Denis Kaiser, an Andrews PhD student in Adventist Studies from Germany, presented on his MA thesis research on "Ellen White and The 'Daily' Conflict" (PDF). The conflict regarding the symbolic meaning of "daily" (KJV) in Daniel 8:11-13 lasted from 1900-1930. It was between the "old view, that the "daily" is Roman paganism, and the "new view," that the "daily" is Christ's heavenly ministration.
In 1850 Ellen White made a statement about the "daily", to the effect that the "word 'sacrifce' was supplied by man's wisdom" (Early Writings, 74-75), consisting of four paragraphs that Kaiser read in full. This statement was at the center of the the later controversy and illustrates the context in which the Paganism View of the daily arose.
Majority View. In 1840 the majority view of Millerites was that the daily was Roman Paganism. They argued that the noun "sacrifice" added to the text and that is it in fact the noun, "desolation," that is qualified by "daily" They say two consecutive desolating powers, Pagan Rome and Papal Rome.
In the Early Writings statement, Ellen White mentioned the 1843 prophecy chart made by Charles Fitch and Apollos Hale as "directed by the hand of the Lord." That chart taught the Paganism View of the "daily."
Between 1844 and 1847 there was a scattering time when the Millerites fragmented across various solutions to the disappointment. From 1847 on there was a gathering time, when the Millerites integrated the sanctuary understanding of the disappointment with the seventh-day Sabbath. Ellen White called this the third angel's message, a collective term for the new message and its unifying elements (Sabbath, sanctury, spirit of prophecy, etc.)
By 1850 there were three different interpretations of the daily in post-disappointment Adventism. Sabbatarian Adventists believed it was Roman Paganism. The Age to Come movement believed it was the Jewish sacrifices that would be restored in a restored temple. O. R. L. Crosier believed it was Christ's Heavenly Ministration, which was similar to the Jewish Sacrifices view. He also set times and believed in the Jewish restoration. The Age to Come view and Crosier also denied the 1844 date. Adventists adopted Crosier's view of the Heavenly Sactuary but kept the MIllerite view of the daily.
Until the 1870s, the daily as Jewish sacrifices were strongly attacked in Adventist publications. After the 1870s, the criticism ceased and explanations became less frequent and more concise. Often they just quoted Millerite authors and did little original research.
New View. In 1900, Conradi discovered the New or Ministration view. He agreed that the noun "sacrifice" was wrongly added, but concluded that because the term daily was prefixed by article, it functioned by itself as a noun. He decided that Daniel did that on purpose. The OT background says that the daily encompasses all the services in the Sanctuary, not just the sacrifice. Based on biblical typology, Conradi concluded daily referred to Christ's continual heavenly ministry.
The desolation then was the taking away of knowledge of Christ's heavenly mediation by papal Rome and onward, which made restoration of the heavenly sanctuary necessary. Willie White, A. G. Daniels, and others accepted this view, and it became a big argument in the United States.
Argumentation of the Paganism view group was that if Miller said it it must be right, according to Ellen White's Early Writings statement. The Ministration view proponents said that doctrine should be based on the Bible, not Ellen White's authority.
People in the Paganism view were stubborn, claiming that if Ellen White said it so, it must be true. They claimed that the others were apostate, the omega of apostacy, and were undermining the prophetic framework. Those of the Ministration view treated the others arrogantly, saying that they had the Bible on their side and that the others should accept the word of scripture. They said that the use of Ellen White to preempt fair investigation of scripture was unfair and accused the others of clinging to tradition.
In this debate, Ellen White clarified that her statement about the 1843 chart being correct was made in the context of new time setting by Millerite leaders. She also said that she didn't know exactly what the daily was, as she had not been shown anything on that topic. She asked church leadership not to use her writings to settle the debate on the daily.
Modern Adventism. In modern Adventism, positions on the "daily" divide into three camps: (1) The Early Writings statement proves that the Paganism view is right, (2) the Early Writings statment proves that the Ministration view is right, (3) Ellen White denied that her writings had authority on these matters at all.
Kaiser observes that claiming that God had shown her the correctness of a specific definition of the "daily" although she later denied that she had done so creates a contradiction between her Early Writings statement and her recollection of that statement around 1900. This undermines her authority, but the first and second camps probably don't realize that.
Regarding the third view, Kaiser notes that sometimes Ellen White did not want to give the final word on a subject. Sometimes she received clear instructions on doctrinal matters to settle a doctrinal controversy. Other times she shaped the church's doctrine based on conclusions from her visions. Sometimes she confirmed Bible study.
While the writings of Ellen White should not be used as the basis of doctrine, they nevertheless have the purpose of guiding in understanding the teachings of the Bible and their application. She said that if the whole subject of the "daily" were debated, the following would result.
- People would be exposed to questions that would weaken their faith.
- People would be occupied by an unnecessary controversy.
- Leaders would be distracted.
- The work in large cities would be delayed.
- It would produce statements that would give Adventism's critics ammunition.
She counseled that denominational energy should instead be focused on training church members to teach the simple, saving truth and speaking in a simple manner on vital subjects that are easily understood. If that is the case, should we study the "daily" at all? Ellen White regretted that the people involved did not have the spiritual attitude that could enable them to study it out to a proper conclusion. When she cautioned against making it an issue, she qualified the statments by "now," "at this time," etc. In other words, Ellen White leaves open the possibility that there could come a time when the meaning of the "daily" would be settled.
Kaiser suggested that we need to be very careful in how we interpret and understand Ellen White's writings. He proposed that we need to use a kind of exegesis like we do with the Bible. He also cautioned that when we study the Bible and come to different conclusions, we should consider the consequences in sharing what we find.
Stan Hickerson, pastor of the Stevensville Adventist Church and presenter at last year's symposium, asserted that Kaiser is too humble in acknowledging the consequences of his study. Hickerson suggested that this "daily" conflict set the table for a dinner of conflict between sola scriptura and Ellen White that has never ceased to give indigestion.
He proposed that there are sociological factors involved in the conflict, such as the factor of guilt by association from which the "new view" suffered. He suggested that Kaiser look more into the collaboration between David Arnold and O. R. L .Crosier as a cross-fertilization between the Age to Come and Heavenly Sanctuary view. Dr. Conradi also gave the view poor association among North American Adventists. Hickerson suggested that this is a poor way even in our day to judge ideas.
Hickerson emphasized the role of defensive rhetoric which demonized the opposition. One author accused those on the other side having committed the unpardonable sin. This rhetoric has persisted to this day. What would Ellen White say about this today?
There is an issue of authority when two opposite views can be justified from the same authoritative writings. Do we really take Ellen White as an authority when we use her writings to contradict herself? As it developed, Hickerson proposed that the issue became one of loyalty to Ellen White versus loyalty to the scriptures, which he called "separating the inseparable." Perhaps in these cases, our true authority turns out to be what we see in the mirror every morning.
Questions & Answers
Where was the Ellen White statement found where she said she does not know what the "daily" is? Kaiser did not know off-hand, but referred the questioner to his MA thesis.
A commenter observed that sometimes history does not repeat itself and that we should not make the mistake of thinking all conflicts take the same form.
Assuming that the core truths are easy to discern in scripture and some other things are shrouded in mystery, how significant is it to pursue exegetical work on the "daily"? Hickerson responded that he is grateful for all the information in the Bible, and that every word given by God ought to be studied. Kaiser replied that the understanding of and recognition of truth in the Bible grows all the time. The fact that we could not understand the "daily" 100 years ago doesn't mean that we should not seek to understand it today, nor that it could not have implications for our theology. He did, however, say that it should be done with the right attitude.