On Loving God & Letters (Two Books With Active Table of Contents)
The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God seeks to restore what we have lost. In this treatment of many of the Bible's passages regarding divine love, noted evangelical scholar D. Carson not only critiques sentimental ideas such as "God hates the sin but loves the sinner," but provides a compelling perspective on the nature of God and why He loves as He does.
Carson blends his discourse with discussion of how God's sovereignty and holiness complete the biblical picture of who He is and how He loves. In doing away with trivialities and cliches, this work gets to the heart of this all-important doctrine from an unflinching evangelical perspective. Yet it does so without losing its personal emphasis: for in understanding more of the comprehensive nature of God's love as declared in His Word, you will come to understand God and His unending love for you more completely.
More than a devotional guide, For the Love of God will open the Bible to anyone who wants to:. The insights here will help you view the Bible for all that it is--as both the complete and inspired history of redemption, as well as the revelation of God and His character. And this book's through-the-Bible-in-a-year reading plan will renew your urgency not only to delve deeply into God's Word, but to study it daily so that your mind will be shaped and informed by what God Himself says and sees.
Table of contents Sample pages: 1 2 3. This daily devotional with a complete Bible-reading plan will reveal the riches and unity of all of Scripture as readers make their way through God's Word in the course of a year. In a world that views absolute truth, right and wrong, and divine judgment as being either outdated or subject to each person's definition, the Bible's absolute statements, direct warnings, and fantastic stories seem more out of touch with each passing year.
But it is not God's Word that has changed; indeed, its relevancy and its power to transform lives are still intact. What has changed is the number of people who consult it. Even the impact of His holy Word is dulled if we neglect to open our Bibles and seek Him there. Now more than ever, the need to read the Bible, to understand the big picture of its storyline, and to grasp the relevance this has for your life is critical. Within these pages is a systematic day plan, based on the M'Cheyne Bible-reading schedule, that will in the course of a year guide you through the New Testament and Psalms twice, and the rest of the Old Testament once.
In an effort to help preserve biblical thinking and living, D. Carson has written edifying comments and reflections regarding each day's scriptural passages. And, most uniquely, he offers perspective that places each reading into the larger framework of history and God's eternal plan--to deepen your understanding of the unity and power of His Word. As our culture drifts from its Judeo-Christian roots, the need to understand the Bible as a whole text--the complete and inspired history of redemption, as well as the revelation of God and His character--is critical.
This day devotional, with a complete Bible-reading plan, is for those who recognize this need. It will open the Bible to those who desire to understand Scripture in its context, to know the God of the Bible, and to realize how He works in the lives of real people. In a world that views absolute truth, right and wrong, and salvation as being subject to individual interpretation, the Bible's unwavering proclamations and miraculous stories seem obsolete in modern times.
But it is not God's Word that has changed. Indeed, its relevancy and its power to transform lives are intact. Now more than ever the need to read the Bible, to understand the big picture of its storyline, and to grasp the relevance this has for your life, is critical. As with its companion volume, For the Love of God, this devotional contains a systematic day plan, based on the M'Cheyne Bible-reading schedule, that will in the course of a year guide you through the New Testament and Psalms twice, and the rest of the Old Testament once.
In so doing, D. Carson completes the work he began in the first book. In an effort to help preserve biblical thinking and living, he has also written though-provoking comments and reflections regarding each day's scriptural passages. And, most uniquely, he offers perspective that places each reading into the larger framework of history and God's eternal plan to deepen your understanding of His sovereignty--and the unity and power of His Word.
Excerpted from a biography at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has been at Trinity since Carson's areas of expertise include biblical theology, the historical Jesus, postmodernism, pluralism, Greek grammar, Johannine theology, Pauline theology, and questions of suffering and evil. First of all, we should note that when the Lord imparts light to the prophets He does not confine Himself to one fixed procedure.
Therefore, one must not look for a uniform pattern that will govern all the procedures in this matter of God's giving His messages to human instruments. This is an important point. Second, the prophet is a normal human being with all the faculties possessed by such a being. He sees, hears, smells, meditates, reads, eats, sleeps, worships, speaks, and travels, as do other people. At the time of his call to the prophetic office he may or may not be well informed in some lines of knowledge.
All through his life subsequent to his call to the prophetic office, he continues to gain information in most matters in the same manner in which we all obtain such information. Being called to the prophetic office does not blot from his mind information gained in past experiences, nor does it block his mental faculties from continuing to obtain information as he did before his call to the prophetic office. Lord as a prophet, he is in a position to receive special information from God.
This may be in the fields of theology and religious experience.
It may be in the field of history, recounting the special guidance of God for His people or for individuals, or warning of the perils incident to Satan's determination to destroy the work of God or the hope of souls. It may be in the field of physiology, nutrition, or hygiene. It may be in the realm of eschatology. It may be in the field of education or church administration. It may be in the revealing of hidden sins. The fields in which information may be imparted are without limit, for the work is in God's hands. This experience is uniquely that of the prophet. Although the Spirit of God may speak to the hearts of all consecrated persons, not all are or can be prophets.
