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April 05, 2010

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Thanks for this Dave! It is very eye-opening. There are so many blatant contradictions in this discussion that it is hard to know where to begin. I'll just address a couple of remarks which show the gist of the discussion as a whole, in my opinion.

"Denis: 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."

A textbook example of a strawman argument. Denis talks about "studying" with Mormons and them only using the Book of Mormon. I have met virtually NO Adventists who even mention Ellen White when studying with others. What a ridiculous comparison.
And in regard to Knight's reply how does trusting Ellen White's Inspired interpretation of a Scripture text place her above the Bible writer? It simply defies logic to make such a comment.
Yet another disappointing discussion of uninspired "theologians" who disagree with one another on a regular basis and then say we can't trust Ellen White either. I guess that means my understanding, after prayerful study of course, should be the final arbiter of truth. That has certainly proven to lead to unity of belief hasn't it?
Their race to make Ellen White "of none effect" while claiming to support her is a spectacle to behold. They have shown Geoffrey Paxton's charge of her having a "wax nose" to be all too true. With these guys guiding us we really can have her say anything and everything and contradict herself all over the place. What a great help they are.
We have been blessed above all churches with the writings of this woman and this push to remove her from any form of authoritative impact is deeply disturbing.
I have asked numerous proponents of this view of Ellen White the same question, "Of what value is a prophet with no authority?" and every time I get the same answer...silence. They can't answer it because they ALL know the answer and that is that she is of NO value whatsoever!
Scripture first, ALWAYS, but Inspired sources BEFORE uninspired every time!

Dear Bob,

By mentioning this experience with Mormon missionaries I did not want to illustrate how some Adventists might give "Bible" studies. Of course not! However, it should serve as an illustration for well-meaning Adventists who read one statement from the testimonies and build a whole doctrine/command on that, without having even studied the matter on a broad scale in Ellen White's writings or without knowing anything of what the Bible says.

Unfortunately, I had encounters with such dear church members. They refer to one statement made by Ellen White in a specific situation. When I pointed them to another Ellen White statement that showed that she had a much broader perspective as this one statement reflected (because it was made in response to a specific problem) and when I referred them to certain Bible texts and explained the Biblical principles jumping out of those texts, that sister gave me a verbal "punch" into the face and accused me of contradicting Ellen White as well as making the Bible culturally conditioned.

I believe when we would really study the Bible in-depth and look afterwards at what Ellen White wrote, then we would be amazed of how much harmony exists between the Bible and Ellen White. That is my experience! But I have met a lot of students who don't want to study for themselves. They just want to take a short cut. Yet, when someone comes along who appears to know Hebrew and Greek, and who presents his case convincingly, they are willing to throw everything overboard because it wasn't built on a Scriptural foundation. How do I know that a new prophet's witness is correct? If I compare his testimony with the Bible.

That actually was the context of my statement regarding the Mormons. How do we Adventists know if the message of our non-canonical prophet is of divine origin and based on the Bible? Only if I compare it with the Bible. To do that means to follow Ellen White's own counsel and wish.

Doing the one and don't neglecting the other.

May God bless you!

Dear Denis,

Thank you for your clarification!

"Unfortunately, I had encounters with such dear church members. They refer to one statement made by Ellen White in a specific situation."

I think that most of us have experienced the same. One of the things that amazes me about Ellen White is precisely her balance.
You need to approach her writings in a manner similar to Scripture in that you need to look at everything she said on a given topic and you will usually discover that she rarely tended towards extremes.

My issue with the contemporary view of Ellen White, and Brother Knight is a very strong proponent of it, is that she has no doctrinal authority whatsoever and that her writings are of no value on doctrinal issues.

If this is the case then the question I asked in my first post begs an answer. Of what value is a prophet with no authority?

God Bless!

Thanks for sharing your perspective Bob. I have a different impression of the conference. It confirmed my confidence in the ministry of Ellen White. I would like to share my thoughts on this in relation to four points you mentioned.

First, the issue is not about whether we mention Ellen White. What we have to be careful about is that we mention her in a way that is in harmony with what she actually wrote and in harmony with what is written in Scripture.

Second, we should trust the insights gained from White’s interpretation of Scripture. However, her interpretations do not present every insight that may be gained from Scripture. Her insights should lead us back to Scripture in order to discover ever increasing insights into its message.

Third, individual Bible students are not the final arbiter of truth. Rather, God and His Word in the Bible is the final arbiter.

Fourth, we should aim to highlight the usefulness of White’s writings (not to render her ineffective). Her ministry is an inspired source of continuing blessing to the church.

It seems to me that we need to warn against the misuse of White’s writings and the misuse of the Bible. This important work is a very different thing from making of non-effect the inspired word. It is important to show (in our internal discussions and our public witness) that our doctrines are based on the Bible.

Hi Martin,

I appreciate your insights, it helps us to clarify the issues.

"It seems to me that we need to warn against the misuse of White’s writings and the misuse of the Bible."

I agree wholeheartedly! Misuse of Ellen White's writings to uphold some pet theory or idea is, unfortunately, widespread in the church. Even lunar sabbatarians are appealing to her authority to uphold their spurious views.

"This important work is a very different thing from making of non-effect the inspired word."

Ah, that's the real issue, isn't it? How do we do so without making her of none-effect?
I find that many "scholars" go too far in trying to prove that we don't use her to formulate doctrine and in order to accomplish this they are "throwing the baby out with the bath water".

