinctives, since it is "the golden thread which binds all her writings together," and in which "she breaks out of conventional theological paradigms that cause all our internal divisions and lifts us into a new dimension of dealing with the plan of salvation." 102 This emphasis would also offer us perhaps the most positive way to present Ellen White's ministry, faithful to her objectives and the major findings of the research conducted since 1970.
4. The interpretation of history. Christianity is a teleological religion; it is directed toward a specific goal. All history is moving toward that end, and Ellen White can help us to discover and articulate the way in which the past reveals the purpose of God for the present and the future.
5. The primacy of Scripture in the formation of doctrine. We have yet to fully implement Ellen White's counsel by making the Bible our sole rule of faith and practice.
6. The dynamic nature of Adventism. We have not yet maximized the significance of our heritage. The life and writings of Ellen White are inextricably linked with the history and thought of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We are still in the early stages of making this relationship understood in the church. 103
7. The winsomeness of God. In my first wide-margin Bible there are copious notes made with a mapping pen in india ink, detailing the way in which Ellen White's writings on the life of Christ assist our understanding of the Gospels. Were there two demoniacs or one at Gadara? What was the sequence of the events in the life of Jesus? Did a specific miracle occur on the way into or the way out of Jericho? I asked countless questions on that level, some of which are quite irrelevant in the light of now well-known facts.104 I now believe that the main theme of The Desire of Ages is clearly stated on page 22: Jesus came to reveal to us the God whom to know is to love. Many of the questions which I asked of this masterpiece were no doubt important, but too many of them were outside of its purpose or what might be expected of it.
8. The ultimacy of Jesus Christ. Probably most Adventists would not claim that they have fully implemented Ellen White's far-reaching injunction that "of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world."105
A NOTE TO THE READER. Drafts of this paper were shared with a representative group of mature, dedicated Adventists before its presentation in San Francisco on 21 November 1997, at which time 100 copies of the script were placed in the hands of members of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies and the Adventist Theological Society. Responses thus far have been received from several specialists in disciplines related to specific matters under review-two scientists, two historians, one sociologist, and one psychologist. The others, women and men whose education and experience have given them extensive experience with the subject, included Bible exegetes, theologians, pastors, religion teachers, administrators, and laity. The first twenty respondents may be classified into three groups: one was "disappointed," concerned by the "negative scenarios," and wished the "conclusions had been stated in more positive terms"; one was non-committal; eighteen varied from generally approving to overtly enthusiastic. I regard Ellen White's prophetic ministry as of profound importance for the future of the church, and thus I welcome further input no matter how severe it may be. Since comments both critical and affirmative have honed the several drafts developed thus far, I expect further input will better shape subsequent drafts. With thanks and anticipation,
A FURTHER NOTE TO THE READER. The discussion of this paper has widened since its second presentation in San Diego on 10 January 1998, when a further 100 copies of the script were made available, along with cassettes of the oral version. Additional presentations will occur in New York, California, and Canada in the near future. Some respondents suggest the note of optimism in the paper is unrealistic-didn't the church largely fail to fulfill the promises it made during the turmoil of the late 1970s and early 1980s? (One of the potential responses to this is that the church is people rather than an organization, and that many Adventists remain interested in constructive outcomes for the issues raised.) Are the eleven "scenarios" "somewhat overdrawn," with the second set having "a kind of triumphalistic tone to them"? In four pages of constructive criticism, a scientist suggests that Ellen White may have been correct about such matters as volcanoes and amalgamation after all, and that I am too critical of the Geoscience Research Institute's role in relation to biblical chronology. An historian writes a 16-point response including this sentence: "Your paper convincingly reveals the many critical elements in the crisis facing us today." Various options are under consideration which could widen the current discussion. The general tenor of the many responses received thus far indicates this paper may still be a useful way to facilitate a constructive dialogue and dialectic until more comprehensive treatments of these matters become available.