God alone selects the prophet. A prophet may receive visions during the day, accompanied by certain physical phenomena see Dan. After the vision the prophet imparts to others what was intended for them, either orally, in interviews, or in writing. Thus there are two elements or procedures: "There is the receiving of the information and the bearing of testimony--the presentation by the prophet of the message, the light, the information--he received from the Holy Spirit.
He may not be at liberty to impart at once some of the information he receives. Perhaps it is to be held until certain developments have taken place; or perhaps the light is given fully to orient the prophet, but he is not at liberty to disclose all that is revealed to him. His mind thus becomes a reservoir or "bank," as it were, from which, when circumstances demand, he is ready to speak forth. Often there is immediate need for the message. Note the simplicity of the language used by Ellen White in a description of how light came to her in her 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. Analyzing this statement, we observe that her coming into vision is described by the words "The Holy Ghost fell upon me.
Thus it is clear that to her the experiences in vision were real. She was seeing, feeling, hearing, obeying, and acting in faraway places, though bodily she remained in the room. Those in the room with her did not see what she saw or hear what she heard. It was more than a moving picture: she was a participant in the action. Later she related or wrote out in her own words these experiences. Oftentimes while in vision Ellen White would be conveyed to a home or an institution, and then she would be conducted from room to room or department to department. She would seem to be in the councils that were held, would witness the actions of council members, hear the words spoken, and observe the surroundings in general.
In , from across the Atlantic, she wrote to one of the workers regarding the detrimental policies pursued in one of the institutions. Note how she received her information: "I arose at three o'clock this morning with a burden on my mind. In my dreams I was at '', and I was told by my Guide to mark everything I heard and to observe everything I saw. I was in a retired place, where I could not be seen, but could see all that went on in the room.
Persons were settling accounts with you, and I heard them remonstrating with you in regard to the large sum charged for board and room and treatment. I heard you with firm, decided voice refuse to lower the charge. I was astonished to see that the charge was so high. At times she was shown buildings not yet erected but which in the future would constitute a part of institutions. She referred to one such instance in a letter written in "I have been thinking of how, after we began sanitarium work in Battle Creek, sanitarium buildings all ready for occupation were shown to me in vision.
The Lord instructed me as to the way in which the work in these buildings should be conducted in order for it to exert a saving influence on the patients. The brethren were in great perplexity as to who should take charge of the work. I wept sorely. One of authority stood up among us, and said, 'Not yet. You are not ready to invest means in that building, or to plan for its future management. But we needed to learn the lesson of waiting. Two consecutive paragraphs from a personal testimony addressed to a prominent worker of earlier years illustrate how life's experiences were sometimes represented symbolically: "Many other scenes connected with your case have been presented to me.
At one time you were represented to me as trying to push a long car up a steep ascent. But this car, instead of going up the hill kept running down. This car represented the food business as a commercial enterprise, which has been carried forward in a way that God does not commend. One came and took out of your hand the banner bearing the words, 'The commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,' and it was trampled in the dust. I saw you surrounded by men who were linking you up with the world. At times the events of the past, present, and future were opened up to Ellen White in panoramic view.
It seemed to her that she witnessed in rapid succession the vivid enactment of the scenes of history. I quote here a few sentences from her Introduction to The Great Controversy , giving us a glimpse of this means of enlightenment of her mind: "As the Spirit of God has opened to my mind the great truths of His word, and the scenes of the past and the future , I have been bidden to make known to others that which has thus been revealed'to trace the history of the controversy in past ages, and especially so to present it as to shed a light on the fast-approaching struggle of the future.
Italics supplied. There are two features in the prophet's experience--the vision itself and the bearing of testimony of what has been revealed in vision. Having been received, the message must be imparted by the prophet through the most accurate language at the prophet's command.
The prophet may have at ready command words that would convey the message satisfactorily, or he may find it necessary to study diligently to find words adequate to convey the message correctly and impressively. At one time he may use certain words and at another time other words in conveying the same message. While writing The Desire of Ages , Mrs. White declared: "I tremble for fear lest I shall belittle the great plan of salvation by cheap words. The transmission of the message might suffer some impairment because of the inadequacy of human language. Note this comment by Ellen G.
The truths revealed are all 'given by inspiration of God' 2 Tim. The Infinite One. He has given dreams and visions, symbols and figures; and those to whom the truth was thus revealed have themselves embodied the thought in human language. Different forms of expression are employed by different writers; often the same truth is more strikingly presented by one than by another.
One writer is more strongly impressed with one phase of the subject; he grasps those points that harmonize with his experience or with his power of perception and appreciation; another seizes upon a different phase; and each, 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. And the truths thus revealed unite to form a perfect whole, adapted to meet the wants of men in all the circumstances and experiences of life. Note the expression "Each, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly impressed upon his own mind.
This is a vital point. Ellen White put it this way: "Although I am as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord 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. In answering certain questions in , she also touched on this point: "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.
