Ellen White, Scripture and Theology Denis Fortin June 22, 2005 SEEDS Plus! Ellen White’s recommendation In 1851, at the end of her first booklet, Ellen White stated:
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June 22, 2005
“I recommend to you dear reader, the Word of God as the rule of your faith and practice. By that Word we are to be judged” (EW 78).
“I take the Bible just as it is, as the Inspired Word. I believe its utterances in an entire Bible.. . . . Men of humble acquirements, possessing but limited capabilities and opportunities to become conversant in the Scriptures, find in the living oracles comfort, guidance, counsel, and the plan of salvation as clear as a sunbeam. . . .
“No one need be lost for want of knowledge, unless he is willfully blind. We thank God that the Bible is prepared for the poor man as well as for the learned man. It is fitted for all ages and all classes. (Ms 16, 1888 in 1 SM 17-18)
“In the Bible the will of God is revealed to His children. Wherever it is read, in the family circle, the school, or the church, all should give quiet and devout attention as if God were really present and speaking to them.” (5T 84)
In recent years, many people have claimed and argued that Ellen White’s writings were primarily devotional and as such not intended for doctrinal and theological guidance; that because she was not a trained biblical scholar, or exegete, we should not view her writings as more than devotional books.
In her writings, but primarily in her Conflict of the Ages series, Ellen White ‘commented’ on the biblical story from the origin of sin in heaven to its final eradication from the universe after the millennium. She articulated her thoughts around major themes: great controversy, love of God, and salvation in Jesus.
A typology is to understand or perceive a person or event in the Old Testament as a figure or illustration–a type–of something or someone in the New Testament or in the Church.
“Elijah was a type of the saints who will be living on the earth at the time of the second advent of Christ and who will be "changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump," without tasting of death. 1 Cor 15:51, 52. It was as a representative of those who shall be thus translated that Elijah, near the close of Christ's earthly ministry, was permitted to stand with Moses by the side of the Saviour on the mount of transfiguration. In these glorified ones, the disciples saw in miniature a representation of the kingdom of the redeemed. . . .
“They beheld Jesus clothed with the light of heaven; they heard the "voice out of the cloud" (Luke 9:35), acknowledging Him as the Son of God; they saw Moses, representing those who will be raised from the dead at the time of the second advent; and there also stood Elijah, representing those who at the close of earth's history will be changed from mortal to immortal and be translated to heaven without seeing death.” (PK 227)
During the idolatry at Mount Sinai:
“Moses was a type of Christ. As Israel's intercessor veiled his countenance, because the people could not endure to look upon its glory, so Christ, the divine Mediator, veiled His divinity with humanity when He came to earth. Had He come clothed with the brightness of heaven, he could not have found access to men in their sinful state. They could not have endured the glory of His presence. Therefore He humbled Himself, and was made “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3), that He might reach the fallen race, and lift them up.” (PP 330)
“How often, in our own day, is the love of pleasure disguised by a "form of godliness"! A religion that permits men, while observing the rites of worship, to devote themselves to selfish or sensual gratification, is as pleasing to the multitudes now as in the days of Israel. And there are still pliant Aarons, who, while holding positions of authority in the church, will yield to the desires of the unconsecrated, and thus encourage them in sin.” (PP 317)
The story of Nadab and Abihu a few chapters later is fraught with moral lessons for God’s people (359-362).
“The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” (Ed 57)
Often, Ellen White explained the meaning of a story by drawing on many texts of the Bible. In connecting together many stories and texts, she saw a basic harmony between all of the books of the Bible.
In the first chapter of Desire of Ages in which she explains the meaning of Jesus’ first advent, Ellen White refers to:
Ellen White presents to her readers the “behind the scenes” events, conversations between Christ and Satan, or between evil angels, how God interprets or reacts to events, etc. This approach is closely connected with her understanding of the great controversy.
“Satan stood in amazement at his new condition. His happiness was gone. He looked upon the angels who, with him, were once so happy, but who had been expelled from Heaven with him. Before their fall, not a shade of discontent had marred their perfect bliss. Now all seemed changed. Countenances which had reflected the image of their Maker were gloomy and despairing.
“Strife, discord, and bitter recrimination, were among them. Previous to their rebellion these things had been unknown in Heaven. Satan now beholds the terrible results of his rebellion. He shuddered, and feared to face the future, and to contemplate the end of these things.” (1SP 28)
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:48.
“The word "therefore" implies a conclusion, an inference from what has gone before. Jesus has been describing to His hearers the unfailing mercy and love of God, and He bids them therefore to be perfect. Because your heavenly Father "is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil" (Luke 6:35), because He has stooped to lift you up, therefore, said Jesus, you may become like Him in character, and stand without fault in the presence of men and angels.” (MB 76)
“The space she devotes to Biblical events and persons is not always proportional to the space given in the Bible. Her emphasis on certain events or persons depends on how she believes those events and persons contribute to the unfolding of the Great Controversy Theme.” (Herbert Douglass, Messenger of the Lord, 419)
Beyond the spiritual and pastoral guidance provided by the writings of Ellen White, her writings also provide doctrinal guidance
Ellen White showed doctrinal authority when the church was confronted with difficult doctrinal issues
Ellen White’s theological themes provide Adventism and Christianity with theological presuppositions and assumptions (like a pair of eye glasses) with which to study Scripture and understand its meaning for our lives today as we wait for Christ’s second coming.
