The Mini Great Controversy
by Stephen Foster
Bear with me on this one folks. In The Godfather II, the corrupt Senator Geary alerted Michael Corleone that he was about to speak to Corleone more bluntly than anyone in his position had probably ever spoken to the Don before. This blog, too, will perhaps be somewhat more frank than I have written in the past.
Certainly, we all know of or have heard of The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan.
Our mini internal controversy is about the testimonies to the Seventh-day Adventist Church that have come from the pen of Ellen G. White, through the inspiration of God.
I confess that I hold an unusual view of Ellen White and her writings. While I believe her to have been a full blown prophet, I don’t hold everything she ever wrote or said, under any and all circumstances, to have been universally applicable or even necessarily divinely inspired. (That’s not to say that it wasn’t however. This is just my personal approach.) While I do not consider her writings to be canonical, I do believe what she wrote about God or the Bible or the Christian life to have been divinely inspired; and particularly for end-time believers.
This is one reason why I reject out of hand the notion that her counsel or testimony is for a specific culture and only/primarily useful to/for her contemporaries. Truth doesn’t change and is seldom/never popular (at least according to Elder C.D. Brooks).
The New Testament references to slaves and masters are occasionally cited as an example of changing, changeable, or limited inspiration or revelation.
Paul’s message about slavery was about allowing nothing, not even slavery/freedom, to detract or distract from our Christian testimony to others. It was simply a message of principle. Seriously, do any of us dispute this in the 21st century? Has this principle ever changed at all?
It makes about as much sense (to me) for a Seventh-day Adventist Christian to challenge the inspiration and authority of Ellen White as it does for a Calvinist to challenge the theological authority/bona fides of John Calvin, or a Lutheran of Luther. Yet some members of the voluntary Christian sect or denomination which was co-founded by White—whose commentary on the Bible and whose exegeses and interpretation of the Bible are the result of a prophetic gifting of God—routinely reject her messages (and/or reject the reality of her gifting).
Contradictorily and ironically, some of these individuals believe that they have been given the same or similar gifting; and that, since they live in the present, their gifting is representative of present truth—even though their “truth” may deny or contradict some of what White wrote in great detail.
I view all such claims as bogus at best; and, quite frankly, actually have a much stronger negative opinion of them.
More candidly in my opinion, the ultimate purpose of all efforts to discredit Ellen White is the purposeful destruction of the Advent movement generally, and of its interpretation of the Third Angel’s message in particular.
(Now, of course, I could be wrong; but I’d wager everything that I’m not.)
Basically SDA’s and those who are not SDA have differences with regard to interpretations—and implications resulting from interpretations—of the books of Genesis, Daniel, and The Revelation. This is no different at all than the differences between Adventist conservatives and liberals.
So what are we to do when we fundamentally disagree with what ‘we’ represents? Can those who fundamentally disagree remain together? Can a divided house somehow remain standing?
Inspiration provides the following guidance:
“Christ's servants are grieved as they see true and false believers mingled in the church. They long to do something to cleanse the church. Like the servants of the householder, they are ready to uproot the tares. But Christ says to them, ‘Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.’
“Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church, but He has not committed to us the work of judging character and motive. He knows our nature too well to entrust this work to us. Should we try to uproot from the church those whom we suppose to be spurious Christians, we should be sure to make mistakes. Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. Were we to deal with these souls according to our imperfect judgment, it would perhaps extinguish their last hope. Many who think themselves Christians will at last be found wanting. Many will be in heaven who their neighbors supposed would never enter there. Man judges from appearance, but God judges the heart. The tares and the wheat are to grow together until the harvest; and the harvest is the end of probationary time.”
“There is in the Saviour's words another lesson, a lesson of wonderful forbearance and tender love. As the tares have their roots closely intertwined with those of the good grain, so false brethren in the church may be closely linked with true disciples. The real character of these pretended believers is not fully manifested. Were they to be separated from the church, others might be caused to stumble, who but for this would have remained steadfast.” COL 71, 72
Who now questions this counsel; or the source from which it comes?