I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision, as in having the vision. It is impossible for me to call up things which have been shown me unless the Lord brings them before me at the time that He is pleased to have me relate or write them. The thought is again emphasized: "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. The prophet, then, receives his message through the visions while totally under the influence of the Spirit of God. He bears his testimony under the influence of the Spirit of God, but not to the point of being mechanically controlled, or of being forced into a mold.
Rather, he communicates the message in the best manner and from the point of view of his background and style, thus appealing particularly to people with backgrounds similar to his. On certain occasions the very words to be used are impressed upon his mind by the Spirit of God. Note this from Ellen White in a letter of admonition in which after dealing with certain situations she stated: "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.
White Writings , p. Another statement reads: "While I am writing out important matter, He [the Holy Spirit] is beside me, helping me History was presented to Ellen White as a background on which the great controversy story was traced. In her introduction to The Great Controversy she tells how the controversy was presented to her: "Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the scenes of the long-continued conflict between good and evil have been opened to the writer of these pages.
From time to time I have been permitted to behold the working, in different ages, of the great controversy between Christ, the Prince of life, and the Author of our salvation, and Satan, the prince of evil, the author of sin, the first transgressor of God's holy law. It appears that her experience was similar to that of Moses on Mount Nebo when the Promised Land was shown him.
Ellen White describes Moses' experience vividly in Patriarchs and Prophets: "And now a panoramic view of the Land of Promise was presented to him. Every part of the country was spread out before him, not faint and uncertain in the dim distance, but standing out clear, distinct, and beautiful to his delighted vision.
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In this scene it was presented, not as it then appeared, but as it would become, with God's blessing upon it, in the possession of Israel. There were mountains clothed with cedars of Lebanon, hills gray with olives and fragrant with the odor of the vine, wide green plains bright with flowers and rich in fruitfulness, here the palm trees of the tropics, there waving fields of wheat and barley, sunny valleys musical with. He had a view of their history after the settlement of the Promised Land: The long, sad story of their apostasy and its punishment was spread out before him.
He saw them, because of their sins, dispersed among the heathen, the glory departed from Israel, her beautiful city in ruins, and her people captives in strange lands. He saw them restored to the land of their fathers, and at last brought under the dominion of Rome. He followed the Saviour to Gethsemane, and beheld the agony in the garden, the betrayal, the mockery and scourging--the crucifixion.
He looked again, and beheld Him coming forth a conqueror, and ascending to heaven escorted by adoring angels and leading a multitude of captives. The dramatic picture continues, but we need go no further. Enthralled, Moses watched the events take place, seeing, hearing, and participating, and in receiving the message even the sense of smell came into play.
In this vivid manner the history of the future was opened up to the prophet. It is very unlikely that dates were revealed to him. It is not likely that all the cities he saw were named. Those were inconsequential details, not of primary importance to the unfolding theme. Was Ellen White shown in each instance in minute detail all of the names of the places and the dates of the events which she beheld? The evidence is that she was not.
She saw events occur--events significant as a part of the controversy story. Minor details and incidental references not basic to the account were of less importance. Some of this information could be ascertained from the sacred writings, some from common sources of knowledge, such as reliable historians. Apparently in His providence God did not consider it essential to impart these minutiae through vision. Ellen White's son, W. White, describes her experience as follows: "Mother has never claimed to be authority on history.
The things which she has written out are descriptions of flashlight pictures and other representations given her regarding the actions of men, and the influence of these actions upon the work of God for the salvation of men, with views of the past, present, and future history in its relation to this work. In connection with the writing out of these views, she has made use of good and clear historical statements to help make plain to the reader the things which she is endeavoring to present.
She read to him a large part, if not the whole, of the five volumes. She has read other histories of the Reformation. This has helped her to locate and describe many of the events and the movements presented to her in vision. This is somewhat similar to the way in which the study of the Bible helps her to locate and describe the many figurative representations given to her regarding the development of the great controversy in our day between truth and error.
White in a statement in the General Conference Council, Oct. A few months later W. White stated the following: "Regarding Mother's writings and their use as authority on points of history and chronology, Mother has never wished our brethren to treat them as authority regarding the details of history or historical dates.
The great truths revealed to Mother regarding the controversy between good and evil, light and darkness, have been given to her in various ways, but chiefly as flashlight views of great events in the lives of individuals and in the experiences of churches, of bands of reformers, and of nations. Later on she would write it out more fully,and again still more fully. I have known her to write upon one subject four or five times, and then mourn because she could not command language to describe the matter more perfectly.
Let the dates used by those historians be inserted. Mother regards with great respect the work of those faithful historians who devoted years of time to the study of God's great plan as presented in the prophecy, and the outworking of that plan as recorded in history. White, Letter to W. Eastman, Nov. With regard to the history of the Reformation the following statement by Ellen White is significant: "Events in the history of the reformers have been presented before me.
