Ellen G. White -- the Myth and the Truth

by Å. Kaspersen

1 - Introduction

Islam has Mohammed and the Koran, Christian Science has Mary Baker Eddy and her writings, The Mormons have Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.The Adventists have Ellen G. White and her writings which with the bound articles, make up a pile some ten feet (3 metres) high. The Bible becomes small and unimportant amongst such a pile of writings. That which is common for many adventists are that they let the writings of their prophet have the last word over the bible when it comes to questions on faith and rule of conduct. Christian Science says that Mary Baker Eddy's "Key to the Scriptures" is an addition to Bible. The Mormons go still further by saying that both the Bible and the book of Mormon are the word of God. In this way we also find the Adventist church, at least the conservative group of the church. Within this last group we also find the ultra-conservative, "historical" adventists with their nostalgic tendencies towards times past and zealous attitude towards all those that don't share their views. It is this group that uses Ellen White both as a Bible and a "mallet" against everything and everyone. For this group, "Ellen White says" is the final word that settles every dispute in any questions of faith and other things. In other words, "her word is the bottom line". My own experiences support this to the full, and I must to this day just deplore that I myself in earlier days also had this attitude. It is just one word that fit this description - fanaticism.The Bible has unfortunately been give the role as a prompter which is good to have as a pre-interpreted text to have as a "foundation" for EGW when needed. Many ultra-conservative groups of adventists on the sideline are using the phrase, "The Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy" as a motto in their work, but put into practise it is the opposite. It Is 95% EGW and 5% bible, if it is that much, and the 5% are always interpreted by the writings of EGW. In this way one gets the Bible to support things it doesn't say. God did not intend that his Word should be used in this way.

The figure of the Madonna and "Ellenism"

It is an irrefutable fact that the leaders of the Adventist church for years, and especially after the death of EGW in 1915, has built up a front figure with an infallible status, a "picture-prophet" (picture postcard-prophet), if we can use such an expression. This picture we find in the many books about Ellen G. White which has through the years come from our publishing houses, as well as the many illustrations which Adventist artists have made available for the use in standard propaganda. What all these books and writings have in common, is that they give a one-sided, glorified picture of EGW. They also keep silent, or they explain away a row of important things around the prophetess and her associates, as well as a number of visions, dreams, testimonies and writings. Just picture yourself in a case where the Jury is sitting on a pile of documents which undeniably shows that the accused is guilty. These documents are then suppressed during the case, which only builds on more or less dubious "evidence" and "testimony" to the opposite. Is this then a justifiable or valid way of doing a case? This is however how the leaders of the Adventist church for a long time have portrayed the person Ellen G. White and her writings, before the members of the church. The difference is just that the "case" is built on a number of external "evidence" which in a superficial way show that she is innocent. But the jury has all the time been sitting on a pile of documents that show all reason to suspect her of being guilty on a number of points. The White Estate has however kept these documents hidden in respect of the interests of the Adventist church and not to say the least, of an economic nature. This front figure has in the later years however began to show signs of cracks, and the picture postcard has began to fade.

This "Ellenism" of the Adventist church has become a sort of pseudo-science which doesn't tolerate (can't bear) closer scrutiny (investigation). New information, new and surprising facts from the pile of documents have started to see the light of day and have began to throw doubts about the credibility of both EGW and the Adventist's fundamental doctrines. This provokes understandably enough some reactions in the conservative group of Adventist. They look at this trend as a fulfilment of the words of EGW herself when she says that in the end time there will be created "a satanic hate against the testimonies", and that there will come those who will tear away our fundamental doctrines,

"But we must firmly refuse to be drawn away from the platform of eternal truth, which since 1844 has stood the test. . . . As a people, we are to stand firm on the platform of eternal truth that has withstood test and trial. We are to hold to the sure pillars of our faith. The principles of truth that God has revealed to us are our only true foundation. They have made us what we are. The lapse of time has not lessened their value. . . . The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. . . . Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. . . . Shall we not repudiate everything that is not in harmony with this truth?" (Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 2, pp. 50-56.)

This is just a foretaste of the many quotes from EGW that goes along the same track.

"Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid," she wrote in the above quote, and "shall we not repudiate everything that is not in harmony with this truth?"

In other words: every doctrine must be tried by the Advent message! Where do you find support for this kind of statement in the word of God? How do we handle such a statement when vital points in the advent message - yes, even the foundation itself - under close scrutiny shows that it goes against the word of God? Does God contradict himself? Does God lay down a foundation that goes against his own Word? He certainly doesn't. Something else that the above statement brings out, is that it is the Adventist doctrines that is our "only safe foundation" while The Bible says that no-one can lay another foundation than that which is already laid, and that is Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:11). The foundation of the church is not a system of more or less biblical doctrines, but Jesus himself.