In his book Meeting Ellen White, George Knight discusses seven themes in her writings (pp. 109-127)
Perhaps the central and most comprehensive theme of the writings of Ellen White is that of the love of God.
This is a theme that she repeatedly mentions and discusses in her books.
The phrase “God is love” appears as
the first three words of
Patriarchs and Prophets
the last three words of
The Great Controversy.
In Ellen White’s writings,
God’s love is the central point of the great struggle between good and evil.
“God is love” is the phrase that provides the context for her telling of the great controversy story.
The first chapter of Steps to Christ begins with the words:
“Nature and revelation alike testify of God’s love.”
“The world, though fallen, is not all sorrow and misery. In nature itself are messages of hope and comfort. There are flowers upon the thistles, and the thorns are covered with roses. ‘God is love’ is written upon every opening bud, upon every spire of springing grass.”(Steps to Christ, pp. 9-10)
Yet, Ellen White points out, that the things of nature in a world of sin “but imperfectly represent His love.”
The supreme and clearest illustration of God’s love for us is God sending Jesus to save us from our sins (SC 10-13).
In the first chapter of the Desire of Ages she points out that Jesus “came to reveal the light of God’s love” (DA 19).
“Both the redeemed and the unfallen beings will find in the cross of Christ their science and their song. It will be seen that the glory shining in the face of Jesus is the glory of self- sacrificing love. In the light from Calvary it will be seen that the law of self-renouncing love is the law of life for earth and heaven; that the love which "seeketh not her own" has its source in the heart of God; and that in the meek and lowly One is manifested the character of Him who dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto.” (DA 19-20)
On the last page of the Desire of Ages, her conclusion is that through Christ “love has conquered” (DA 835).
“The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.” (GC 678)
The themes of the love of God and the Great Controversy are closely interconnected.
Ellen White emphasizes repeatedly that the focal point of the Great Controversy is Satan’s aim to misrepresent the loving character of God.
“Satan led men to conceive of God as a being whose chief attribute is stern justice,--one who is a severe judge, a harsh, exacting creditor. He pictured the Creator as a being who is watching with jealous eye to discern the errors and mistakes of men, that He may visit judgments upon them. It was to remove this dark shadow, by revealing to the world the infinite love of God, that Jesus came to live among men. The Son of God came from heaven to make manifest the Father.”(Steps to Christ, p. 11)
Satan’s aim is also to misrepresent God’s law.
In Ellen White’s thought the character of God and law of God are not two different elements but one.
“Satan represents God’s law of love as a law of selfishness. He declares that it is impossible for us to obey its precepts.” (Desire of Ages, p. 24)
“From the very beginning of the great controversy in heaven it has been Satan’s purpose to overthrow the law of God.” (Great Controversy, p. 582)
In the great controversy, God fights against this misrepresentation.
“The history of the great conflict between good and evil, from the time it first began in heaven to the final overthrow of rebellion and the total eradication of sin, is also a demonstration of God's unchanging love.” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 33)
God’s demonstration of his love in the ongoing conflict with Satan forms the focus of the Conflict of the Ages Series.
This theme provides the theological framework that gives direction and context to the rest of her writings.
“The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.” (The Great Controversy, p. 678)
God’s foremost demonstration of his love in the great controversy was sending Jesus to redeem humanity.
“It was to remove this dark shadow, by revealing to the world the infinite love of God, that Jesus came to live among men.” (Steps to Christ, p. 11)
“Through Christ's redeeming work the government of God stands justified. The Omnipotent One is made known as the God of love. Satan's charges are refuted, and his character unveiled.” (Desire of Ages, p. 26)
For Ellen White Jesus was not only the victorious Redeemer over the forces of evil, he is a very personal friend to her and the Savior who died on the cross for each individual human being.
“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. ‘With His stripes we are healed’.”(Desire of Ages, p. 25)
“Christ crucified for our sins, Christ risen from the dead, Christ ascended on high, is the science of salvation that we are to learn and to teach.” (Testimonies 8:287)
“The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption,--the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.” (Gospel Workers, p. 315)
Another important theme in Ellen White’s writings is the Bible, the written Word of God.
In her first book (1851) she wrote:
“I recommend to you, dear reader, the Word of God as the rule of your faith and practice.” (Early Writings, p. 78)
“In His word, God has committed to men the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience. ‘Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work’.” (Great Controversy, p. vii)
“Search the Scriptures carefully to see what is true. . . . The truth can lose nothing by close investigation. Let the Word of God speak for itself, let it be its own interpreter. Our people, individually, must understand Bible truth more thoroughly, for they certainly will be called before councils; they will be criticized by keen and critical minds. It is one thing to give assent to the truth, and another thing, through close examination as Bible students, to know what is truth.
“Many, many will be lost because they have not studied their Bibles upon their knees, with earnest prayer to God that the entrance of the Word of God might give light to their understanding. . . . The Word of God is the great detector of error; to it we believe everything must be brought. The Bible must be our standard for every doctrine and practice. . . .
“We are to receive no one’s opinion without comparing it with the Scriptures. Here is divine authority, which is supreme in matters of faith. It is the word of the living God that is to decide all controversies.”
(1888 Materials, pp. 38-40, 44, 45; written August 5, 1888 to “Brethren Who Shall Assemble in General Conference”)
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