Related to this is W. White's declaration that: "Mother's contact with European people brought to her mind scores of things that had been presented to her during past years, some of them two or three times, and other scenes many times. Ellen White declares of the Bible: "The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will. She does not deny that the wording of the Scriptures may lead some to draw fallible conclusions. But she affirms that the Scriptures themselves provide an infallible revelation.
The revelation of God's will is authoritative and infallible, but the language used in imparting it to mankind is human and hence is imperfect. Declares Ellen White: "God and heaven alone are infallible. And again, in speaking of her work she says, "In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible. She illuminates this point, saying: "The Lord speaks to human beings in imperfect speech, in order that the degenerate senses, the dull, earthly perception, of earthly beings may comprehend His words.
Thus is shown God's condescension. He meets fallen human beings where they are.
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The Bible, perfect as it is in its simplicity, does not answer to the great ideas of God; for infinite ideas cannot be perfectly embodied in finite vehicles of thought. Instead of the expressions of the Bible being exaggerated, as many people suppose, the strong expressions break down before the magnificence of the thought, though the penman selected the most expressive language through which to convey the truths of higher education.
We do not know, of course, the steps taken by the prophets of old in preparing their manuscripts. Did they cross out a word or a phrase and replace it with one that expressed the concept more clearly? Was the grammar in the first draft faultless? Did the initial draft furnish copy ready for publication? No copies of the original Bible manuscripts are extant for our examination.
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But when it comes to Ellen White, we have in our possession her own original autographs. These give us clues. The fact that the Holy Spirit rested upon her did not at once put her in possession of a knowledge of the correct spelling of each word employed or of impeccable grammar.
She was a careful worker and, aided by God's Spirit, she possessed the ability to convey truth clearly and impressively; but with her it required constant effort to do so as accurately and effectively as possible. An examination of her published writings and of her manuscripts reveals a progressive development in vocabulary and skill in the use of words. The recognition by her contemporaries of the fact that grammatical imperfections could appear in inspired writings in no way lessened their confidence in, or acceptance of, these writings.
Ellen White freely discussed the help she received from literary assistants: "While my husband lived, he acted as a helper and counselor in the sending out of the messages that were given to me. We traveled extensively. Sometimes light would be given to me in the night season, sometimes in the daytime before large congregations. The instruction I received in vision was faithfully written out by me, as I had time and strength for the work. Afterward we examined the matter together, my husband correcting grammatical errors and eliminating needless repetition.
Then it was carefully copied for the persons addressed, or for the printer. After my husband's death, faithful helpers joined me, who labored untiringly in the work of copying the testimonies and preparing articles for publication. These helpers were not baffled to find disagreement in tenses in a sentence in a manuscript or an early pamphlet.
Her ministry bore the divine credentials. They knew the content of the messages to be God's message to them. When in it became necessary to republish the early testimony pamphlets, Mrs. White and her associates recognized that certain imperfections in expression should be corrected so as to present the message in the best literary form. Because of its importance, the matter was carried to the General Conference session of At that meeting, important decisions were reached that not only gave guidelines for the reprinting of these "Testimonies" but also placed the denomination on record as to its understanding of certain fundamental principles having to do with the utterances of the Spirit of Prophecy.
We quote. WHEREAS, Many of these testimonies were written under the most unfavorable circumstances, the writer being too heavily pressed with anxiety and labor to devote critical thought to the grammatical perfection of the writings, and they were printed in such haste as to allow these imperfections to pass uncorrected; and. RESOLVED, That this body appoint a committee of five to take charge of the republication of these volumes according to the above preambles and resolutions.
Five years later in an editorial in the Review and Herald , Uriah Smith discussed the question: "Which are inspired, Words or ideas? Of course, if the Holy Spirit should give a person words to write, he would be obliged to use those very words, without change; but when simply a scene or view is presented before a person, and no language is given, he would be at liberty to describe it in his own words, as might seem to him best to express the truth in the case.
In these cases, of course, the words are inspired. In Sister White's writings she often records words spoken by angels. Such words, of course, she gives as she hears them, and has no discretionary power in regard to the terms to be used, or the construction to be followed. These are not her words, and are not to be changed.
If there was verbal inspiration in writing her manuscripts why should there be on her part the work of addition or adaptation? It is a fact that Mother often takes one of her manuscripts and goes over it thoughtfully, making additions that develop the thought still further. This position is reaffirmed by words penned by Ellen White while residing in Europe: "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. 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. Thus, because of the presence of a prophet of God in their midst, Seventh-day Adventists have had a firsthand demonstration of how inspiration operates. Those who work with the Biblical documents alone must deal with materials written some two to three and a half millenniums ago, of which only copies reproduced many times exist today.
Certain crisis situations that loom ahead may be better weathered if sound concepts of inspiration are held. Faulty concepts concerning inspiration-revelation, be they liberal or extreme, can lead to disaster. There is good reason to believe that the great adversary will take advantage of unsound concepts in this area, for we are told that "the very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God.
