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Concepts of Revelation and Inspiration Denis Fortin Writings of Ellen G. White.

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1 Concepts of Revelation and Inspiration Denis Fortin Writings of Ellen G. White

2 The Issues Most difficulties with the writings of Ellen White stem often from a faulty understanding of how God gave her messages and how her writings are inspired. Most difficulties with the writings of Ellen White stem often from a faulty understanding of how God gave her messages and how her writings are inspired. Thus, people not well informed regarding the processes of revelation and inspiration are more vulnerable to a loss of confidence in her ministry when they discover information contrary to their views. Thus, people not well informed regarding the processes of revelation and inspiration are more vulnerable to a loss of confidence in her ministry when they discover information contrary to their views.

3 Ellen White’s view of her ministry Introduction to the Great Controversy: Introduction to the Great Controversy: "In harmony with the word of God, His Spirit was to continue its work throughout the period of the gospel dispensation. During the ages while the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament were being given, the Holy Spirit did not cease to communicate light to individual minds, apart from the revelations to be embodied in the Sacred Canon. "In harmony with the word of God, His Spirit was to continue its work throughout the period of the gospel dispensation. During the ages while the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament were being given, the Holy Spirit did not cease to communicate light to individual minds, apart from the revelations to be embodied in the Sacred Canon.

4 Ellen White’s view of her ministry "The Bible itself relates how, through the Holy Spirit, men received warning, reproof, counsel, and instruction, in matters in no way relating to the giving of the Scriptures. And mention is made of prophets in different ages, of whose utterances nothing is recorded. In like manner, after the close of the canon of the Scripture, the Holy Spirit was still to continue its work, to enlighten, warn, and comfort the children of God." (GC viii) "The Bible itself relates how, through the Holy Spirit, men received warning, reproof, counsel, and instruction, in matters in no way relating to the giving of the Scriptures. And mention is made of prophets in different ages, of whose utterances nothing is recorded. In like manner, after the close of the canon of the Scripture, the Holy Spirit was still to continue its work, to enlighten, warn, and comfort the children of God." (GC viii)

5 Ellen White’s view of her ministry "The Spirit [i.e. the gift of prophecy] was not given--nor can it ever be bestowed-- to supersede the Bible; for the Scriptures explicitly state that the word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested." (GC vii) "The Spirit [i.e. the gift of prophecy] was not given--nor can it ever be bestowed-- to supersede the Bible; for the Scriptures explicitly state that the word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested." (GC vii)

6 Modes of Revelation 1. Visions 1. Visions In her early years of ministry, Ellen White received visions often attended by striking physical phenomena. In her early years of ministry, Ellen White received visions often attended by striking physical phenomena. –Unconscious of earthly surroundings –Temporary cessation of breathing –Unblinking eyelids –Supernatural strength

7 Ellen White's first vision "While I was praying at the family altar, the Holy Ghost fell upon me, and I seemed to be rising higher and higher, far above the dark world. I turned to look for the Advent people in the world, but could not find them, when a voice said to me, "Look again, and look a little higher." At this I raised my eyes, and saw a straight and narrow path, cast up high above the world. On this path the Advent people were traveling to the city, which was at the farther end of the path." (EW 14) "While I was praying at the family altar, the Holy Ghost fell upon me, and I seemed to be rising higher and higher, far above the dark world. I turned to look for the Advent people in the world, but could not find them, when a voice said to me, "Look again, and look a little higher." At this I raised my eyes, and saw a straight and narrow path, cast up high above the world. On this path the Advent people were traveling to the city, which was at the farther end of the path." (EW 14)

8 Modes of Revelation 2. Prophetic Dreams 2. Prophetic Dreams These were visions received during her sleep. These were visions received during her sleep.

9 San Francisco Earthquake "While at Loma Linda, California, April 16, 1906, there passed before me a most wonderful representation. During a vision of the night, I stood on an eminence, from which I could see houses shaken like a reed in the wind. Buildings, great and small, were falling to the ground. Pleasure resorts, theaters, hotels, and the homes of the wealthy were shaken and shattered. Many lives were blotted out of existence, and the air was filled with the shrieks of the injured and the terrified.... The awfulness of the scenes that passed before me I cannot find words to describe. It seemed that the forbearance of God was exhausted, and that the judgment day had come. Terrible as was the representation that passed before me, that which impressed itself most vividly upon my mind was the instruction given in connection with it." (3SM 40-41) "While at Loma Linda, California, April 16, 1906, there passed before me a most wonderful representation. During a vision of the night, I stood on an eminence, from which I could see houses shaken like a reed in the wind. Buildings, great and small, were falling to the ground. Pleasure resorts, theaters, hotels, and the homes of the wealthy were shaken and shattered. Many lives were blotted out of existence, and the air was filled with the shrieks of the injured and the terrified.... The awfulness of the scenes that passed before me I cannot find words to describe. It seemed that the forbearance of God was exhausted, and that the judgment day had come. Terrible as was the representation that passed before me, that which impressed itself most vividly upon my mind was the instruction given in connection with it." (3SM 40-41)