73 Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, 3: Important Facts of Faith, In Connection with the History of Holy Men of Old (Battle Creek: Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1864), 75. See also page 64. [back] [top]
75 See 78, cf. 69. For further documentation, see my article, "Does Our Past Embarrass Us?" Note the way in which the term "amalgamation" is used by Ellen White in Review and Herald, 23 August 1892; Manuscript 65, 1889; Manuscript Releases, 16, 247. See also W.C. White's comment in Selected Messages, 3, 452. [back] [top]
76 (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, March 1982). Cf. Paul A. Gordon, "The Bible, Science, and the Age of the Earth: The Testimony of Ellen G. White" (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, revised May 1981). [back] [top]
83 In his volume Reading Ellen White (Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 1997) George Knight offers a comprehensive set of principles and methods for the effective interpretation of Ellen White's writings. [back] [top]
89 We do well to remind ourselves just how different our culture is from that in which Adventism developed. See Jonathan Butler, "From Millerism to Seventh-day Adventism: 'Boundlessness to Consolidation'," Church History 55 (March 1986): 50-64. [back] [top]
92 See my article "Ellen White: Mother of the Church in the South Pacific," Adventist Heritage 16 (Spring 1993): 30-40. Such symbols, like others the church developed earlier (for instance, a telescope, a pilot) may need redefinition over time to accord with the increasing understanding about Ellen White. [back] [top]
94 Again, observe some of the constructive proposals offered in Spectrum. Note, for instance, the implications for creation science, Ellen White studies, and historiography in the following issues: 16 (April 1985): 67; 16 (August 1985: 2-31; 18 (December 1987): 58-9; 18 (February 1988): 36-42; and especially James W. Walters, "Ellen White in a New Key" 21 (December 1991): 12-17. Walters calls for "an already discredited authoritarian Ellen White to be replaced by a revered, authoritative Ellen White." [back] [top]
95 A first principle of business management is to listen to consumers, a starting-point for all "Quality" studies. Perhaps the ministry of White Estate could be enhanced by the equivalent of a market survey as it forms plans for the future. [back] [top]
96 It would seem to be pastorally irresponsible to allow the two-thirds world to drift into the kind of crisis which occurred in the South Pacific and North American church late in the 1970s and onward. [back] [top]
97 >Men and women from a range of disciplines and perspectives have read drafts of this paper and shaped its development by their comments. For this help I am grateful, even though I alone take full responsibility for each statement made. It is clear that so short a treatment may raise more questions than it answers in the minds of some. Steve Daily notes the need to better explore three ideas. First, Ellen White's self-understanding of her prophetic role given the views of prophecy that characterized 19th century America inside and outside Adventism. Second, how such views fit with a biblical understanding of prophecy in the New Testament and post N.T. eras. (See Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, and Houston, Prophecy a Gift for Today.) Thirdly, what the implications are for us as Adventists today if we are to continue as a prophetic community and properly understand and model the gifts of the Spirit so as to fulfill our prophetic destiny. [back] [top]
98 It would be of substantial benefit for the ongoing life of the church if the oral presentations and publications of the Adventist Theological Society reflected a coherent understanding of the life and ministry of Ellen White. One can hardly expect the plethora of fringe publications to show responsibility in this regard (for example, the voluminous writings of Colin and Russell Standish), but the church might well expect those of its employees who contribute energy to the ATS to be informed and considerate of unity in the household of faith. [back] [top]
99 In planning a video to highlight the centenary of Ellen White's arrival in the South Pacific, it was decided to aim the production at this group rather than the older generation in the church. The result is the Adventist Media Center production entitled "One Hundred Year Recall," released in 1991. [back] [top]
100 A remark by Robert K. Johnston upon his installation as Provost of Fuller Theological Seminary, 7 March 1994. In a pamphlet, Embracing the Spirit: An Open Letter to the Leaders of Adventism (Columbia Union College, August 1997), Charles Scriven has well depicted the forces which are "at this moment, pulling Adventism toward the maelstrom" (3), including "flat, mechanical readings of the Bible," "theological rigidity and arrogance," and "reactive, inward-looking separatism" (16). [back] [top]
103 I regard it as a great privilege to journey through Adventist history with students. My basic aims in this process are suggested by seven principal terms. The responsible study of Adventist history is an exciting quest for truth, including historical accuracy; insight, an understanding of how the past illumines the present and the future; stability, a sufficient grasp of the relevant data so that new items of information do not threaten our belief system; identification, a pervading sense that Adventist history is our personal heritage, and hence precious; commitment, a conviction that the Adventist church has a mission worthy of our best talents and energies; awe, faith that the God of Scripture and Jesus Christ have led and continue to lead the Second Advent Movement through Word and Spirit; celebration, a desire to commemorate the integrity, achievements and faith of the past-and thus to inform and inspire present. [back] [top]
104 See Robert W. Olson, "How The Desire of Ages Was Written," 23 May 1979, a Shelf Document available from the Ellen G. White/SDA Research Centers. Note Olson, page 32, shows that Ellen White did not claim to know the order of the events in the life of Christ. If she did not claim a revealed understanding of such chronological matters, is it fair for us to claim her support of Ussher's chronology resulted from divine revelation? In exploring this issue, we would do well to consult all the recent studies on biblical chronology, including the Andrews University doctoral dissertation by Colin House. [back] [top]
105 Evangelism, 188. When we show other Christians the extent of Ellen White's agreement with cardinal Christian doctrines, they are more open to heed her distinctive convictions. For one attempt in this direction, see my article, "An Adventist and an Evangelical in Australia? The Case of Ellen White in the 1890s," Lucas: An Evangelical History Review 12 (December 1991): 42-53; reprinted (in edited form) as "Are Adventists Evangelical?" Ministry, February 1995:14-17. [back] [top]