One such effort was made some 60 years ago by a man who had been a successful Seventh-day Adventist evangelist and an esteemed administrator. Some years later a Bible teacher of my acquaintance who was working in a Seventh-day Adventist college gave up his work and to a large extent lost his confidence in the message. His problem? He could no longer accept Ellen White as the Lord's messenger, and wrote a statement explaining why. His father had served many years in the ministry of the church and held the Spirit of Prophecy writings in high regard. In fact, he held what some might characterize as a somewhat extreme position on inspiration, maintaining a mechanical dictational concept.
This concept he passed on to his son, who too became a minister, and finally a college Bible teacher. In his work as a teacher, he discovered some problems that he could not solve because of his rigid views of inspiration. As a result, he left the work. Some years later, on the invitation of the White Estate, he spent a few hours with me discussing the points that had perplexed him and tripped him up. As we studied together, he and I could see that the problems that loomed so large in his mind had their foundation in rigid and distorted concepts of inspiration.
Before the interview closed, he said sadly,. This incident illustrates the vital importance of a sound understanding of inspiration. Many higher critics maintain that the Bible is no more inspired than the writings of famous authors. This greatly undermines its authority. Some scholars hold that the prophet merely experiences an "encounter" with God in which no information is imparted, no instruction given; in their writings the prophets simply express their reaction to the encounter experience.
I see in these higher critical definitions of inspiration the work of the enemy who is seeking to nullify the message from God to His people. Limitations of space preclude an elaboration at this point, but these are matters with which readers of the REVIEW are conversant. But above and beyond the major tests to which our attention is called in the Scripture is the primary evidence of the operation of inspiration in Ellen White's work--the manner in which these writings speak to the readers' hearts. This every thoughtful and sincere student of her writings has personally experienced.
But questions will arise, problems will confront us. It has been so through the years, it is so today, and if we credit the words of prophecy, such will increase and intensify as we near the end. For this reason our concepts of inspiration must be sound and well supported by the witness of the prophets. Important clues are seen in God's Word, usually in incidental references found in connection with the messages.
Every Seventh-day Adventist should watch for these. How did the light come to the prophet? How did the message come through him to the people? Then what is Ellen White's testimony in these lines? In the preceding articles we have examined some of these. She has written at considerable length on the inspiration of the Bible and has made many references to inspiration in her work.
What she wrote is highly informative. As is true in most cases, what she wrote in these lines came in a natural and practical setting. Much of this came in the 's. This was the decade when a major new translation of the Bible was being made--a translation that came to be known as the Revised Version, with the New Testament released in and the Old in In the minds of not a few Seventh-day Adventists, such a new translation posed serious questions. Was it admissible and proper to produce a revision of the Scriptures?
From time to time in that decade the Review and Herald took note of this, and during that same. The careful study of these four Ellen G. White statements on the inspiration of the Bible will prove to be most helpful. To these we would add Selected Messages , book 1, pp.
Every Seventh-day Adventist should be familiar with these basic statements that bear so heavily on our concept of inspiration. I urge all to master them. The operation of inspiration has been a point of special interest to the trustees appointed by Ellen White to care for her writings. Daniells, president of the General Conference from to , approached the question from the standpoint of its outworkings, in his book Abiding Gift of Prophecy. Another of the trustees, F. Wilcox, for 33 years editor of the Review and Herald , in discussed various facets of the question in a series of articles titled "The Testimony of Jesus," and these were reprinted in a book of the same title.
White in the Elmshaven office in California. As I began working with the Ellen G. White manuscripts and letters and published works, I became deeply interested in how God got His messages through to the people. I soon concluded that as God in Bible times spoke through the prophets "at sundry times and in divers manners," so had He spoken to Ellen White. From that time on, this subject has been of great interest to me. As my work has had to do in part with answering questions regarding Ellen White and her writings, I have often found that the answers to such questions were bound up with an understanding of the operation of inspiration as revealed in the many rich sources in the White Estate vault that supplement published materials as referred to earlier.
I find she gives no endorsement to a mechanical dictational inspiration, as some have envisioned--our forefathers termed it verbal inspiration, although theologians now use the term differently. And how many times the problems that were perplexing to our inquirers melted in the light of information as to how inspiration actually functions. The The information I found in my work with the documents in our vault, often in incidental references, I assembled for the benefit of ministers and others in articles that from time to time have been published.
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These have been republished in permanent form for wide distribution under the title of Ellen G. White--Messenger to the Remnant and may be secured in an inexpensive paper binding at Adventist Book Centers. In this the mechanics of inspiration as seen in Ellen White's experience are delineated largely in the form of practical illustrations. From time to time I have been called upon to address our Bible teachers, history teachers, and other groups on various aspects of Ellen White's work.
One of these dealt with "The Authority of the Ellen G. White as a Historian" and still another on "Hermeneutical Principles in the E. White Writings. The nature of the important information they bear, based not on highly refined, theological concepts and definitions, but on the simple exhibits provided by the E.
White documents themselves, led the Review and Herald Publishing Association to publish these in a paperbound book entitled The Ellen G. The volume also carries the following enlightening appendix items:. This offers what the White Estate for many years has considered a most helpful document, for it deals with many situations and principles not often thought of touching inspiration.