10 Natural Dreams Prophetic dreams must be distinguished from natural dreams Prophetic dreams must be distinguished from natural dreams –by the information and content –by the presence of the same angel as in prophetic daytime visions

11 Genuine visions and dreams "I would call especial attention to the remarkable dreams given in this little work, all with harmony and distinctness illustrating the same things. The multitude of dreams arise from the common things of life, with which the Spirit of God has nothing to do. There are also false dreams, as well as false visions, which are inspired by the spirit of Satan. But dreams from the Lord are classed in the word of God with visions and are as truly the fruits of the spirit of prophecy as visions. Such dreams, taking into the account the persons who have them and the circumstances under which they are given, contain their own proofs of their genuineness." (1T [1867]) "I would call especial attention to the remarkable dreams given in this little work, all with harmony and distinctness illustrating the same things. The multitude of dreams arise from the common things of life, with which the Spirit of God has nothing to do. There are also false dreams, as well as false visions, which are inspired by the spirit of Satan. But dreams from the Lord are classed in the word of God with visions and are as truly the fruits of the spirit of prophecy as visions. Such dreams, taking into the account the persons who have them and the circumstances under which they are given, contain their own proofs of their genuineness." (1T [1867])

12 Modes of Revelation 3. Short visions during periods of prayer or writing 3. Short visions during periods of prayer or writing “Well, while I was praying and was sending up my petition, there was, as has been a hundred times or more, a soft light circling around in the room, and a fragrance like the fragrance of flowers, of a beautiful scent of flowers.” (Ms 43a, 1901)

13 Modes of Revelation 4. Precognitions 4. Precognitions Literal eyewitness-style revelations of persons she did not know or events that had not yet happened. Literal eyewitness-style revelations of persons she did not know or events that had not yet happened. "Sometimes the things which I have seen are hid from me after I come out of vision, and I cannot call them to mind until I am brought before a company where that vision applies, then the things which I have seen come to my mind with force." (2SG )

14 Modes of Revelation 5. Impressions 5. Impressions “When I am speaking to the people I say much that I have not premeditated. The Spirit of the Lord frequently comes upon me. I seem to be carried out of, and away from, myself; the life and character of different persons are clearly presented before my mind. I see their errors and dangers, and feel compelled to speak of what is thus brought before me. I dare not resist the Spirit of God.” (5T 20)

15 Function of Inspiration In contrast to revelation, which is a process of wholly divine initiative and control, the process of inspiration involves a union of divine and human elements. In contrast to revelation, which is a process of wholly divine initiative and control, the process of inspiration involves a union of divine and human elements. Inspiration is the work of the Holy Spirit upon the prophet. Inspiration is the work of the Holy Spirit upon the prophet.

16 Union of Divine and Human Elements "The Ten Commandments were spoken by God Himself, and were written by His own hand. They are of divine, and not of human composition. But the Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man. Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that 'the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' John 1:14." (GC v-vi) "The Ten Commandments were spoken by God Himself, and were written by His own hand. They are of divine, and not of human composition. But the Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man. Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that 'the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' John 1:14." (GC v-vi)

17 Role of the Holy Spirit "Each [Bible writer], under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly impressed upon his own mind--a different aspect of the truth in each, but a perfect harmony through all." (GC vi) "Each [Bible writer], under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly impressed upon his own mind--a different aspect of the truth in each, but a perfect harmony through all." (GC vi)

18 Role of the Holy Spirit "God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do this work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write." (GC vi) "God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do this work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write." (GC vi)

19 Role of the Holy Spirit "I am trying to catch the very words and expressions that were made in reference to this matter, and as my pen hesitates a moment, the appropriate words come to my mind." (Letter 123, 1904; 8MR 35) "I am trying to catch the very words and expressions that were made in reference to this matter, and as my pen hesitates a moment, the appropriate words come to my mind." (Letter 123, 1904; 8MR 35)

