Part II: Infallibility: Does the True Prophet Ever Err?
The theological footballs of "infallibility" and "inerrancy" are agitating minds and hearts in evangelical Christendom today, especially as these issues relate to the question of prophetic inspiration. Much of the discussion revolves around semantical considerations, and is rather closely associated with the verbal view of inspiration. Nevertheless, important questions need to be raised--and answered--such as: Does a true prophet ever err? Do all the predictions of a true prophet come to pass 100 percent of the time? Does a true prophet ever have to change anything he or she has written or said?
Webster defines infallible as "1: incapable of error: unerring; 2: not liable to mislead, deceive, or disappoint: certain; 3: incapable of error in defining doctrines touching faith or morals." He further renders inerrant as "free from error: infallible."
The issue of prophetic infallibility is raised because the Scriptures claim to be more reliable than ordinary literacy productions of human authors.
As was noted in part 1 of this series, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). It is not amenable to "private interpretation" because the message did not originate by private initiative or from private creativity. Instead, "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21). Therefore, said Peter, "take heed" to it (vs. 19).
In what may well have been the first book of the New Testament to be written, Paul, in the same spirit as the reference cited above from Peter, admonished the Thessalonian Christians: "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).
Why? Peter responds, because we have a "more sure" word of prophetic writings (2 Peter 1:19). More recent translators have rendered the passage: the word of the prophetic writers is "made more certain," "made more sure," "surer still," "firmer still," "confirmed," "reaffirmed," and "more fully guaranteed."
The question, then, is not the uniqueness of the inspired writings in being "more sure" than uninspired writings; it is, rather, what is the essence of this "more sureness"? In what way are these writings "more sure"?
Several possible analogical models may be found among evangelical Christians and among Seventh-day Adventists:
1. The "straight-jacket" theory: This view holds that the control of the Holy Spirit over the prophet during the process of inspiration is so rigid, so tight, that the prophet is prevented from making any type of error.
This position is well illustrated in the words of one Seventh-day Adventist evangelist in a sermon explaining Ellen White to non-Adventists:
And by the way, Ellen White's predictions up to this very minute have been right every time. The psychics like to talk about their batting average. They are proud if they are right seventy-five or eighty percent of the time.
Listen! A prophet of God with a batting average? Never! A prophet of God is right one hundred percent of the time or he isn't right at all!
And another thing! A prophet of God doesn't change his mind!
I think you are beginning to see the difference between a prophet--a true prophet--and a psychic.
Three postulates are thus suggested: (a) The true prophet has a PAQ (Prophetic Accuracy Quotient) of 100 percent, whereas psychics (and false prophets) typically have only a 75-80 percent PAQ; (b) if a prophet of God is not right 100 percent of the time, he or she is not right any of the time; and (c) a true prophet never has to go back and change anything he wrote or said in his professional capacity as a prophet.
This position borrows heavily from the basic philosophy of inspiration held by the author of a popular book aboutEllen White published a few years ago:
A true prophet [italics in original] is not a psychic who performs with the aid of a mental or "spiritual" crutch, but is someone who has no degree of freedom either in tuning or in controlling the prophetic impulses or prophetic recall. These impulses are superimposed over the prophet's conscious mind by a supernatural personal being, having absolute knowledge of both past and future, making no allowance for error or human miscalculation.
This position has serious problems and implications with regard to both the Bible and the writings of Ellen White, as will subsequently be noted.
2. The "intervention" theory: This view holds that if in his humanity a prophet of God errs, and the nature of that error is sufficiently serious to materially affect (a) the direction of God's church, (b) the eternal destiny of one person, or (c) the purity of a doctrine, then (and only then) the Holy Spirit immediately moves the prophet to correct the error, so that no permanent damage is done.
This position can be squared with the objective reality of Scripture and of the writings of Ellen White. But before we apply the acid test of these two theories, we should pause to examine the nature and source of religious belief.
Several penetrating questions are relevant here: (1) Which of the two theories presented above do you believe? (Or do you have a third theory to which you subscribe?) (2) Why do you believe it? This second question may be even more important than the first.
Is your belief based on source credibility--some favorite preacher, pastor, Bible teacher, or Biblical scholar whom you highly respect has taken this position, and because of your high regard for this person, you have accepted, uncritically, what you were told? Or do you hold your belief because you have objectively validated the position?
