Ellen G. White and the Bible

For Seventh-day Adventists the study of the book of Revelation always comes with a unique challenge. “The Bible and the Bible only” provides a call to exegete the Bible as God’s final authority on all matters of faith and practice. Yet Adventists value very highly the prophetic gift of Ellen G. White (1827-1915). What impact should her comments on a subject like the mark of the beast (Rev 13:15-17) or the three angel’s message (Rev 14:6-12) have on the way one reads these passages? What does one do if what Ellen White says about a biblical passage does not square with the plain meaning of the text?

This is the first in a series of blogs on the use of Ellen White’s writings in relation to the Bible. Before I share my own research, I want you to be aware of the finest explanation of this topic from the Ellen G. White Estate, the authoritative custodian of her writings. In 1982, White Estate directors from all over the world met for an extended conference and drafted the following statement on the respective roles of the Bible and Ellen White in Adventist faith. The words that follow are from this consensus statement of the 1982 conference without any further comment from me:

“In the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs voted by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists at Dallas in April, 1980, the Preamble states: “Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.” Paragraph one reflects the church’s understanding of the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, while paragraph seventeen reflects the church’s understanding of the writings of Ellen White in relation to the Scriptures. These paragraphs read as follows:

1. The Holy Scriptures
The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history. Support is found in these Bible passages: 2 Peter 1:20,21; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Psalms 119:105; Proverbs 30:5,6; Isaiah 8:20; John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:12.

17. The Gift Of Prophecy
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 which 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. Support is found in these Bible passages: Joel 2:28,29; Acts 2:14-21; Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10.

The following affirmations and denials speak to the issues which have been raised about the inspiration and authority of the Ellen White writings and their relation to the Bible. These clarifications should be taken as a whole. They are an attempt to express the present understanding of Seventh-day Adventists. They are not to be construed as a substitute for, or a part of, the two doctrinal statements quoted above.

AFFIRMATIONS
1. We believe that Scripture is the divinely revealed word of God and is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
2. We believe that the canon of Scripture is composed only of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments.
3. We believe that Scripture is the foundation of faith and the final authority in all matters of doctrine and practice.
4. We believe that Scripture is the Word of God in human language.
5. We believe that Scripture teaches that the gift of prophecy will be manifest in the Christian church after New Testament times.
6. We believe that the ministry and writings of Ellen White were a manifestation of the gift of prophecy.
7. We believe that Ellen White was inspired by the Holy Spirit and that her writings, the product of that inspiration, are applicable and authoritative, especially to Seventh-day Adventists.
8. We believe that the purposes of the Ellen White writings include guidance in understanding the teaching of Scripture and application of these teachings, with prophetic urgency, to the spiritual and moral life.
9. We believe that the acceptance of the prophetic gift of Ellen White is important to the nurture and unity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
10. We believe that Ellen White’s use of literary sources and assistants finds parallels in some of the writings of the Bible.

DENIALS
1. We do not believe that the quality or degree of inspiration in the writings of Ellen White is different from that of Scripture.
2. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White are an addition to the canon of Sacred Scripture.
3. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White function as the foundation and final authority of Christian faith as does Scripture.
4. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White may be used as the basis of doctrine.
5. We do not believe that the study of the writings of Ellen White may be used to replace the study of Scripture.
6. We do not believe that Scripture can be understood only through the writings of Ellen White.
7. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White exhaust the meaning of Scripture.
8. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White are essential for the proclamation of the truths of Scripture to society at large.
9. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White are the product of mere Christian piety.
10. We do not believe that Ellen White’s use of literary sources and assistants negates the inspiration of her writings.

We conclude, therefore, that a correct understanding of the inspiration and authority of the writings of Ellen White will avoid two extremes: (1) regarding these writings as functioning on a canonical level identical with Scripture, or (2) considering them as ordinary Christian literature.”

4 thoughts on “Ellen G. White and the Bible

  1. Linda Hoover

    That is a perfectly balanced understanding of Ellen White’s purpose and value for the remnant church. No greater gift could He have given His people to prepare them for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to finish the work and be ready for His return.

    Reply
  2. Solomon Ayuen

    The clear and balanced relationship between the writings of sister EGW and the Bible can lead us to the clear and perfect harmonised truth.Thanks for the Insight Proffesor,I love the piece❤

    Reply

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