by Jack Hoehn
By Jack Hoehn, June 19, 2014
Walter T. Rea, Ellen White critic, was the pastor of the nearby Alhambra SDA church in my youth.1 When I knew him, Elder Rea was an expert in making collections of Ellen G. White quotations on many subjects, and had syllabi consisting of selected “quotations” from the “Spirit of Prophecy.” Others have published collections of key quotations of special interest to Adventists or to the world. I too have found it useful and interesting to type collections of “statements” on different religious or moral subjects I have been studying. I always find new insights and spiritual direction when I do so from the writings (or “pen”) of Ellen G. White. 2,3
Now, as an adult faced with issues where what Ellen White wrote and what I now believe to be true do not always agree, I have made a new compilation of her quotations that has helped me understand what to do in cases of conflict between what was written and what now seems to be true. All the following quotations are from the published works of Ellen G. White.4
FIRST: INSPIRED WRITERS NOT “THE PEN OF INSPIRATION”
“The writers of the Bible were God’s penmen, not His pen.” Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21.
SECOND: SOME SDA DOCTRINES ARE WRONG
“We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and Heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed.” Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, p. 203.
MORE TRUTH TO BE REVEALED
“There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.” Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 35.
NO HUMAN INFALLIBLE
“God has given men brains to use, intellect to cultivate, to employ to His glory; and He would be the One to mold, control, and fashion the minds after His own impress. Men are only men whatever may be their work. The more responsible the position, the more important that the one who stands in this position have no more honor or exaltation given him than is for his good. In fact, people are ruined through praise and honor bestowed upon them as though they were infallible. While due respect should be given to those whom God has entrusted with more than ordinary talents, that man thus endowed needs to walk more humbly and closely with God as he advances.” Christian Leadership, p. 45.
“I wish that self should be hid in Jesus. I wish self to be crucified. I do not claim infallibility, or even perfection of Christian character. I am not free from mistakes and errors in my life. Had I followed my Saviour more closely, I should not have to mourn so much my unlikeness to His dear image.” Letter 27, 1876, to James White
LONG CHERISHED OPINIONS NOT INFALLIBLE
“As we take up the study of God’s word, we should do so with humble hearts. All selfishness, all love of originality, should be laid aside. Long-cherished opinions must not be regarded as infallible. It was the unwillingness of the Jews to give up their long-established traditions that proved their ruin. They were determined not to see any flaw in their own opinions or in their expositions of the Scriptures; but however long men may have entertained certain views, if they are not clearly sustained by the written word, they should be discarded. Those who sincerely desire truth will not be reluctant to lay open their positions for investigation and criticism, and will not be annoyed if their opinions and ideas are crossed.” Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 36.
DON’T BE CONSERVATIVE ABOUT ADVANCED TRUTH
“Whenever the people of God are growing in grace, they will be constantly obtaining a clearer understanding of His word. They will discern new light and beauty in its sacred truths. This has been true in the history of the church in all ages, and thus it will continue to the end. But as real spiritual life declines, it has ever been the tendency to cease to advance in the knowledge of the truth. Men rest satisfied with the light already received from God’s word, and discourage any further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative, and seek to avoid discussion.” Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 38.
NATURE SHEDS LIGHT ON SCRIPTURE
“To such a student, scientific research will open vast fields of thought and information. As he contemplates the things of nature, a new perception of truth comes to him. The book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other.” The Ministry of Healing, p. 462.
“The book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other. We are thus led to adore the Creator, and to have an intelligent trust in His word.” Counsels on Education, p. 196.
BIBLE DOES NOT TELL US HOW GOD CREATED
“Just how God accomplished the work of creation, he has never revealed to men; human science cannot search out the secrets of the Most High.” Counsels on Education, p. 193.
WE NEED TO RECONCILE GEOLOGY WITH SCRIPTURE
“Moses wrote under the guidance of the Spirit of God; and a correct theory of geology will never claim discoveries that cannot be reconciled with his statements. All truth, whether in nature or in revelation, is consistent with itself in all its manifestations.” Counsels on Education, p. 193.
REBUKE OF THE LORD ON “GUARDIANS OF DOCTRINE”
“The rebuke of the Lord will be upon those who would be guardians of the doctrine, who would bar the way that greater light shall not come to the people.” Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 37.
GOD NOT PLEASED
“The present attitude of the church is not pleasing to God. There has come in a self-confidence that has led them to feel no necessity for more truth and greater light. We are living at a time when Satan is at work on the right hand and on the left, before and behind us; and yet as a people we are asleep. God wills that a voice shall be heard arousing His people to action.” Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 41.