In Paul's day the Christian believers in Berea were said to have been "more noble" than their counterparts at Thessalonica for two reasons that have great relevance for us in this discussion:
1. They received Paul's words "with all readiness of mind." That is, they were open to new light; they did not have closed minds.
2. They "searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). That is, they validated what they had heard before they accepted it; they did not gullibly, uncritically accept what they were told without personally verifying it in God's Word.
Paul might have been forgiven somewhat had he told the Bereans, "I am not only an inspired prophet of the Lord, but I also have the highest spiritual gift--that of apostleship. You don't need to check out what I have told you; you can take my word for it, for I have the highest authority from God on this earth."
But he didn't tell them that. Instead, he praised them for not simply taking his word for things, but for going instead to the previously inspired writings to verify what he had said.
How should one validate truth? By counting heads and accepting the position that attracts the largest number of subscribers? Hardly.
What is the best way to determine the correct time of day? If someone is asked, "What time is it?" and responds, "It is 7:10," how does one know whether he is correct? Incidentally, if you ask several individuals for the time of day, you may get as many different answers as there are persons with watches. Furthermore, each person will probably assume that his is the only right time if others disagree.
Many communities have a telephone number one may dial to get the exact time of day. Some radio and television networks have a "blip" signal that may be heard exactly on the hour, superimposed over the voice of the announcer giving the call letters of the station.
Validating the time of day for most of us may not be crucial. Whether we are one or two minutes off may not be too important. But validating spiritual truth may be eternally important.
And how does one validate truth? The response of Jacques Bénigne Bossuet, French bishop and seventeenth century court preacher to Louis XIV, is apropos. Louis was a great lover of the theater, and often had command performances in his court. Bossuet, on the other hand, was widely known to oppose the theater as being inimical to the development of Christian character and as being an instrument of evil.
One day, as the story goes, during a lull in the proceedings of court, Louis looked around and, seeing Bossuet on the periphery, called loudly in his direction, "My bishop, what do you think of the theater?"
Courtiers gasped, for they knew the views of both men. They also knew the peril of rendering a verdict contrary to the royal opinion. At the very least, the offender might be banished from court (a fate, for these sycophants, almost worse than death); at the very worst, he might be sent to his death.
Everyone waited breathlessly for Bossuet's response, wondering whether he would take the expedient way out of the dilemma (on the theory that it is better to be a live coward than a dead hero), or whether he would risk all to speak the conviction of his heart.
Bossuet gravely made his way into the immediate presence of the Sun King, genuflected, and said with great dignity, "Sire, you have asked what I think of the theater. I will tell you, Sire, what I think. There are some great persons in favor of it . . . and there are some great reasons against it!"
It might equally be said of the "strait-jacket" theory of "more sureness." "There are some great persons in favor of it; but there are some great reasons against it." How does one decide? Validation is potentially a painful process, for facts sometimes force us to change long-held highly cherished opinions. But validation is an intellectual necessity to anyone who holds truth to be as important as life itself.
It is important for each of us to know what we believe, as well as why we believe it.
In part 1 of this series we noted Paul's declaration that "we have this treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:7) and Ellen White's observation that "in the work of God for man's redemption, divinity and humanity are combined." Jesus was both Son of God and Son of man; and this same union of the divine and the human exists also in the Bible. The "treasure" consists of truths revealed and inspired by God; the "earthen vessel"--the human packaging--is the words of men, chosen by them to communicate divine truth.
The "treasure"--the God-given truth or message--is not only "an infallible revelation of His will" but is also "authoritative" --normative and binding upon the Christian. Commenting upon the question of infallibility, Ellen White wrote, "God alone is infallible." "Man is fallible, but God's Word is infallible."
Concerning the "earthen vessel," the human side of the equation, Mrs. White added, "Everything that is human is imperfect"; and "no man is infallible."
Some have stumbled over the fact that there are imperfections in the writings of Ellen White. Examples cited by the critics include her incorrect numbering of Abraham's allies; her early statement that God commanded Adam and Eve not to touch the forbidden fruit, later changed to state that these were Eve's words; her assertion that only eight souls received Noah's message, contradicted in another place by her statement that there were others who believed and who helped build the ark; and her account of the daily ministration in the ancient tabernacle, which does not entirely square with the account given in the Pentateuch.
Some critics have gone on to ask if these imperfections, these inaccuracies, this demonstrated untrustworthiness, are not sufficient reason for not basing any doctrine upon her writings.