White, Ellen White's son and helper, of the involvements in the revision of an inspired book. It is painful to see earnest Seventh-day Adventists thrown into perplexity or have their confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy weakened because of faulty concepts. Not having given special study to the matter, they hold rigid views of inspiration that call for the prophet to serve as an automaton, speaking or penning only those words dictated to him by the Holy Spirit.
It is equally painful to see many fail to perceive, because of unwarranted liberal views, the hand of God as He communicates to His people through His prophet, and lose the great blessing of the certainty that Seventh-day Adventists are a people led and taught of God. It is my opinion that the presentation of these articles and the careful reading of the sources of information referred to may prove most helpful as we enter the peril-fraught days ahead.
Probably at no time since Ellen White's death in has there been among Seventh-day Adventists as intense and widespread an interest in the question of inspiration in general and the inspiration of Ellen White in particular as there is today. Because the Spirit of Prophecy writings strongly affect every believer, interest in these topics is understandable.
Seventh-day Adventists who accept the Spirit of Prophecy counsels as coming from the Lord, and, consequently, as binding, are entitled to assurances that these messages are trustworthy. White's name, should be able to rest in confidence that her assertions that she was not "the originator of these books" and that they contain "the instruction that during her lifework God has been giving her" can be substantiated Ellen G.
White, in Review and Herald , Jan. How the light came to Ellen White through her long life of special ministry and how this light was translated into human language is the subject of legitimate and profitable study.
Attention to the way in which she, an inspired person, related to the times in which she lived, to the events taking place around her, and to the lines of information that came to her in her reading and in her contacts with others'and to the pressures of those who sought to influence her'is important in forming a basis for a proper understanding of her work. In recent months there has been an increasing interest in what have been termed Ellen White's "sources" for the Conflict of the Ages books in general, and The Great Controversy and The Desire of Ages in particular.
There is no need for conjecture as to what these sources were, for the extensive records preserved in the White Estate provide in the words of Ellen White herself, and in the statements of those who worked with her, full and satisfying information.
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What I here present is based on 50 years with the White Estate and on a more recent intensified study of the records relating to the matter in question. The articles will lead us some distance from the narrow concepts held by some of a mechanical, verbal inspiration according to which Ellen White wrote only what was revealed to her in vision or dictated to her by the Holy Spirit.
They also will, I believe, provide fresh and broader insights into the intriguing subject of how inspiration works. First of all, Ellen White herself deals with the matter of her sources for the Conflict story in the introduction to The Great Controversy. Appearing as it does in the first of the large Conflict books prepared for reading by the general public, it may well be considered a preface to all five of the books --Patriarchs and Prophets, Prophets and Kings, The Desire of Ages , The Acts of the Apostles , and The Great Controversy --as well as of the earlier works dealing with the Conflict story.
It also is one of the most informative statements on inspiration to be found anywhere. The writing of the Conflict story varied somewhat in nature from the writing of personal testimonies, or of the articles for the published Testimonies and other books and articles of counsel and instruction for the church. In the Conflict Series she was largely paralleling Biblical history with secular history.
Then, when Biblical history ended, she carried the story to the Second Coming and beyond. Writing on the Conflict theme was a work that engaged much of Mrs. White's attention throughout her long years of ministry. To give a perspective to the discussion of the sources of the information in Ellen G. White's portrayal published progressively in three stages, we should examine her objectives. These books were written not to present a world history, nor as a history to correct other historical accounts. Rather, as stated in her introduction, they were to "trace the history of the controversy in past ages," and to present it in a manner "to shed a light on the fast-approaching struggle of the future" The Great Controversy , p.
The "records of the past" were to be seen as having "a new significance," for through them "a light is cast upon the future" ibid. The writer, with eyes on the climactic struggle between the forces of Christ and Satan, was more interested in the large, overall historical picture than in minor details. She portrayed in a marked way God's intervention in human affairs. As noted, Ellen White was instructed "to trace the history of the controversy" ibid. But where would a woman, somewhat infirm and with only three years of formal education, a busy mother and housewife, traveling extensively in the interests of the church, filling many speaking appointments, involved in interviews and in writing testimonies and articles, gain the knowledge of the history she was charged to present to the people?
She answers in her introduction that it was 1 through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and 2 with the help of historical records. In this article we note especially the influence of the Holy Spirit on her writing:. From time to time I have been permitted to behold the working, in different ages, of the great controversy between Christ, the Prince of life, the Author of our salvation, and Satan, the prince of evil, the author of sin, the first transgressor of God's holy law.
The term "illumination of the Holy Spirit" would refer to impressions made upon her heart by "the Spirit of God" see Testimonies , vol. At times, while she was speaking to a congregation, the Spirit of the Lord would reveal to her the life and character of various persons see Testimonies , vol. I have new representations every time I open my lips to speak to the people.
