This Blog has been moved to: https://sdaprophecies.com/; PROPHETS ARE NOT VERBALLY INSPIRED, NOR ARE THEY INFALLIBLE OR INERRANT

This article is but a small snippet form a larger document found at the EG White Estate (http://www.whiteestate.org/issues/herm-pri.html ).  I have placed it here because so many of our people in the Seventh-day Adventist Church believe “every word” written by Ellen G. White were so directed by God, causing them to take an “all or nothing” approach to her printed works, for they are as inspired as the Bible. Such teachings as the veneration of the Christmas Tree, the sweeping approval given to the book Thoughts on Daniel and The Revelation, by Uriah Smith, which has had 38 cardinal errors corrected after this “inspired” approval, and the notion that Old Jerusalem never would be built up again, must be gauged by the honest and responsible counsel given by our theologians in the extract below.

Before reading that extract, I call the reader’s attention to an interesting letter from Elder Arthur L. White, Ellen White’s son (Grandson), back in 1934, pertaining to comments she allegedly made regarding the book, Thoughts on Daniel And The Revelation, by SDA elder and Bible expositor,Uriah Smith:

“Among our older workers there are a number who have thought that Mrs. White had written words to the effect that she had seen in vision an angel standing by the side of Elder Uriah Smith helping him as he wrote the book above referred to.  However, a careful search of her manuscript files has failed to disclose such a statement among her writings, and we believe that there is no such statement in print…. Elder A.C. Bordeau, some years ago made the following statement:

” ‘Many years ago, when the late Elder Uriah Smith was writing “Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation,” while Elder James White and Ellen G. White were at my house in Enosburg, Vt., they received by mail a roll of printed proof-sheets on “Thoughts on Revelation” that Brother Smith had sent to them.  Brother White read portions of these to the company, and expressed much pleasure  and satisfaction because they were so concisely and clearly written.  Then Sister White stated what she had been shown, as follows: —

” ‘ “The Lord is inspiring Brother Smith — leading  his mind by His Spirit, and an angel is guiding his hand in writing these ‘Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation.’ ”

” ‘I was present when these words were spoken.

” ‘(Signed) A.C. Bordeau.’ ”

“In estimating the accuracy of the words attributed to Mrs. White by Elder Bordeau,” continues Elder Arthur White, in regard to Elder Bordeau’s statement, “one must bear in mind that a number of years had elapsed between the incident related and its recital.  We cannot consistently believe that she intended to convey the idea that Elder Smith was inspired to such a degree that his writings were inerrant.

* * *

“Elder W. C. White testifies that he was present when Elder Smith was persuaded to make thirty-eight correctionsin the earlier edition [This is the edition which was highly favored by EGW] of Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation, but the knowledge of this does not at all diminish his enthusiasm in behalf of the sale of this wonderful book.” [added]

Given the wide circulation of this book, our church was moved to write a statement clarifying the above-challenged assumption that the book was “inspired”: https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1945/01/thoughts-on-daniel-and-the-revelation

My own studies provided me this treasure trove on authentic Ellen White approvals of the book, and they came very near to saying the book is inspired. Take the following statement for example:

“The grand instruction contained in Daniel and Revelation has been eagerly perused by many in Australia. This book has been the means of bringing many precious souls to a knowledge of the truth. Everything that can be done should be done to circulate Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation. I know of no other bookthat can take the place of this one. It is God’s helping hand.” 21MR 444.3 ; [1901]

This “inspired” statement must be understood in the framework of the available light shining at that time, and even our beloved Ellen G. White was completely ignorant of the truths of many of the prophecies expounded on in elder Smith’s “thoughts.” She saw these “thoughts” to be unparalleled in clarity, yet we now know that there are major errors in that book, which have miserably failed the test of time! My point is simply this, the “all or nothing” approach to Ellen White’s writings, will cause us to stumble at the plain teachings of the Bible, simply because she went to her grave being unenlightened on those parts of the Scriptures which the Holy Spirit had kept shut (see Dan. 12: 4, 9) for the time then present.–GA

***********************************************************************************”I was led to conclude and most firmly believe that every word that you ever spoke in public or private, that every letter you wrote under any and all circumstances, was as inspired as the ten commandments. I held that view with absolute tenacity against innumerable objections raised to it by many who were occupying prominent positions in the [Adventist] cause,” wrote Dr. David Paulson to Ellen White on April 19, 1906. Deeply concerned over the nature of Ellen White’s inspiration, Paulson wondered whether he should continue to hold such a rigid view. In the process he raised the question of verbal inspiration and the related issues of infallibility and inerrancy. Since a correct understanding of such issues is of crucial importance in reading Ellen White and/or the Bible, we will examine each of them in this section.