There is no charge that can be leveled against Ellen White, in her professional role as a prophet, that could not and has not first been leveled against the writers of the Bible by the so-called "higher critics," whether such accusations allege misstatements of fact, copying uninspired writers (a charge examined in detail in part 1 of this series), unfulfilled prophecies, or having to retract statements made at an earlier time.
Let us not claim more for Mrs. White than we would for the Bible writers; but let us not claim less, either (for reasons that will be discussed in some detail in part 3 of this series).
Coming back to Peter's forthright claim, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy," let us examine, successively, the lives of the prophets, and then the declarations of the prophets, to see if we are able to determine how this "more sureness" operates--or does not operate.
I. Inerrancy and the Prophet's Personal Life
The evidence of history and Scripture testify that the control of the Holy Spirit over the lives of the prophets did not preclude their freedom to sin. If "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), this would presumably include the prophets as well. To verify this, one need but examine their lives individually, as recorded in sacred writ, to discover the nature and extent of their sins of omission and commission.
One of the earliest prophets mentioned in Scripture is Abraham (Genesis 20:7). Repeatedly the canonical writers of both Old and New Testaments call him the father of the faithful, and indeed, both Jews (through Isaac) and Arabs (through Ishmael) consider him their lineal ancestor as well.
Abraham was not only made the progenitor of peoples too numerous to count, not only given the special relationship with God signified by the role and office of a prophet, but he was also given the title--by Jehovah Himself--"Abraham my friend." (In the Koran, written by Mohammed in Arabia, this title is rendered El Khalil. Islamic philologists state that the word in Arabic--a language noted for its nuances and fine distinctions of meaning--should not be rendered merely "friend" but rather "a very special friend.")
What kind of man was the "very special friend" of God? In Genesis 12 we find Abraham and his wife Sarah in Egypt. Because Sarah is a very beautiful woman, Abraham fears that Pharaoh will want to add her to the royal harem, and will kill Abraham to pave the way for this conquest. So Abraham prevails upon Sarah to declare that she is Abraham's sister instead of his wife.
Now Sarah was indeed Abraham's half-sister, so what she said was half true; but she was also his whole wife. And what is half-truth is whole-lie, because the intent is to deceive. God stepped into the situation in a remarkable manner to protect the life of His friend; and Abraham and Sarah were allowed to leave Egypt unmolested, with all of their possessions intact.
But eight chapters later, in Genesis 20, we find the same story being repeated--with the same results. God bore long with His very special friend--even as He bears long with us. But one somehow tends to expect a little higher standard of behavior of prophets! Surely Abraham should have learned a lesson the first time. But he did not, as we often do not.
Abraham was not only a "royal liar" twice over, but he also sinned in acquiescing to Sarah's proposal that he take Hagar as a secondary wife in order to "help" God's plan to make Abraham's progeny as numerous as the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky.
Sarah was beyond normal child-bearing years (Genesis 18:11); and not believing that God would work a miracle, she sought a naturalistic solution. But in taking Hagar, one of Sarah's servants, as his wife, Abraham demonstrated a serious lapse of faith. God intended Isaac to be a "miracle" child--for he was in several ways to be a type of Christ. And even if Abraham and Sarah's conduct was acceptable by the cultural standards of the day, it was contrary to God's plan. Paul uses this illustration in Galatians, chapter 4, to allegorize Hagar as salvation by works, with Sarah representing salvation by faith.
The seriousness of Abraham's lack of faith at this point is underscored by a more recent prophet. Because he did not trust God to produce a miracle child, but instead took Hagar as his wife, Abraham was called upon, a few years later, to offer Isaac as a human sacrifice on Mount Moriah. Wrote Ellen White, "If he had endured the first test and had patiently waited for the promise to be fulfilled in Sarah . . . he would not have been subjected to the closest test that was ever required of man."
So much for El Khalil, the friend of God.
Abraham's grandson, Jacob, a prophet, was also a sinner. In fact, his very name had to be changed to Israel after his conversion because the old name meant deceiver or supplanter; and God couldn't have a prophet going around with that kind of name in a day when the giving of a name had a significance far transcending the same event in modern times.
Then there was David. Twice in Scripture, once in the Old Testament and once in the New, David is given the title "a man after his [God's] own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14; see also Acts 13:22). And what kind of man was he? Well, among other things, he was first an adulterer with Bathsheba, and then a murderer of her husband Uriah in a cover-up effort (2 Samuel 1). Is that any way for a prophet to behave--especially one so close to the heart of God?
