Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ellen White and Canright

The Ellen White Summit indeed has some interesting material. But there is a good deal of false information in there also. As time allows I will deal with some of the problems that come up.

The first is from one of the lesser presenters at the summit. I don't think I could possibly find time to deal with all the logical fallacies he uses in his presentation on "Ellen White and her Critics" Jud Lake tried to point out the logical fallacies of the critics but really mainly points out his own fallacies. A big one he uses is the A priori fallacy he says that the critics use because they begin with the assumption that she is not a prophet. Yet for some reason his own fallacy and that of all the presentors that EGW is a prophet are not considered to be A priori fallacies.

But here is what Jud says at about 34 minutes into his presentation on Ellen White and Inspiration (part 4):
“Ellen White experienced numerous times the Prophetic model, dreams and visions. But some have taken this to an extreme, a number of the people in her day took this to an extreme and this is where the critics have made a big mistake. They’ve taken.. pushed this envelope I should say of this model. And gotten into what we discussed already, verbal dictation. Listen to Canright, remember who Canright is famed critic he wrote in his critical book on Ellen White I shared with you in my last presentation. Listen, every line she wrote he believed whether in articles letters testimonies or books she claimed and this is my bold she claimed was dictated to her by the Holy Ghost and hence must be infallible. This I think contributed to his great fall or some say he more took the position when he turned against the Adventist church but either way this is what he is saying here, he saying she claimed this well I think it is already very clear she did not claim this. Dr. Newborn touched on this…”
-- Jud Lake Professor of Preaching and Adventist Studies at he School of Religion, Southern Adventist University. “Ellen White and Inspiration” 2005 Ellen White Summit Gladstone Oregon

Compare what Canright actually wrote as found in chapter 3 at:

“Her Writings All Inspired by the Holy Ghost
Now read what Mrs. White claims for her writings. Defining her position, she says:

"In ancient times God spoke through the mouths of prophets and apostles. In these days he speaks to them by the Testimonies of his Spirit" (Testimonies, Vol. IV., p. 148; Vol. V., p. 661).
Here she places herself on a level with all the Bible writers, both prophets and apostles. (See Heb. 1:1,2.) Any one who rejects or opposes her writings is branded as a rebel fighting against God. Thus she says:

"If you lessen the confidence of God's people in the testimonies he has sent them, you are rebelling against God as certainly as were Korah, Dathan and Abirum" ("Testimonies," Vol. V., p. 66).

Here she classes herself in authority with Moses. From this it will be seen that her followers have made no greater claims for her than she made for herself.

She claims that every line she writes, even in a private letter, is directly inspired by God - "the precious rays of light shining from the throne" (same book, p. 67). Of her own words she says: "It is God, and not an erring mortal, that has spoken" (Testimonies, Vol. III., p. 257). She states over and over that those who doubt or oppose her are fighting against God, sinning against the Holy Ghost. Thus: "fighting the Spirit of God. Those. . . who would break down our testimony, I saw, are not fighting against us, but against God" (p. 260).

Again she says:

When I went to Colorado, I wrote many pages to be read at your camp meeting. . . God was speaking through clay. You might say 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, . . . I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. 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" (Testimonies, Vol. V., pp. 63-67).

Notice that she claims to be simply the mouthpiece for God. They are not her words, but God's words, the same as the Bible - God speaking through clay. All through her writings designed especially for her own people may be found expressions of this kind. In her books prepared for the public, however, all these expressions are carefully omitted.

It is not Canright who said that Ellen White’s words must be infallible it was his response to the followers of Ellen White who saw her as infallible and he gives examples:

Canright writes also in chapter 3:

Now read this from G.A. Irwin, many years president of their General Conference. On page 1 of a tract entitled "The Mark of the Beast", he says:
"It is from the standpoint of the light that has come through the Spirit of Prophecy [Mrs. White's writings] that the question will be considered, believing as we do that the Spirit of Prophecy is the only infallible interpreter of Bible principles, since it is Christ through this agency giving the real meaning of his words."

It is possible that by the term “Spirit of Prophecy” Irwin means the Holy Spirit in which case his statement would be accurate but considering the common SDA usage of the term Spirit of Prophecy to refer to Ellen White’s writings we are left to take it whatever way we may prefer.

In all this however we know that Canright did not have some wooden literal view of Ellen White being verbally inspired. As he wrote in chapter 9:

Mrs. White's visions ceased about the time of the change of life common to women. While she still had visions, she claimed that much that she "saw" went entirely from her mind at the time. Months, even years later, when she met a brother or a church that needed a "testimony," the part relating to these all came vividly to her mind, she said. She would then write out this portion of the forgotten "vision."

This worked very well till years after her visions ceased. Finally this could not be stretched further. Then her revelations had to come in a different way; by a voice, by dreams, by "impressions," by some one on "authority" speaking, and the like. The following expressions, taken from the last volume of her "Testimonies for the Church," Vol. IX., published in 1909, are examples of this. Page 13: "I was instructed." Page 82: "Instruction has been given me." Page 65: "In the night of March 2, 1907, many things were revealed to me." The room, she said, was very light. Page 66: "Then a voice spoke to me." Page 95: "The angel stood by my side." But she had no vision as formerly. Page 98: "Instruction has been given me." Page 101: "In the night season I was awakened from a deep sleep and given a view." Page 137: "In the night season matters have been presented to me." Page 195: "At one time I seemed to be in a council meeting." The expression, "I have been instructed," occurs over and over in these later alleged revelations, just as the expression, "I saw," does in her earlier writings


Dave said...

Ron Corson said...

Thanks for the link, I had actually heard about his response a few days earlier and had been preparing the response which can be found at