The 2010 Ellen White and Current Issues Symposium concluded with a panel discussion of previously submitted questions. The panel, moderated by Merlin Burt, was composed of the persenters and respondents from the previous sessions.
If the second coming is somehow conditional as intimated, how does this dynamic of what we do play out? Do we as a church have to do something in order for Jesus to come? Or is something else at work here?
Poirier: I did not mean that the second coming is conditional, but that the time has been delayed until we are ready. Whether it's a fixed time or not, I leave to theologians. I think it's similar to the children of Israel who could have entered the promised land, but were diverted to the wilderness for forty years.
Peterson: The second coming is certain, and that certainty is needed, especially in times where we might think that is not so. But God has chosen to make his activity somewhat dependent on his interaction with his creatures, of whom the church represents only a portion.
Knight: There is a tension in the New Testament between "Behold I come quickly" and It's going to be a long time. But the emphasis is on what we can do to be ready. As Adventists we have been more focused on Sunday Laws than the life that we should be living. The unhealthy interest in the time has taken the focus off how we're supposed to be.
Kaiser: God is all knowing and knows when he will come. He is not surprised by our behavior.
In looking at the various views of the daily, you mentioned 508 AD as a significant date. Did Ellen White mention that date, and is it significant if she did?
Burt: I looked through all her published writings and "508" only refers to a page number. She refers to 538 and others, but not 508.
Olatunji: The date, 508, may be implied by calculating other dates in her writings, but that wasn't her burden.
Burt: Once you get into inference you get into dangerous ground. Deducing the significance of 508 AD by the fact that it is mentioned on the 1843 chart and 538 and so on—we need to be careful not to ascribe a clairvoyant authority to Ellen White by having her mean things she didn't intend to say.
If Ellen White and Scripture are inspired to the same degree, on what basis may we account for their different levels of authority?
Knight: On the basis of Ellen White's repeated statments that she doesn't have the same authority. Tim argues for derived authority—her authority being derived from Scripture—but the fact that she said it is enough.
Peterson: Method is how the Holy Spirit brings communication. Purpose is what determines authority. Ellen White herself said her writings don't have the same purpose as Scripture.
Knight: The only way you can make Ellen White's writings have authority equal to the Bible is to reject her. And there are pleayty of people in our church who are wiling to do that.
Hickerson: And when we do that neither Ellen White nor the Bible is the authority. We become the authority.
If Ellen White is not an inspired commentary, is there some quaity of her writings that is different from other commentators on Scripture?
Knight: Where did we got the notion that she is an inspired commentary? Habakkuk 2:4 is put to different use in Romans and Hebrews. Verbalism and inerrancy are the low view of the high view of inspiration. A doctrine of inspiration must come out of scripture. We should arrive at it inductively, rathar than imposing our own views. We have all made the mistake, even Adventists, of imposing our view of inspiration. We've got to get ourselves out of the picture and take a look at what the words of God really say.
Van Bemmelen: I wrote my dissertation on this subject and the article in the Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology on inspiration. If you want to see some attempt in the direction that is mentioned by Dr. Knight, I tried that in my article. What is an inductive view? In my dissertation I studied two scholars on opposite sides who both claimed their starting point was the Bible and the Bible alone, both claiming the inductive method. One said that we should look at all the little things in scripture and find what scripture is about. The other started from how Jesus and the apostles regarded scripture and their statements on that. One thing that impresses me was how the Biblical writers emphasized not verbal inspiration but truth. I invite everybody to study that word and how it is used by the apostles and prophets.
Kaiser: I've discovered that when I study the Bible in depth, I am amazed by the treasures I find there. And then when I study Ellen White, I often find that she says the same thing in a concise way and it agrees with what I found in the Bible. But if we only studied Ellen White, we would miss the richness of the Bible. Ellen White doesn't say everything there is to say about the Bible.
Peterson: It has to do with the purpose. When I want to study the background of the Bible, I read history. I don't read Ellen White because that's not her purpose.
Burt: Ellen White had hundreds of direct, visionary communications with God that directed her perspective and insights. This didn't make her all knowing, but it gave her an insight that goes beyond a theologian's study. Sometimes she gets at profound themes, but often she is more practical.
Knight: One of the best things we can do is look at the purpose of a document. Any valid extrapolations are related to the purpose and not the edges of the text. See what the prophet is talking about in the middle and not the edges.
Does that fact that her writings are a lesser light mean that one can accept one part of her writings and reject another part?
Burt: Has anyone here said that lesser light means less true?
Peterson: Maybe it's because I don't speak English as my native language, but I have always understood lesser and greater light from the creation wording of the KJV. The lesser light has its light from the greater light. But it's still the same light.
Does the lesser light idea refer within scripture itself. For example, does Paul have to agree with Moses in order for them both to be Holy Spirit inspired?
Peterson: I think once again it has to do with purpose. The Bible as a whole has a divine purpose, to establish doctrine, etc. But the individual books have their own purpose within that greater purpose. So many times when we think there is a disagreement, it has to do with our misunderstanding of the individual purpose of the books.
Perhaps Ellen White didn't want her writings used to settle disputes, although she did settle disputes, but can she not still be considered a trustworthy source of doctrine?
Van Bemmelen: Ellen White is trustworthy, but she would still want me to go to the scriptures. She is a lesser light, a merciful gift from God, but we need to understand its function.
Knight: There are times when Ellen White makes very strong statements that something is right, but she makes those statements based on her conviction that the church had arrived at a strong conclusion based on scripture. This is what she did with Ballenger and the sanctuary controversy. We are not a church that has built our theology on Hirem Edgson, Ellen White, or anyone else. But one of our problems as a church is our continual desire to ascribe roles to Ellen White that she didn't claim. And, as Stan [Hickerson] said, that, in the end, makes us the authority. We have seen the wrong use of Ellen White lead to practically the ignoring of Ellen White. I don't want human logic about why Ellen White is equal to the Bible. I want inspired statements.
Burt: Much of what Ellen White did was making practical application of truth for individual people. She would get a vision for a specific person, but in relating the visions she was always trying to convince them on the basis of Bible principles. Sometimes she would only show them scripture, and only if the Bible was rejected would she relate the vision.
Kaiser: Some years ago I studied with Mormon missionaries, and they always referred to the Book of Mormon, not the Bible. It's really a bad thing when we are only able to say what Ellen White says and not what the Bible says.
Knight: According to the Mormons, every subsequent prophet is superior to the previous. And we have many Adventists who are actually Mormons in their theology of authority.
Peterson: That doesn't mean Ellen White can only say what is in the Bible. If that were the case there would be no purpose in sending her. But what I need to know is how she relates to the Bible.
Knight: And this doesn't mean that Ellen White does not enlighten our understanding of Scripture. But when we try to make her a commentary on individual texts, it doesn't walk on all fours.
Olatunji: In my study of scripture I've found that each time I get something new. Ellen White said we should expect that, and therefore she cannot exhaust the meaning of scripture.