Incidentally, the experiences of Abraham and David have been used in recent times by lapsed Christians to condone polygamy, among other sins. However, the question persists, was Abraham the friend of God and was David a man after God's own heart because of their sins, or rather in spite of them?
Although the prophets were all sinners--and some of them rather lurid ones at that--their sins did not invalidate their prophetic gift!
Jeremiah complained, charging God wrongfully (chaps. 12:1; 15:15-18). Both Jonah (chap. 1:3) and Elijah (1 Kings 19) ran away from duty. And then there was Peter.
Peter denied his Lord three times with foul fishermen's oaths that had not stained his lips for three years. Jesus forgave him, and restored him to the gospel ministry, and even gave him the gift of prophetic inspiration. And did Peter than live a morally impeccable, upright life forever after? He did not.
Peter was subsequently guilty of gross hypocrisy. While with the Gentile Christians he was the epitome of friendship; but on occasions when Jews were present, Peter catered to their narrow chauvinistic prejudices by not according the Gentiles the same warmth of Christian fellowship as he would have in private. In fact, this was such a serious moral issue that the apostle Paul was obliged to rebuke Peter in a rather forthright and public manner (Galatians 2:11-14). And Peter was a prophet.
What about Ellen White? She once wrote, "God and heaven alone are infallible. . . . In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible."
A recent critic reportedly found Ellen White guilty of three sins (if not crimes): (1) she was a literary thief, since he charged that she stole the writings of others; (2) she was a liar, for she allegedly claimed that those writings were from her own pen when they were not; and (3) she and her husband James were held to be shameless, opportunistic exploiters, writing for a guaranteed, captive market for the purpose of enriching their own family fortunes!
Now, for a moment, let us assume that the critics' worst charges about Ellen White are absolutely true. Although these charges have been answered in substantial detail, for the sake of the argument let us momentarily assume the worst. If Ellen White were guilty, as charged, would that invalidate her prophetic gift?
And the answer comes quickly, No--not unless you are willing to invalidate Peter's prophetic gift, Jonah's prophetic gift, Elijah's prophetic gift, Jeremiah's prophetic gift, David's prophetic gift, and Abraham's prophetic gift, among others.
We must be consistent; we must treat Ellen White exactly as we would any prophet of biblical times. If we don't tear out of our Bible the Psalms written by David, the prophecies of Jeremiah and Jonah and the two epistles of Peter, then we have no right to throw out the writings of Ellen White.
History and the Scripture testify that the control of the Holy Spirit over the lives of the prophets did not preclude their freedom to sin; and yet, their sinful acts did not invalidate their prophetic gift!
At this point someone is likely to assert that Peter did not say we have a more sure prophetic life; but rather that we have a more sure prophetic word. What about the words of the prophet?
II. Inerrancy and the Prophet's Prophetic Word
Three categories of "problems" appear when we examine the utterances of the prophets, biblical and modern, in which significant questions have been raised: (1) unfulfilled prophecies; (2) inconsequential errors of minor, insignificant detail; and (3) major errors of substance. Let us examine each successively, in detail.
A. Unfulfilled Prophecies
Some time ago I was holding a series of class lectures and public meetings at one of our educational institutions on the Atlantic seaboard. At the close of the Thursday evening presentation a denominational worker at this school asked if he might speak with me privately. I invited him to my guest room where we conversed for more than an hour.
As soon as he was seated, he began, "I really want to believe in Ellen White as a legitimate, authentic prophet of the Lord." I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was not only deeply sincere, but also deeply concerned as well.
"Fine," I responded. "Is there any impediment to the fulfillment of your wish?"
Without answering my question directly, he went on, "Isn't the fulfillment of predictions one of the Bible's tests of a true prophet?"
"Oh, yes," I smiled. "When I used to teach college prophetic-guidance classes in California and Nigeria, we examined four such tests (1) the words of the 'prophet' under scrutiny must agree with earlier inspired revelations known to have come from the Lord (Isaiah 8:20); (2) the fruitage test must be applied, both the prophet's own life and the lives of those who follow the prophet (Matthew 7:16, 20); (3) the prophet must testify that Jesus was the divine-human incarnate Son of God (1 John 4:1-3); and (4) the predictions of the prophet must come to pass.
"This last test," I told my inquirer, "is twice mentioned in the Old Testament. Jeremiah (chap. 28:9) presents it from the positive perspective: 'When the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him.' And Moses presents it from the negative perspective; 'When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him' (Deuteronomy 18:22)."