Mrs. White replied to Paulson on June 14, 1906. “My brother,” she penned, “you have studied my writings diligently, and you have never found that I have made any such claims [to verbal inspiration], neither will you find that the pioneers in our cause ever made such claims” for her writings. She went on to illustrate inspiration in her writings by referring to the inspiration of the Bible writers. Even though God had inspired the Biblical truths, they were “expressed in the words of men.” She saw the Bible as representing “a union of the divine and the human.” Thus “the testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language, yet it is the testimony of God” (Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 24-26).

Such sentiments represent Ellen White’s consistent witness across time. “The Bible,” she wrote in 1886, “is written by inspired men, but it is not God’s mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. . . . The writers of the Bible were God’s penmen, not His pen. . . .

“It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God” (ibid., p. 21).

We see the problematic nature of the issue of verbal inspiration illustrated in the life of D. M. Canright, at one time a leading minister in the denomination, but its foremost critic between 1887 and 1919. Canright bitterly opposed Ellen White. His 1919 book against her asserted that “every line she wrote, whether in articles, letters, testimonies or books, she claimed was dictated to her by the Holy Ghost, and hence must be infallible” (Life of Mrs. E. G. White, p. 9). We have seen above that Ellen White herself took just the opposite position, but that didn’t stop the damage being done by those with a false theory of inspiration.

Before we go any further, perhaps we should define our terms. Webster’s New World Dictionary describes “infallible” as “1. incapable of error; never wrong. 2. not liable to fail, go wrong, make a mistake, etc.” It renders “inerrant” as “not erring, making no mistakes.” It is essentially those definitions that many people import into the realm of the Bible and Ellen White’s writings.

As to infallibility, Mrs. White plainly writes, “I never claimed it; God alone is infallible.” Again she stated that “God and heaven alone are infallible” (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 37). While she claimed that “God’s Word is infallible” (ibid., p. 416), we will see below that she did not mean that the Bible (or her writings) were free from error at all points.

To the contrary, in the introduction to The Great Controversy she sets forth her position quite concisely: “The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will” (p. vii). That is, she did not claim that the work of God’s prophets is infallible in all its details, but that it is infallible in terms of revealing God’s will to men and women. In a similar statement Ellen White commented that “His Word . . . is plain on every point essential to the salvation of the soul” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 706).

W. C. White treats the same issue when he observes: “Where she has followed the description of historians or the exposition of Adventist writers, I believe that God has given her discernment to use that which is correct and in harmony with truth regarding all matters essential to salvation. If it should be found by faithful study that she has followed some expositions of prophecy which in some detail regarding dates we cannot harmonize with our understanding of secular history, it does not influence my confidence in her writings as a whole any more than my confidence in the Bible is influenced by the fact that I cannot harmonize many of the statements regarding chronology” (Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 449, 450; italics supplied).

In summary, it appears that Mrs. White’s use of the term infallibility has to do with the Bible being completely trustworthy as a guide to salvation. She doesn’t mix that idea with the concept that the Bible or her writings are free from all possible errors of a factual nature.

Thus the faithful reader’s belief is not shaken if he or she discovers that Matthew attributed a Messianic prophecy, written centuries before Christ’s birth, to Jeremiah when it was actually Zechariah who inferred that Christ would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (see Matt. 27:9, 10; Zech. 11:12, 13). Nor will one be dismayed over the fact that 1 Samuel 16:10, 11 lists David as the eighth son of Jesse, but 1 Chronicles 2:15 refers to him as the seventh. Neither will faith be affected because the prophet Nathan wholeheartedly approved of King David’s building of the Temple but the next day had to backtrack and tell David that God didn’t want him to build it (see 2 Sam. 7; 1 Chron. 17). Prophets make mistakes.

The same kind of factual errors can be discovered in Ellen White’s writings as are found in the Bible. The writings of God’s prophets are infallible as a guide to salvation, but they are not inerrant or without error. Part of the lesson is that we need to read for the central lessons of Scripture and Ellen White rather than the details.

What is important to remember at this point is that those who struggle over such problems as inerrancy and absolute infallibility are fighting a human-made problem. It is not anything that God ever claimed for the Bible or Ellen White ever claimed for the Bible or her writings. Inspiration for her had to do with the “practical purposes” (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 19) of human and divine relationships in the plan of salvation. We need to let God speak to us in His mode, rather than to superimpose our rules over God’s prophets and then reject them if they don’t live up to our expectations of what we think God should have done. Such an approach is a human invention that places our own authority over the Word of God. It makes us the judges of God and His Word. But such a position is not Biblical; nor is it according to the way Ellen White has counseled the church. We need to read God’s Word and Mrs. White’s writings for the purpose for which He gave them and not let our modern concerns and definitions of purpose and accuracy come between us and His prophets.

***********************************************************************************Any other usage of these writings will leave room for much apologetics.

Shalom in Messiah,

 

Garrick

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