20 Role of the Holy Spirit "I have all faith in God.... He works at my right hand and at my left. While I am writing out important matter, He is beside me, helping me. He lays out my work before me, and when I am puzzled for a fit word with which to express my thought, He brings it clearly and distinctly to my mind. I feel that every time I ask, even while I am still speaking, He responds, "Here am I." (Letter 127, 1902; 2MR ) "I have all faith in God.... He works at my right hand and at my left. While I am writing out important matter, He is beside me, helping me. He lays out my work before me, and when I am puzzled for a fit word with which to express my thought, He brings it clearly and distinctly to my mind. I feel that every time I ask, even while I am still speaking, He responds, "Here am I." (Letter 127, 1902; 2MR )

21 Role of the Holy Spirit "Through the inspiration of His Spirit the Lord gave His apostles truth, to be expressed according to the development of their minds by the Holy Spirit. But the mind is not cramped, as if forced into a certain mold." (Letter 53, 1900 in 1SM 22) "Through the inspiration of His Spirit the Lord gave His apostles truth, to be expressed according to the development of their minds by the Holy Spirit. But the mind is not cramped, as if forced into a certain mold." (Letter 53, 1900 in 1SM 22)

22 Where does this divine- human union occur? The dictation theory of inspiration virtually asserts that the earliest point at which a human element becomes part of the writing is at the pen. The dictation theory of inspiration virtually asserts that the earliest point at which a human element becomes part of the writing is at the pen. In other words, every word and detail is pre-selected and dictated by God and the only part of the prophet really involved is the prophet's hand. In other words, every word and detail is pre-selected and dictated by God and the only part of the prophet really involved is the prophet's hand.

23 Where does this divine- human union occur? The term "verbal inspiration" has today such a wide range of interpretations that it has lost much of its precision. The term "verbal inspiration" has today such a wide range of interpretations that it has lost much of its precision. As understood by early Adventists, however, it denoted the idea that every word of the prophet's utterance was pre-selected by God without any human participation, hence could not subsequently be altered, even by the prophet. As understood by early Adventists, however, it denoted the idea that every word of the prophet's utterance was pre-selected by God without any human participation, hence could not subsequently be altered, even by the prophet.

24 Where does this divine- human union occur? The verbal/dictation view was specifically rejected by the 1883 General Conference, in a resolution offered by W.C. White, and clearly representing Ellen White's understanding of inspiration. The verbal/dictation view was specifically rejected by the 1883 General Conference, in a resolution offered by W.C. White, and clearly representing Ellen White's understanding of inspiration. The context for this resolution was the need of reprinting Ellen White's Testimonies for the Church which had gone out of print. The context for this resolution was the need of reprinting Ellen White's Testimonies for the Church which had gone out of print.

25 Where does this divine- human union occur? Whereas, We believe the light given by God to His servants is by the enlightenment of the mind, thus imparting the thoughts, and not (except in rare cases) the very words in which the ideas should be expressed; therefore - Resolved, That in the re-publication of these volumes such verbal changes be made as to remove the above-named imperfection, as far as possible, without in any measure changing the thought; and, further - Resolved, That this body appoint a committee of five to take charge of the republication of these volumes. (Review and Herald, November 27, 1883, p. 741; see also 3Bio ) Whereas, We believe the light given by God to His servants is by the enlightenment of the mind, thus imparting the thoughts, and not (except in rare cases) the very words in which the ideas should be expressed; therefore - Resolved, That in the re-publication of these volumes such verbal changes be made as to remove the above-named imperfection, as far as possible, without in any measure changing the thought; and, further - Resolved, That this body appoint a committee of five to take charge of the republication of these volumes. (Review and Herald, November 27, 1883, p. 741; see also 3Bio )

26 Conceptual or Thought Inspiration Ellen White taught that the union of the divine and human in the process of inspiration took place at the level of the "mind and will." Ellen White taught that the union of the divine and human in the process of inspiration took place at the level of the "mind and will."

27 Conceptual or Thought Inspiration The Bible 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. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen. Look at the different writers. The Bible 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. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen. Look at the different writers.

28 Conceptual or Thought Inspiration 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 (Manuscript 24, 1886 in 1SM 21). 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 (Manuscript 24, 1886 in 1SM 21).

29 Implications of Conceptual Inspiration If the union of the divine and the human in inspiration takes place at the level of "thoughts," and involves a "combining" of "mind and will," it follows that the faculties of both understanding and choice were fully operant as the prophet wrote. If the union of the divine and the human in inspiration takes place at the level of "thoughts," and involves a "combining" of "mind and will," it follows that the faculties of both understanding and choice were fully operant as the prophet wrote.