"I thought so," my friend said quietly. Then he went on, "Well, what do we do, then, with Ellen White's predictions that never came to pass? For example, I understand that in 1856 she said she was shown a group of our church members at a meeting somewhere. She said that some of them would be 'food for worms,' some would be subjects of the seven last plagues, and some would be alive and translated at the second coming of Christ. Are any of the persons who attended that meeting still alive?"
"Not to my knowledge," I replied. "In fact, the last known survivor died in 1937 at the age of 83. His name was William C. White, and he was a babe in arms at the time his mother, Ellen White, made the prediction."
"That is what I have heard. Well, how do you handle it--in the light of this Biblical test of a prophet--that his prediction must come to pass, and if it doesn't this is evidence that the Lord has not spoken through him?"
"I handle it the same way I handle other unfulfilled prophecies of genuine prophets that appear in the Bible," I replied. "Incidentally, I will deal with this in substantial detail in just a moment. But my policy, when people raise questions about Ellen White's prophetic role, is to go first to the Bible, to see how the situation is resolved there, before I examine Ellen White. You see, I want to see her in the light of the Bible, not the other way around."
And so we began a most interesting study of unfulfilled prophecies by authentic, acknowledged prophets in the Bible. Probably the best known example is Jonah.
After finishing his celebrated "submarine" ride in the belly of the great fish, Jonah went to Nineveh to do the Lord's bidding. Nineveh was a large city; it would take Jonah three days to cover it entirely. His message was as simple as it was stark: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown" (Jonah 3:4). No hope was offered, no compromise, no conditional element.
After delivering the message, Jonah went out of town and found a vantage place where he could witness (and relish) the massacre of his nation's most hated enemies. Jonah despised these people with a passion, for the Assyrians were the most warlike and fearsome of Israel's pagan foes. When they captured Jewish prisoners of war, they flayed them--skinned them alive--to extract every ounce of trauma in torture that they could before they killed the victim. In such instances death, when it came, was a welcome, merciful release. The Jews quite understandably had no love for the Ninevites.
Although there was no hope explicit in the message of Jonah, the Ninevites (who may have had some prior knowledge about Jehovah from hearing other Jewish prophets, or from reading Jewish prophetic writings) decided to mend their ways. They expressed their repentance in the cultural manifestation appropriate to the times--they put on sackcloth and covered themselves with ashes. God beheld it all, and in love and mercy granted them a stay of execution.
Meanwhile, the prophet was becoming more angry by the moment. One suspects that the real cause of this growing irritation was not merely his narrow chauvinistic Jewish loyalty, but rather a fear that word of this new development might get back to Jerusalem before he did.
Jonah may have been more concerned about his professional reputation as a prophet than about the fate of his 120,000 "converts." Instead of wishing them baptized by water, he wanted them incinerated by fire! Perhaps he was afraid that when he got back to Jerusalem the little children playing in the street would chant after him, "Jonah's a false prophet; Jonah's a false prophet." Why? Because his prediction didn't come to pass.
Interestingly, in a footnote to history, we learn that several centuries after this event the Ninevites "repented" of their former repentance (see 2 Corinthians 7:10) and went back to their former ways. God then "repented" of His reprieve, and sent the threatened destruction that Jonah had originally foretold.
But was Jonah proved a "true" prophet 200 years ex post facto? No, not at all. If the Ninevites had never subsequently been destroyed, Jonah would still have been deemed a true prophet, even though his prediction did not come to pass.
How? By the conditional element that exists in some prophecies, either explicitly or implicitly. A clue to this is found as early as 950 B.C. when the prophet Azariah instructed King Asa, "The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you" (2 Chr 15:2).
More to the point, however, is the interesting (and significant) fact, that in both of the biblical books where the test of fulfillment is mandated, this conditional element is also explicitly stated.
Ten chapters before giving the test of fulfillment, Jeremiah mentions this conditional element:
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that is obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them (Jeremiah 18:7-10).
Moses also mentions the conditional element repeatedly in Deuteronomy.
Some have felt that this was a face-saving means of maintaining a prophet's professional reputation in the face of adverse evidence such as nonfulfillment of predictions, but it is not. It is a biblical principle. One does not need an advanced degree in theology to be able to figure out what kind of prophecies are amendable to the conditional element and which are not.