She reported also that while praying or writing in the quiet of her workroom, and fully conscious of her surroundings, important scenes passed before her mind see Manuscript 12c, It is difficult to draw precise lines in the experience of a person who is fully under the influence of the Holy Spirit. No formula can be specific, no precise definition can be spelled out. In Ellen White wrote of the visions: "At times I am carried far ahead into the future and shown what is to take place.
Then again I am shown things as they have occurred in the past. She further indicated her total dependence on the Spirit of God in presenting the vision: "I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision, as in having the vision. These visions were an important method in the revelatory process.
Whether in vision she saw a city being destroyed as the angel of God stood by her side explaining the significance of the scene Testimonies , vol. When Ellen White said, "From time to time I have been permitted to behold 2 the working, in different ages, of the great controversy," she implied scenic visions. The phrase "in different ages" suggests not only many visions but widely varied historical events in the saga of, and throughout the long period of, the great controversy.
In her autobiography written in , Ellen White mentioned two early comprehensive visions opening up the great controversy story, but she built her account primarily on the scenic vision given to her on March 14, Of this two-hour vision she wrote: "In this vision at Lovett's Grove [ Ohio ], most of the matter of the Great Controversy which I had seen ten years before, was repeated, and I was shown that I must write it out.
While, as already noted , God employed different methods of imparting light and information to her throughout her life, the evidence is that visual scenic representations was the method most frequently employed in opening the controversy story to her. The reader is urged to turn to Spiritual Gifts , volume 1 2.
It opens with three short chapters introducing the controversy theme, tracing briefly the "Fall of Satan," "The Fall of Man," and "The Plan of Salvation.
Old Testament history is left for Spiritual Gifts , volumes 3 and 4. I reproduce here a few sentences from the first volume, which make clear a primary source of the information the author presents and how the information came to her. Page " I saw that the holy angels often visited the garden, and gave instruction to Adam and Eve. Page " I saw the Roman guard. Page " Next I was shown the disciples as they sorrowfully gazed towards heaven to catch the last glimpse of their ascending Lord.
I heard an angel ask , "Who of the family of Adam have passed that flaming sword, and have partaken of the tree of life? Pages , " I saw the disappointment of the trusting ones. Then I saw the disappointed ones again look cheerful, and raise their eyes to heaven , looking with faith and hope for their Lord's appearing. I could see the trace of deep sorrow upon their countenances. Reinforcing the concept of scenic visions are expressions indicating that as she viewed developments she was "carried" forward or back to view particular events: " I was carried down to the time when Jesus was to take upon Himself man's nature, humble Himself as a man, and suffer the temptations of Satan.
After writing of the Transfiguration, she declared: " I was then carried down to the time when Jesus ate the passover supper with His disciples. After writing of the work of the apostles, she stated: " I was carried forward to the time when the heathen idolators cruelly persecuted the Christians, and killed them. Blood flowed in torrents. Ellen White employed a similar expression in writing on "The Reformation," in which Luther and Melanchthon are particularly mentioned: "I was shown the wisdom of God in choosing these two men, of different characters to carry on the work of reformation.
I was then carried back to the days of the apostles, and saw that God chose as companions an ardent and zealous Peter, and a mild, patient, meek John. While in the immediate context she does not specifically declare that in a visual representation in she saw Luther and Melanchthon, the expression "I was then carried back to the days of the apostles" seems to imply that from a point of viewing certain Reformation scenes, she was removed by the space of 1, years to view other scenes.
At another time she plainly declared: "Events in the history of the reformers have been presented before me. After preparing an autobiographical work, Spiritual Gifts , volume 2, published in , she turned to the writing of Old Testament history, reviewing the experiences of men of old that illustrated the struggle between the forces of good and evil. In her preface to Spiritual Gifts , volume 3, she stated: "In presenting this, my third little volume, to the public, I am comforted with the conviction that the Lord has made me His humble instrument in shedding some rays of precious light upon the past.
She mentioned that "the great facts of faith, connected with the history of holy men of old," had been opened to her in vision ibid. She then narrated in Spiritual Gifts , volume 3 and the first half of 4, published in , the high points of the controversy story from Creation to the time of Solomon and closed with a sketchy bridge to the captivity of Israel and the Messiah.
Yet on some key or vital points they were used. Frequent descriptions of events on almost every page leave the reader with the inescapable conviction that she witnessed these scenes in vision. This is especially so in regard to the temptation and Fall of man and the Flood, its causes and aftermath. As she dealt with the days of Creation, the Fall of man, the age of the earth, and the relation of geology to the Bible, she made direct reference to the vision source, declaring "I saw" p. Five years earlier, Charles Darwin had published The Origin of Species , countering fiat creation and advocating the evolutionary process.
His theories were fast gaining ground and making notable inroads in the Christian world. To summarize: It seems evident that Ellen White's main source of the thrilling portrayal of the great con-. Beyond these, of course, were other ways in which God illuminated her mind under the influence of the Holy Spirit. And we should remember that although such terms as "I saw," "I was shown," et cetera, were not later used, this does not necessarily mean that what she portrayed was not seen in vision.
