31 July 2023 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
Did Ellen White say that black Africans are a result of crossbreeding between animals and humans?
Signed, If So, Offended
Dear If So:
No. Here is what she wrote:
Since the flood, there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men. —Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, p. 75 (1864).
What is “amalgamation of man and beast”? Adventist apologists say that she didn’t mean that humans crossbred with animals, but that there has been reproduction between various races of humans, and interbreeding among various kinds of animals. They suggest supplying two missing words: “amalgamation of man and [amalgamation of] beast[s].”
Ellen White never made clear precisely what she meant, but here are Aunty’s observations:
- A belief of some pro-slavery advocates in the 18th and 19th century was that white people were fully human and black people were not—thus cross-racial reproduction was “amalgamation.” Ellen White never says this, although she discouraged interracial marriage for cultural reasons.
- Some of those surrounding Ellen White, though, had bizarre beliefs. Uriah Smith, who is still valorized today as the church’s formative eschatologist, wrote in the Review and Herald that animals and humans had sex together such that “the line of demarkation [sic] between the human and animal races is lost in confusion.” This was seen, said Smith, in “such cases as the wild Bushmen of Africa, some tribes of the Hottentots, and perhaps the Digger Indians of our own country, &c.” This is, of course, complete rubbish.
- Even if she meant no more than what her defenders say—that she was talking about two separate categories of amalgamation—there are still concerns. “Amalgamation of man” implies that it is against God’s will for different races to have children together. Aunty knows of no moral, biblical, or scientific defense for this belief.
- As for crossbreeding of different kinds of animals, some early Adventists believed that the antediluvians had a degree of control over genetics that hasn’t been achieved even today. Some fringe believers even say this accounts for dinosaur fossils. There is no biblical or scientific evidence for this. If Ellen White believed that someone, somewhere, crossed an alligator with an elephant, she was simply wrong.
- Ellen White stood strongly against slavery, and became a strong advocate for ministering to former slaves. She wrote, “Let us as Christians who accept the principle that all men, white and black, are free and equal, adhere to this principle, and not be cowards in the face of the world, and in the face of the heavenly intelligences.”
The problems with troublesome statements such as this one in Spiritual Gifts would be minimized if Seventh-day Adventists regarded Ellen White as an important voice in our church’s history, but not an infallible mouthpiece for God. Just as we have to forgive Martin Luther’s antisemitism when we study his theology, so Adventists should appreciate Ellen White only to the extent that she is biblical and sensible. She said many good things, but she also held some of the false beliefs of her time; it would have made things easier if she hadn’t claimed that every word was inspired by God.
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