Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ellen White to Millenials has an interesting article of a presentation given at the Ellen White Conference on April 2 on Loma Linda University campus. From Saint in Leotard to Granny on Myspace: Teaching Ellen White to the Millennials

Adventist Millennials are just as, if not more, ignorant about White as they are about Scripture and theology. When I first started teaching the Life and Teachings of Jesus course to PUC students (mostly freshmen in that class), I decided to require The Desire of Ages as one of the textbooks. But I wasn’t sure how many would come having read it in the past. So on the first day of the quarter, I asked if anyone had. To my surprise, no one had! Absolutely no one? Not even a chapter or a selected passage? They couldn’t recall having read any. What about any of her books? Out of 45 students, only 3 or 4 had read any. So I got more curious. What do you know about Ellen White? They all knew that she is considered a prophet, that she is some kind of an authority, that she wrote a lot of books—and that a lot of people (including their parents) hated her. But the interesting thing for me as I kept discovering more about their attitude toward White was that they’re actually curious about her and open to her. Because they’re so ignorant of her but feel like they should know her better, many of them are genuinely in interested in finding out—if only someone would walk them through the process of discovery.

I thought the above was interesting as I recall hearing Alden Thompson say much the same thing back in 2005, that his students did not really know much about Ellen White. However when I started to think of my own history growing up as a Seventh-day Adventist in both SDA elementary school and then Academy (graduating from Academy in the latter part of the seventies) I realized I had never read an Ellen White book either. If I had been in Julius’ class I would have raised my hand and said I had not read a single EGW book. Even though in Academy, my junior year I had to write a term paper on my philosophy of life based upon Ellen White’s writings. (What I would give now to see what I wrote). There is no wonder that his students are open to hear about Ellen White, after all the church declares her their prophet they hear quotes from her all the time and unless you are part of the fringe of Adventism they are not likely hearing the quotes about all the little things you should not do or all the rebukes that fill the Testimonies to the Church series. They hear the best of Ellen White and they, as Julius did in his class focus upon the story telling books like Desire of Ages. Things probably would have been a whole lot different if they started with “An Appeal to Mothers”, (1864) which begins:

My Sisters, my apology for addressing you on this subject is, I am a mother, and feel alarmed for those children and youth who by solitary vice are ruining themselves for this world, and for that which is to come. Let us closely inquire into this subject from the physical, mental and moral points of view.

Or the beginning of “Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene”, (1890)

Man came from the hand of his Creator perfect in organization and beautiful in form. The fact that he has for six thousand years withstood the ever-increasing weight of disease and crime is conclusive proof of the power of endurance with which he was first endowed. And although the antediluvians generally gave themselves up to sin without restraint, it was more than two thousand years before the violation of natural law was sensibly felt. Had Adam originally possessed no greater physical power than men now have, the race would ere this have become extinct.

I enjoyed Julius’ article but it never really seems to address the real need of understanding Ellen White for the church today. Unfortunately as long as we have a myopic view we will have a distorted theology. The discussion of what is the myopic view and what is the 20/20 view seems to be too uncomfortable for many Adventists to even consider but it is essential for the church as it enters the new millennium.

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