Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, July 02, 2011

More on Ellen White as Lesser Light

In March of 2011 I wrote an article entitled Ellen White as Lesser Light intentional confusion? In the article I set forth the disturbing teaching that Ellen White saw her writings as a lesser light meant to lead people to the greater light the Bible. I began the article with an illustration from some Adventist material using the following quote (see this link for the entire quote I used):
Ellen White always made it clear that she was the lesser light leading to the greater light of God’s Word. I can see in her writings that she was only seeking to bring people to God and did not want to lift herself up above the Bible or call attention to herself.”
I then pointed out my research that showed the quote used, was from a compilation, that is it is a later redacted statement made by editors and not by the original author. To my surprise in the Summer 2011 issue of Adventist Today there is an article by J. David Newman entitled Is Ellen White Really a Lesser Light?

In this article he states in the fourth paragraph:
Ellen White herself called her writings a “lesser light” to lead people to the greater light— the Bible.4 There is a growing trend in the Adventist denomination today to make Ellen White the infallible interpreter of Scripture. See, for example, The Remnant Study Bible, in which the words of Ellen White are interleaved with the words of the Bible.5

4Ellen G. White, Colporteur Ministry, p. 125.
As you can see Newman also uses the compilation quote to make his case, he uses the 1953 compilation Colporteur Ministry. I had actually thought perhaps Newman would have read my blog since I did have an extended series of email conversations with him last year. If he had read my article linked above he could have saved himself some embarrassment, or at least knew where to point for the actual published material that was originally used to make the compilation quote. Of course once you do that you are forced to realize that it makes no sense to say that all of those Ellen G. White books are meant to point a person back to the Bible.

However today I had an interesting experience at Sabbath School which further points out the fiction that Ellen White intended her writings to lead people back to the Bible. In the class a dear follower of Ellen White read some quotes from her handy Ellen White book to show us that in the Cain and Abel story both brothers had been instructed from their youth by Adam and Eve how to offer sacrifices to God. That in fact, not only the method of sacrifices was described to them but also the ultimate future fulfillment of the symbolism of the sacrifices, something which of course the Genesis story says nothing about or any later writing of the Old Testament explains the sacrificial system as prefiguring the coming Messiah.

But how could it be that Ellen White's purpose was to draw people back to the Bible as the greater light when the vast quantity of her extra biblical information would not be found in the Bible and if not found in the Bible it should not be used for faith and practice?

Much later in his article, which covered far more then the lesser light question Newman writes:
How does this apply to Ellen G. White? We have seen that she makes it clear that the Bible is the sole rule of faith and practice, that everything is to be judged by the Bible, and that she is a lesser light to lead people to the greater light. Now a lesser light cannot be equal to a greater light. And if Ellen White is to be tested by the Bible, we cannot then turn around and make Ellen White the determiner of what Scripture means.” page 17
In the practice of Adventism this is precisely what happens. It happens because she is held to be a spiritual addition to the Bible. But in all honesty we can't go around saying that someone is directing people back to the Bible by adding volumes of information to the Bible stories. And she does it over and over again. The whole purpose of the original quote...not the compilation quote, the actual author's words is about the importance of spreading her books, not spreading the Bible.

As my earlier article said about the original quote:
It turns out that the quote came from The Review and Herald, January 20, 1903:
Many more of our larger books might have been sold if church members had been awake to the importance of the truths these books contain, and had realized their responsibility to circulate them. My brethren and sisters, will you not now make an effort to circulate these books? and will you not bring into this effort the enthusiasm that you brought into the effort to sell "Christ's Object Lessons"? In selling this book many have learned how to handle the larger books. They have obtained an experience that has prepared them to enter the canvassing field.
Sister White is not the originator of these books. They contain the instruction that during her life-work God has been giving her. They contain the precious, comforting light that God has graciously given his servant to be given to the world. From their pages this light is to shine into the hearts of men and women, leading them to the Saviour. The Lord has declared that these books are to be scattered throughout the world. There is in them truth which to the receiver is a savor of life unto life. They are silent witnesses for God. In the past they have been the means in his hands of convicting and converting many souls. Many have read them with eager expectation, and, by reading them, have been led to see the efficacy of Christ's atonement, and to trust in its power. They have been led to commit the keeping of their souls to their Creator, waiting and hoping for the coming of the Saviour to take his loved ones to their eternal home. In the future, these books are to make the gospel plain to many others, revealing to them the way of salvation.
The Lord has sent his people much instruction, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little. Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light. O, how much good would be accomplished if the books containing this light were read with a determination to carry out the principles they contain! There would be a thousandfold greater vigilance, a thousandfold more self-denial and resolute effort. And many more would now be rejoicing in the light of present truth.
My brethren and sisters, work earnestly to circulate these books. Put your hearts into this work, and the blessing of God will be with you. Go forth in faith, praying that God will prepare hearts to receive the light. Be pleasant and courteous. Show by a consistent course that you are true Christians. Walk and work in the light of heaven, and your path will be as the path of the just, shining more and more unto the perfect day.

Two things we can learn from this. First the compilers are not too particular about accuracy and pointing to the original source material in compilations, for whatever reasons. The second is that when you read it in context you see that the lesser light is a reference not to Ellen White as lesser to the Bible but that she is acting as the reflector of the light she is given by God. Which fits in with her earlier statements such as...”
I applaud J. David Newman's attempt to bring back some sanity to Adventism with regard to Ellen White. However we have to be historically accurate and honest with what Ellen White actually said. The problem with doing that is that it shows ultimately that she was not ever a prophet, in either the Old or New Testament sense of the word. Adventism has dug itself into and EGW hole where her words have taken over the Bible. In fact the Adventist denomination is about to rewrite one of its fundamental beliefs so that there is no possible room for rationalization by those who understand the scientific evidence for the age of the earth and the actually evidence of evolution in life. The new statement is likely to reflect the new President of the Adventist church Ted Wilson views: “God created this world in six literal, consecutive, contiguous, 24-hour days of recent origin.” Because Ellen White claims to have seen the creation in vision we can no longer accept the possibility for the Genesis account to have been metaphor or allegorical, even though to make any sense at all they really must be metaphors or allegory (see my article on Adam's Psychology). But since we have all the additions from Ellen White we lose all the possible other methods of interpreting the text. Because an extra biblical authority has inserted new light into what was supposed to be God inspired material. You really can't have it both ways however, did God really screw up and forget to tell us all this important information?

There is nothing in Newman's article to save us from the self deceit of accepting a false messenger of God as it perpetuates myths. I am not to saying that Ellen White had malicious intent, only that she was deluded herself, something that happens to far too many of us. And when deluded people tend to repeat the things they have heard and believed without really looking critically at them, such as the quote taken from the compilation that Newman used to spread a rather purposely originally false statement about Ellen White. Myth takes on the cloak of truth, because people repeat and embrace when they should be asking questions and examining issues and testing their beliefs. We as a church are all the poorer.

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