WE DIFFER IN UNDERSTANDING OF TRUTH
“Every association of life calls for the exercise of self-control, forbearance, and sympathy. We differ so widely in disposition, habits, education, that our ways of looking at things vary. We judge differently. Our understanding of truth, our ideas in regard to the conduct of life, are not in all respects the same…. So frail, so ignorant, so liable to misconception is human nature, that each should be careful in the estimate he places upon another.” The Ministry of Healing, p. 485.
STORM OF WORDS
“Under a storm of stinging, faultfinding words, keep the mind stayed upon the word of God. Let mind and heart be stored with God’s promises. If you are ill-treated or wrongfully accused, instead of returning an angry answer, repeat to yourself the precious promises: 'Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.'” The Ministry of Healing, p. 486.
Amen. ““Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.”5 Listen to what Nature tells us about the Bible and let Nature shine light on Revelation, even as Revelation shines light on our understanding of Nature.
2“Pen” is correct, Ellen White handwrote all her articles; she never used a typewriter or word processor. I’m not sure if she ever used a pencil, but suspect not.
3I have previously been criticized as “attacking Ellen White.” I will reprint here my reply to that accusation.
“The 10 commandments tell me to not worship anything or anyone. I am attacking idolatry of Ellen White. I also attack the idolatry of Mary, the mother of Christ. However, I would love and revere Mary, and I do love and revere Ellen. But I am seriously attacking the immaculate and error-free-blasphemous-worship-in-disguise of my human older sisters. It is your beliefs about Ellen I am attacking, not Ellen White. To say that David was wrong, wrong, wrong, to kill Uriah and take Bathsheba, is not attacking David; it is saving David. To say that Peter was wrong, wrong, wrong to withdraw socially from Gentile Christians, is not discrediting Peter; it is saving Peter. To say that Ellen was wrong on the age of the earth and the length of creation is not discrediting Ellen; it is editing and improving Ellen, and will result in her writings’ being of continued use to this generation, instead of ending up on the trash-heap of uselessness. Being wrong, as she occasionally was, is not a sin, it is an error. But holding to a sweet error when the evidence has long since shown it is wrong, is the sin, perhaps unforgivable, of idolizing the writer, instead of loving and obeying the truth.
"Please, Adventists, back off on the adoration, glorification, veneration, idealization, romanticization, and near-deification of Sister Ellen. 'Let God be true, though every man a liar' (Romans 3:4, emphasis added). Let her be wrong when she was wrong; respect her when she was right, as she so often was. Sister White never claimed inerrancy or infallibility.
"Please read carefully the new Ellen White Encyclopedia article on 'Revelation and Inspiration,' and note her own words, 'Everything that is human is imperfect' (EGW Encyclopedia, page 1100). And for even clearer illustrations of that in her own life, please buy and read Ellen Harmon White from the Oxford University Press.
"Even though Dr. C.E. Stewart saw some of her errors, his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren still use and value her ministry, and remain faithful Seventh-day Adventists. Those who idolize her instead of valuing her may live to regret it.”
4One quotation I would have liked to include, but have not because it came from Ellen’s son, W.C. White. Nevertheless, it has been a gem to me. Surely this wise advice from Ellen could apply to the chronology of the age of the earth and time of creation as well?
“Regarding Mother’s writings and their use as authority on points of history and chronology, Mother has never wished our brethren to treat them as authority regarding the details of history or historical dates. The great truths revealed to Mother regarding the controversy between good and evil, light and darkness, have been given to her in various ways, but chiefly as flashlight views of great events…” “In past years whenever definite proof has been found that the writers of our Adventist literature had come short of finding the exact proof regarding details, Mother has taken her position in favor of correcting those things that were clearly found to be in error.
“It seems to me there is danger of placing altogether too much stress upon chronology. If it had been essential to the salvation of man that he should have a clear and harmonious understanding of the chronology of the world, the Lord would not have permitted the disagreements and discrepancies which we find in the writings of the Bible historians, and it seems to me that in these last days there ought not to be so much controversy regarding dates.”
“It seems to me… that there is great possibility of our weakening our influence by closing our eyes to the fact that we are all as little children learning from day to day from the great Teacher, and that it is our privilege to advance in knowledge and understanding. It seems to me that it is much wiser for us to convince the world that God has been leading us, and that He is leading us by presenting from time to time, unanswerable evidences regarding the soundness of our position by a clear presentation of the correspondence of prophecy and history through the use of historical data which the world cannot question, than by any efforts that we shall make to prove that the positions we held last year or ten years ago or twenty years ago or thirty years ago were infallible and unchangeable" (W.C. White, in Selected Messages, book 3, p. 449).
52 Chronicles 20:20