In her portrayal of the great controversy story, Ellen White used three principal sources: 1 The Bible, an inspired source, in which she had unquestioned confidence, 2 God-given visions, which, while not touching in detail every phase of the story, served as an overall basic source, and 3 various historical works, which, in addition to broadening her vocabulary and aiding her in expressing truth, provided dates of events, geographic descriptions, and some details and sequences of church history.
It is not unlikely that these works suggested such things as a narrative link, a logical assumption, or an appropriate conclusion. But, of the three sources, the oft-repeated visions of the controversy provided the basic materials. In , 30 years after her second great-controversy vision, she wrote, "From time to time I have been permitted to behold the working, in different ages, of the great controversy.
In she declared, "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. In , while working on the manuscript for Patriarchs and Prophets , she touched on certain other matters: "I had been, during the forty-five years of experience, shown the lives, the character and history of the patriarchs, and prophets. I could but have a vivid picture in my mind from day to day of the way reformers were treated , how slight difference of opinion seemed to create a frenzy of feeling.
Thus it was in the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus'all this had passed before me point by point. Her terminology here is of interest. She says she saw the way reformers were treated, and in scenic visions sacred history passed before her "point by point. White, Messenger to the Remnant , p. Three years later, while still at work on The Desire of Ages , she referred to the clarity in which the scenes stood before her: "My mind has been deeply stirred over many things.
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It seems to me that light from heaven flashes upon me , and the Holy Spirit brings many things to my remembrance. Important views are clear to my mind's eye, as though I was looking upon the scene as I wrote. Italics in original. As to events yet future, she at one time described how the second coming of Christ was opened up to her: "Scenes of such thrilling, solemn interest passed before me as no language is adequate to describe. It was all a living reality to me. In , writing in a more general way of how, at times, light was imparted in vision and also how matters forgotten were called to her mind, she declared: "The question is asked, How does Sister White know in regard to the matters of which she speaks so decidedly, as if she had authority to say these things?
I speak thus because they flash upon my mind when in perplexity like lightning out of a dark cloud in the fury of a storm. Some scenes presented before me years ago have not been retained in my memory, but when the instruction then given is needed, sometimes even when I am standing before the people, the remembrance comes sharp and. At such times I cannot refrain from saying the things that flash into my mind, not because I have had a new vision, but because that which was presented to me perhaps years in the past, has been recalled to my mind forcibly.
In an interview in she told of how the light often came to her: "Now I have light, mostly in the night season, just as if the whole thing was transacting, and I viewing it, and. I am listening to the conversation. And it was not alone in the visions of the night that scenic views passed before her. A few months earlier she had written, "When I am using my pen, wonderful representations are given me of past, present, and future. William C. White , son of James and Ellen White, gives us additional interesting insights.
After the death of his father, he assisted his mother for 35 years in her travels and in the preparation and publication of her writings. Discussing the book The Great Controversy and the manner in which light came to her concerning historical events, he declared in a statement fully approved by Ellen White as correctly representing the matter: "The things which she has written out, are descriptions of flashlight pictures" 3.
Another statement from the pen of W. White throws light on scenic visions depicting historical events: "The things revealed to Sister White were not given to her like the repeating of a story that she must repeat. In vision she seemed to be looking down through a great opening in the sky and she saw multitudes of people in action, and the angels of God ministering to them. She was not given the language. Many times she remembered what the angel said, but many times she had to describe what she had seen the very best she could. As the work advanced, and she prepared it over and over again, her description was more complete.
White, in White Estate Document File g. Nor were the revelations to Ellen White uniform in coverage. Concerning this, W. White wrote: "The framework of the great temple of truth sustained by her writings was presented to her clearly in vision. In some features of this work, information was given in detail.
Regarding some features of the revelation, such as the features of prophetic chronology, as regards the ministration in the sanctuary and the changes that took place in , the matter was presented to her many times and in detail many times, and this enabled her to speak very clearly and very positively regarding the foundation pillars of our faith. Froom, December 13, , quoted in The Spirit of Prophecy , vol. The point made above by W. White concerning differences in details and concerning frequency of presentation becomes clear when one compares what Ellen White wrote based on the vision with her later writings.
While the early writings touched points of vital importance, they omitted many others of lesser consequence. She recounted in 12 pages what she was shown of the Fall of Satan, the Fall of man, and the plan of salvation. Then she was "carried down to the time when Jesus was to take upon Himself man's nature" Spiritual Gifts , vol. After describing His birth, baptism, temptation, conflicts in His ministry, and the Transfiguration, in 28 pages, she declared that she was "carried down" to the Passover. The events vital to the controversy story, the Passover, Christ's betrayal, trial, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, apparently were revealed in a certain degree of detail, for 37 pages were devoted to the description.
Subsequent visions filled in the overall narrative. In reconstructing certain less important features of Old Testament history, she traced the narrative very briefly and employed extensive Scripture quotations to fill out the account.