30 Implications of Conceptual Inspiration How “the divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will” remains a mystery, but it suggests that in formulating or choosing "words and expressions" to represent the "thoughts" received from God, the prophet exercised both human intellect and choice, in cooperation with the "divine mind and will." How “the divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will” remains a mystery, but it suggests that in formulating or choosing "words and expressions" to represent the "thoughts" received from God, the prophet exercised both human intellect and choice, in cooperation with the "divine mind and will."

31 Implications of Conceptual Inspiration Ellen White clearly understood this process to be a live, dynamic one that continued as long as the prophet remained under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Ellen White clearly understood this process to be a live, dynamic one that continued as long as the prophet remained under the influence of the Holy Spirit. –She claimed full dependence of the Holy Spirit in writing and that –she had full responsibility and freedom to choose her words.

32 Implications of Conceptual Inspiration "Although I am as dependent upon the Spirit of God in writing my views as I am in receiving them, yet the words I employ in describing what I have seen are my own, unless they be those spoken to me by an angel, which I always enclose in marks of quotation." (RH, 8 Oct 1867, also in 1SM 37 and 3SM 278) "Although I am as dependent upon the Spirit of God in writing my views as I am in receiving them, yet the words I employ in describing what I have seen are my own, unless they be those spoken to me by an angel, which I always enclose in marks of quotation." (RH, 8 Oct 1867, also in 1SM 37 and 3SM 278)

33 Implications of Conceptual Inspiration In summary, Ellen White understood the combination of the divine and human mind and will to be an ongoing process in the prophet's experience. In summary, Ellen White understood the combination of the divine and human mind and will to be an ongoing process in the prophet's experience. Inspiration guided the prophet as communicator, not only in the initial formulation of thoughts into words, but also in the subsequent improvement of those expressions by herself or with the help of others. Inspiration guided the prophet as communicator, not only in the initial formulation of thoughts into words, but also in the subsequent improvement of those expressions by herself or with the help of others.

34 Characteristics of divine- human writings Individual styles of writings and diversity (GC vi; 1SM 21-22) Individual styles of writings and diversity (GC vi; 1SM 21-22) Variety of viewpoints, yet “perfect harmony” Variety of viewpoints, yet “perfect harmony” –"The Creator of all ideas may impress different minds with the same thought, but each may express it in a different way, yet without contradiction" (1SM 22).

35 Characteristics of divine- human writings Imperfect language, yet trustworthy message Imperfect language, yet trustworthy message "The treasure was entrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, nonetheless, from Heaven. The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language, yet it is the testimony of God; and the obedient, believing child of God beholds in it the glory of a divine power, full of grace and truth" (GC vi-vii).

36 Characteristics of divine- human writings "The Bible is not given to us in grand, superhuman language. Jesus, in order to reach man where he is, took humanity. The Bible must be given in the language of men. Everything that is human is imperfect" (1SM 20). "The Bible is not given to us in grand, superhuman language. Jesus, in order to reach man where he is, took humanity. The Bible must be given in the language of men. Everything that is human is imperfect" (1SM 20).

37 Characteristics of divine- human writings While Ellen White insists that God alone is infallible yet she believed in the trustworthy reliability of Scripture as a whole (1SM 17). While Ellen White insists that God alone is infallible yet she believed in the trustworthy reliability of Scripture as a whole (1SM 17). "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" (GC vii).

38 Characteristics of divine- human writings While the human vessel of inspiration is fallible and imperfect, the product of inspiration is infallible albeit imperfect. While the human vessel of inspiration is fallible and imperfect, the product of inspiration is infallible albeit imperfect. Divine inspired writings are not exempt from insignificant mistakes due to limitations of languages or of comprehension. But the message is trustworthy and infallible. Divine inspired writings are not exempt from insignificant mistakes due to limitations of languages or of comprehension. But the message is trustworthy and infallible.

39 Characteristics of divine- human writings Erroneous concepts of inspiration lead inevitably to misinterpretation and misuse of inspired writings. Erroneous concepts of inspiration lead inevitably to misinterpretation and misuse of inspired writings. Overemphasis on the human elements in inspired writings leads to diminished appreciation for their true value and authority. Overemphasis on the human elements in inspired writings leads to diminished appreciation for their true value and authority. De-emphasis of the human elements leads to rigid, inflexible, and authoritarian applications; confusion of rules and principles. De-emphasis of the human elements leads to rigid, inflexible, and authoritarian applications; confusion of rules and principles.


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