What shall we then throw away? The Adventist message definitely is not the testing probe that should try the Word of God, but rather the Adventist message should be tried by the same Word.The Bible is the only true testing probe by which all doctrines should be tested by.

The Adventists use the writings of Ellen White as a last resort when they get on slippery surface and have problems of keeping on their feet - eg. when they want to defend their faith in a convincing way from the Bible. For them Ellen White is a greater authority than The Word Of God, a "yes" and an "Amen" that settles it all.

What the Adventist church say about the authority of Ellen G. White

What does the Adventist church itself say about the authority of Ellen G. White?During the General Conference in 1980 the creed, or fundamental doctrines of the Adventist church were under revision. One of the revised points had to do with the role of Ellen G. White,,

"One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord's messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth and provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested." (Adventist Review, May 1, 1980, pp. 25-26.)

In 1928 you could read the following in the official paper of the Adventist church,

"The writings of Mrs. white were never designed to be an addition to the canon of Scripture. They are, nevertheless, the messages of God to the remnant church and should be received as such, the same as were the messages of the prophets of old. As Samuel was a prophet to Israel in his day, as Jeremiah was a prophet to Israel in the day of the captivity, as John the Baptist came as a special messenger of the Lord to prepare the way for Christ's appearing, so we believe that Mrs. White was a prophet to the church of Christ today. And the same as the messages of the prophets were received in olden times, so her messages should be received at the present time." (Review and Herald, Oct. 4, 1928. Emphasis supplied.)

It is all the time being claimed that EGW's writings are not an addition to the Bible, and that it neither should be put alongside the Bible. The above statement reflects the fundamental confusion amongst Adventists about this matter. If the writings of EGW are visions from God, they are of course an addition to the Bible. And if the messages in her writings should be received in the same way as the messages from the old prophets - which are parts of the biblical canon - they will then of course, be on the same level as the Bible, and then they are an addition to the Bible. The above statement is really self-contradictory.

The same confusion we find in the book "Seventh Day Adventists Believe", put out in 1988 by the preaching department of the General Conference,

"The Writings of Ellen White are not a substitute for Scripture. They cannot be placed on the same level. The Holy Scriptures stand alone, the unique standard by which her and all other writings must be judged and to which they must be subject." (Seventh-Day Adventists Believe, p. 227. Emphasis supplied.)

If the writings of EGW were put alongside the messages of Jeremiah, Samuel etc. as the quotation from 1928 expresses, and that they must be received in the same way as the messages of the prophets in the Biblical canon, then EGW must of course be put on the same level as the Bible?

Ellen White are being compared with these Old Testament prophets, and since their messages are equal, then I guess they stand on the same level? These statements show the confusion and self-contradiction that is seen and expressed when belief and practice don't agree.

On the front page of Adventist Review, June 4, 1992, Ellen White is depicted together with Moses, Deborah and John the Baptist, and the text is saying "A prophet for our time". That Ellen White is put into the fellowship with these biblical prophets on the front cover of the denomination's official paper, show that the Adventist church put her on the same level as the prophets of the Bible. The logical conclusion to this must be that her writings stand on the same level as the Word of God.

Albion Fox Ballenger in his time did a thorough biblical study of the "veil" that he showed to a number of the leaders of the Adventist church at that time. Their commentaries were, according to Ballenger himself,

"Not one of these brethren attempted to show me my error from the Word. One wrote thus: 'Candor compels me to say that I can find no fault with it from a Bible standpoint. The argument seems to be unassailable.' Another said: 'I have always felt that it was safer to take the interpretation placed upon the Scriptures by the Spirit of Prophecy as manifested through Sister E. G. White rather than to rely upon my own judgment or interpretation.' This last quotation expresses the attitude of all those who have admitted that my position seemed to be supported by the Scriptures, but hesitated to accept it." (A.F. Ballenger, Cast Out for the Cross of Christ. 1909. pp. 106-112. Emphasis supplied.)

In other words, when the leaders of the Adventist church were confronted with certain differences between the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, and in this way had to make a choice between one or the other, they would then choose the last - the statements of EGW - as conclusive.

They admitted that the arguments were irrefutable from a biblical standpoint, but chose to keep to the writings of EGW though these did not agree. In this case the writings of EGW was put above the Word of God. This attitude we also find today in certain Adventist circles.

