Presentation on theme: "The “Sacred” and the “Common” Denis Fortin Writings of Ellen G. White."— Presentation transcript:
The “Sacred” and the “Common” Denis Fortin Writings of Ellen G. White
The Issue In 1906, Dr. David Paulson wrote to Ellen White that “I was led to conclude and most firmly believe [from my early training] 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.” (Quoted by Ellen White in RH, August 30, 1906; also in 1SM 24)
The Issue Did Ellen White’s call to prophetic ministry and her reception of prophetic revelations through visions mean that every word subsequently spoken or written by her was inspired? Obviously the answer is No. But this answer raises many new questions.
Biblical prophets were not infallible "Abraham deceived, Moses lost his patience and spoke hasty words, David instructed Joab how to have Uriah killed, Nathan agreed with David's plans to build a house for the Lord, and then had to reverse his statement. All of these men were prophets, but the possession of the prophetic gift did not mean moment-by-moment direction of all their words and acts." (T. H. Jemison, "Inspiration and the Ellen G. White Writings," in The Spirit of Prophecy Treasure Chest [Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1960], 63.)
How can we distinguish? Then, if all they said was not inspired, how much was given by divine direction? How do we know what was inspired and what was not? Nowhere in the Bible is there a clear statement on this subject.
Ellen White’s writings "Mother never made the claim, as some have said, that everything she ever wrote at any time was inspired. I told them that Mother, like every other prophet of God, had her own private life, and she spoke and wrote about matters of finance, about her household, her farm, her chickens, her horses, and her dairy, and that there was no claim that she was speaking regarding these matters with the voice of inspiration." (W. C. White to J. W. Watt, March 7, 1915, quoted in Jerry Moon, W. C. White and Ellen G. White, 414.)
Ellen White’s writings [In response to God's call,] "I gave myself, my whole being, to God, to obey His call in everything, and since that time my life has been spent in giving the message, with my pen and in speaking before large congregations. It is not I who controls my words and actions at such times. But there are times when common things must be stated, common thoughts must occupy the mind, common letters must be written and information given that has passed from one to another of the workers. Such words, such information, are not given under the special inspiration of the Spirit of God." (1SM 39; the context of this statement is the exact number of rooms in the Paradise Valley Sanitarium.)
Ellen White’s writings In this statement Ellen White made a distinction between the sacred and the common, between that which is directly inspired by the Holy Spirit and that which is of common origin. Evidently not every word written or spoken by her on every occasion, was received by revelation.
Yet, there are dangers 1. How are we to safely and certainly distinguish between “sacred” and “common” writings? 2. If we should erroneously categorize some inspired material as uninspired, would we not thus reject God’s counsel for us, fail to profit by it, and fail to fulfill His purpose in giving it?
Yet, there are dangers 3. Even to suggest that some part of her writings might be uninspired or non- authoritative opens the possibility that one might apply the same judgment to any of the writings.
Yet, there are dangers 4. Who is to decide what is inspired and what is not? There is the real danger that each individual would become the self-arbiter of what is inspired. 5. If this were to happen then God’s purpose through the Spirit of prophecy to rebuke, correct, and instruct persons precisely in areas where they are not aware of any need, in areas that go contrary to their personal views, beliefs, understanding of Scripture, and personal preferences, would lose its power.
Yet, there are dangers "What reserve power has the Lord with which to reach those who have cast aside His warnings and reproofs, and have accredited the testimonies of the Spirit of God to no higher source than human wisdom? In the judgment, what can you who have done this, offer to God as an excuse for turning from the evidences He has given you that God was in the work?" (3SM 70; TM466)
Basic principle The question of “sacred” versus “common” is to be settled, not by external criteria or analysis, but by the internal testimony of the writings themselves.
Biblical parallels 1 Cor 1:14-16 -- "I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.)"
Biblical parallels 2 Tim 4:9-13, 19-21 -- "Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.... Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers."
Ellen White's understanding of her writings Testimonies: "Those who carefully read the testimonies as they have appeared from the early days, need not be perplexed as to their origin. The many books, written by the help of the Spirit of God, bear a living witness to the character of the testimonies." (Letter 225, 1906 in 1SM 49)
Ellen White's understanding of her writings Conflict of the Ages Books: "Sister White is not the originator of these books. They contain the instruction that during her lifework God has been giving her. They contain the precious, comforting light that God has graciously given His servant to be given to the world." (CM 125)
Ellen White's understanding of her writings Articles: "I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision--the precious rays of light shining from the throne." (5T 67)
Ellen White's understanding of her writings Letters (testimonies): “Weak and trembling, I arose at three o'clock in the morning to write to you. God was speaking through clay. You may say that this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God, to bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me.” (5T 67)
Distinguishing the “sacred” and the “common” Ellen White wrote documents that were intended to be personal communications to family members and friends, in which she spoke of common matters in ways similar to what Paul wrote in his letters. (See Appendix A) How are we to relate to the different categories of content in the writings of Ellen White?
God vs. Sister White "You have talked over matters as you viewed them, that the communications from Sister White are not all from the Lord, but a portion is her own mind, her own judgment, which is no better than anybody else's judgment and ideas. This is one of Satan's hooks to hang your doubts upon to deceive your soul and the souls of others who will dare to draw the line in this matter and say, this portion which pleases me is from God, but that portion which points out and condemns my course of conduct is from Sister White alone, and bears not the holy signet. You have in this way virtually rejected the whole of the messages, which God in His tender, pitying love has sent to you to save you from moral ruin...." (To J. D. Rice, Letter 16, 1888 in 3SM 68-69)
Revelation vs. Opinion "In the testimonies sent to Battle Creek, I have given you the light God has given to me. In no case have I given my own judgment or opinion. I have enough to write of what has been shown me, without falling back on my own opinions. You are doing as the children of Israel did again and again. Instead of repenting before God, you reject His words, and attribute all the warnings and reproof to the messenger whom the Lord sends." (3SM 70)
Divine vs. Human "I have my work to do, to meet the misconceptions of those who suppose themselves able to say what is testimony from God and what is human production. If those who have done this work continue in this course, satanic agencies will choose for them...." (3SM 70)
Inspired vs. Uninspired "Those who have helped souls to feel at liberty to specify what is of God in the Testimonies and what are the uninspired words of Sister White, will find that they were helping the devil in his work of deception. Please read Testimony No. 33, page 211 [Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 682], 'How to Receive Reproof.' " (Letter 28, 1906; in 3SM 70)
Distinguishing the “sacred” and the “common” The only safe basis for understanding the distinction is: The function and purpose of the writings themselves. We should not ask whether a statement is inspired or not, whether it is of divine origin or of common source, whether it comes from God or from the writer.
Distinguishing the “sacred” and the “common” Instead we should understand what are the purpose and function of the statement. The difference between 'sacred' and 'common' is not a matter of truth vs. error, but a difference in function.
Only Safe Course Accept the writings in their entirety as the prophet's total testimony, but use the various parts according to the purposes for which they were given.