When I attended the meetings that led to my becoming an Adventist I was extremely skeptical of this notion of a "prophet". I didn't see the need as everything that I had learned at those meetings came straight from Scripture. As I began to read her writings my attitude changed.

Clearly there is an fear among our theologians that others perceive us as formulating our theology not from Scripture, but from the writings of Ellen White.

SO WHAT?!!! Let them accuse us of that all they want, it ISN'T TRUE! They would love nothing more than to see us completely remove Ellen White from any position of doctrinal authority and because of their accusations and badgering we are actually doing it.

Graeme Bradford is the unofficial leader of this view and others such as Samuele Bacchiocchi gladly accepted it, not because of its validity, but because it gives them license to directly contradict the clearest statements from her writings while professing to support her.

And as I said in an earlier post, in my opinion, George Knight is a proponent of this view even though he would probably deny it.

When I hear Adventists ridiculing an Ellen White Study Bible but having no problem with a Thompson Study Bible I find it very peculiar. What is the real concern? I think I addressed it in the previous two paragraphs.

Why are we afraid to appeal to writings that are actually inspired when other Christian denominatons proudly appeal to John Calvin, John MacArthur, or J. Vernon McGee to uphold their Scriptural positions?

Enough being ridiculed into submission by others who don't enjoy the blessings of the wonderful gift God gave this church in the writings of this delightful little lady.

God Bless,

Bob

Bob,

I know you're not a fan of George Knight, but based on what I heard him say yesterday I don't think it's fair to say the he is trying to remove Ellen White from a position of "doctrinal authority." But perhaps you and he would not mean the same thing by that term.

In his talk Knight asserted that Ellen White's writings are equally as inspired as scripture but that their authority is subordinate to that of scripture. By subordinate he seems to mean that their role is to point us back to the higher authority of the Bible from which their authority is derived. So Knight definitely sees Ellen White's writings as having more than the "pastoral authority" that Ford suggested.

Now in what sense could Knight say that Ellen White's writings have "doctrinal authority" (even though he used no such phrase). I suspect, based on his talk that Knight would see her writings as having doctrinal authority in that her contribution to Adventist doctrine involved "encouraging unity" and "clarifying details," to quote my summary. In other words, while Adventist doctrines were all originally studied out from scripture, and therefore primarily based on its superior authority, Ellen White authoritatively confirmed the suggested interpretations and helped add details that were missing.

So Knight, I think, could say that Ellen White's doctrinal authority is found in her confirmation of doctrines that were founded on the interpretation of scripture. What Knight argues against is developing doctrine out of Ellen White's writings and using Scripture to confirm it. As evidence, he points to Ellen White's refusal to confirm interpretations that had not been thoroughly studied out from scripture. He sees her not wanting to be used as a shortcut to bypass intense scripture study, which is why he argues against the Ellen White Study Bible. (Though I think such a Bible could be a blessing if prepared and used properly.)

What is at stake in this debate is not only Ellen White's prophetic authority but also the authority of sola scriptura. We do not want to make our prophet of none effect, but neither do we want to loose our Protestant heritage to a tradition of our own making.

Hey Dave,

What I mean is that George Knight would say that a "Bible scholar" who had studied a passage could have more authority than Ellen White's inspired writings if the two were directly contradicted each other.

I hope that helps to clarify my concerns. When she has made no definitive statement on a given passage then let the scholars have at it, but when she has they are subordinate to her, not the other way around.

Inpired works before uninspired works. Bible before Ellen White, Ellen White before theologians.

Please explain to me how this in any way diminishes the concept of sola scriptura.

God Bless,

Bob

Bob,

I think your formula of Bible-->Ellen White-->Theologians (sanctified reason) is generally correct. I've written more on this here (I've written more on this here.) However I think there is a problem in the way you have described the process.

When you say that "a "Bible scholar" who had studied a passage could have more authority than Ellen White's inspired writings if the two were directly contradicted each other," you seem to imply that while the Bible needs to be interpreted by scholars, Ellen White does not. I would argue that both need to be interpreted, not so much by scholars but by the church, and that scholars should facilitate that process.

Assuming Ellen White has doctrinal authority and does not directly contradict scripture (which would make this discussion meaningless), the question then becomes one of harmonizing their messages into a coherent theology. In this process, as you say, the Bible comes before Ellen White, both historically and authoritatively. But if we allow Ellen White's use of scripture to set the limits of what scripture can mean, then we have given our interpretation of Ellen White the last word and have reversed the order of authority.

So I do not believe that if she has made a definitive statement on the meaning of Scripture (I would be interested to see an example of such a statement.) that means biblical scholars should not propose anything beyond that. That would give our interpretation of Ellen White the last word on the meaning of scripture and subordinate scripture to Ellen White. The correct process, in my opinion, is to learn what the Bible says, learn what Ellen White says, see how what Ellen White says can help us understand the message of scripture, and then go back to the Bible with the insights gained, and repeat the cycle. This process, I believe, preserves the Bible's and Ellen White's messages and allows us to harmonize the them in a way that respects the primary authority of scripture.

There must be at least two notes for there to be harmony. I am wary of approaches that would obliterate their harmony by saying our interpretation of Ellen White cannot go beyond what is explicitly in the Bible or by saying that our interpretation of the Bible is limited by Ellen White. But we should also avoid approaches which are closed to their being any harmony at all.

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