Ellen G. White about her own writings

Ellen G. White used some strong expressions (words) about her own writings,

"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." (Review and Herald, Jan. 20, 1903.) Emphasis supplied.)

"While writing the manuscript of 'Great Controversy,' I was often conscious of the presence of the angels of God. And many times the scenes about which I was writing were presented to me anew in visions of the night, so that they were fresh and vivid in my mind." (Letter 56, 1911.)

We will later discover to our surprise that it is very little of the book "The Great Controversy"that comes originally from the pen of Ellen G. White. It is surprisingly enough a shade of truth in the first statement. Ellen G. White was not the source of these books. A great deal of the material was "borrowed" from other authors without references to the original source! But I guess that wasn't what EGW intended to say!

What is the "Spirit of Prophecy"?

"And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev.12:17.)

"And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See [thou do it] not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Rev.19:10.)

The sign of the church of God is that it has "the testimony of Jesus". The testimony of Jesus is further defined as "the spirit of prophecy". The Seventh-day Adventists are programmed to read themselves into these verses. They have all of the law of God, they say, and they have "the Spirit of Prophecy", which they refer to Ellen G. White. No one says this clearer than the well known Adventist preacher Joe Crews,

"But now let's finish reading this fantastic verse. 'And have the testimony of Jesus Christ.' (Rev 12:17.) Not only will this last-day church arise after 1798 and keep all the Commandmnents, but it will have the testimony of Jesus. But what is the testimony of Jesus? . . . The definition is provided by the word of an angel sent all the way from heaven to explain it to John. 'I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: Worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.' Rev. 19:10. . . .There it is! We know now without a shadow of doubt that the testimony of Jesus is is the Spirit of Prophecy. And this is the third great mark of identity for the last-day true church! . . .The only church fulfilling the prophetic description of the true remnant is the Seventh-day Adventist church. Arising around 1844 this movement of destiny began the predicted program of restoring truth which had been lost or distorted during the Dark Ages. One after another of the original doctrines of Christ and the early church were returned to their former luster and beauty. As the authority of the law and the Sabbath was re-established, God did exactly what he had promised to do: He restored the beautiful Spirit of prophecy to the remnant church. That gift was manifested through the life and teachings of Mrs. Ellen G. White." (Joe Crews, The Search for the True Church. Amazing Facts, 1984, pp. 15, 42-43. Emphasis supplied.)

There are found many similar references in the Adventists standard literature.

This view the Adventists themselves are accountable for. It is no one else than themselves that interpret these verses in a way like this. There is not found anywhere in the book of Revelation or any other places that "the Spirit of Prophecy" is Ellen G. White. This is both typical Adventist interpretation and sectarian. "The Spirit of Prophecy" is in short The Holy Spirit, which has inspired the Word of God and The prophetic word.

"All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. . ."(2 Tim. 3:16.)

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. . ." (2 Pet. 1:19.)

The church of God then has the prophetic word, which they do well in heeding.

The book of Revelation itself is called "the prophetic word in this book" (Rev 1:3. 22:7.10.18). There are a number of Old testament prophets in the biblical canon, and the Word of God concludes with a prophetic book. It is "the Spirit of Prophecy" which has inspired these prophets that constitute a portion of the Bible. It is very sectarian to limit "the Spirit of Prophecy" to one certain person in one particular denomination, which is done by the Adventist church in respect to Ellen G. White, at least when it has to do with the last days and "the remnant". The church of God keeps his commandments, as it is written, and they have the prophetic word, The Holy Spirit, and in this conjunction "the Spirit of Prophecy" in the book of Revelation. Is it just the Adventists that have or have had "the Spirit of Prophecy"?

In Rev, 20:4 we read,

"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (Rev. 20:4.)

The testimony (witness) of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. They had suffered a martyr's death on account of the prophetic message they preached. The Adventists say that the Spirit of Prophecy is Ellen White and her writings, consequently the servants of God suffered a martyr's death for the sake of Ellen White. This is the understanding one gets from putting Ellen White into Rev. 19: 10. Is there something wrong here?

"The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy" eg. It is the Spirit of Prophecy - the Spirit that stands behind the words of the prophet - that bear the witness of Jesus.

"But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. . ." (John 15:26.)

This bible verse should make it clear for everyone who bears the testimony of Jesus. It is the Spirit of truth, The comforter. It is The Holy Spirit that bears the testimony of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Prophecy, the testimony of Jesus.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter BACK HOME