One could cite other biblical examples of unfulfilled prophecies given by authentic, legitimate prophets. The category that comes most quickly to mind is that of a host of predictions made by a half-dozen Old Testament prophets about Israel's national honor and glory--predictions about the worldwide mission of Israel and the ingathering of the Gentiles, eternal rest in Canaan, and deliverance from political enemies.
A few of these predictions were fulfilled, secondarily, through "spiritual Israel" (the Christian church); and some may be fulfilled to Christians ultimately, after sin and sinners are destroyed following the last judgment. Despite these exceptions, the majority of these prophecies were not fulfilled in Bible times, are not being fulfilled today, and never will be fulfilled.
Then do we say that the prophets who made these predictions--notably Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Zephaniah, and Zechariah--were false prophets? No. Nor do we say, as do the Secret Rapture theorists, that these prophecies will be fulfilled in our own time. Indeed, these latter expositors have built a whole theology on the misunderstanding of the conditional element in prophecy, and they posit a last-day fulfillment in order that these Old Testament writers may be proved to be reliable, authentic prophets of the Lord!
A Look at the "Food for Worms" Vision
Let us now come back to Ellen White and the "Food for Worms" vision, to discover the facts in that case. During the latter part of May 1856, a conference in Battle Creek was attended by members and denominational workers of a church which was still four years away from assuming a corporate name. Attendees came to the conference from various parts of the eastern and midwestern parts of the United States and from Canada. The conference opened on Friday afternoon, May 23, and closed on Monday, May 26. On Sabbath the attendance was so large that it was necessary to leave the modest chapel that then served the Adventists and go across the street to a large tent pitched to accommodate the crowd.
On Tuesday morning, May 27, another meeting was held, this time back in the chapel, attended largely by workers who were still in Battle Creek. It was at this service that Mrs. White was taken off in vision, and was shown some of those attending the May 23-26 conference.
The report of this vision is found in Testimonies for the Church, volume 1, pages 127-137, and is still published by the church, although some critics claim that the church tries to hide Mrs. White's unfulfilled predictions.
Incidentally, carefully drawn lists of the names of those in attendance at that conference were compiled by a number of interested parties. Some of these lists still survive in the archives of the Ellen G. White Estate in the General Conference office. The lists were actively circulated among Adventists in earlier days, and J. N. Loughborough tells, in a letter written in 1918, about two ministers, a "Brother Nelson" and George Amadon, who took such a roster to Ellen White in 1905 to see if she could add any names that they had overlooked.
Mrs. White is reported to have said, "What are you doing?" When told the purpose of the list--to show the nearness of Jesus' coming because very few of those attending still survived--Mrs. White asked what use would be made of the list. Brother Nelson responded, "I am going to have copies of it printed and sent out to all of our people."
Mrs. White's instant rejoinder was, "Then you stop right where you are. If they get that list, instead of working to push the Message, they will be watching the Review each week to see who is dead." Loughborough, in telling the story, concluded with the observation that Ellen White objected to using this incident as a "sign of the times." Obviously, she recognized the conditional element in the vision, and the fact that the condition had not then been met by the Seventh-day Adventist church.
Was the conditional element explicit in the angel's testimony to Ellen White in the 1856 vision? No. But then, neither was the conditional element explicit in the testimony of Jonah as he trudged for three days throughout the "exceeding great" city of Nineveh. In both cases, however, the conditional element was implicit.
From as early as 1850 to as late as 1911, Ellen White's writings repeatedly suggest that if the Seventh-day Adventist church had done its job, "the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this."
The conditional element in some prophecy is exhibited both in the Bible and in the writings of Ellen G. White. To accept it in one, but discard it in the other, is inconsistent and irrational.
True, there are some unfulfilled prophecies by authentic, legitimate Bible prophets, but the existence of such prophecies does not necessarily discredit the prophet who made them. There are also unfulfilled prophecies in the writings of Ellen White, and the church has never denied (nor tried to hide) this fact from the public. Those studying the prophetic writings should not ask more of Mrs. White than they would of the Biblical prophets.
B. Inconsequential Errors of Minor Detail
In inspired writings, ancient and modern, there are inconsequential errors of minor, insignificant detail. This is true of the Bible, as well as the writings of Ellen White. Such errors--indeed, all of them added up together--do not affect the direction of God's church, the eternal destiny of one soul, or the purity of any doctrine. That the Holy Spirit could have corrected these minor mistakes, one cannot seriously challenge. He obviously chose not to do so, probably because the error wasn't vital to the message or the purpose of inspiration.
Let us look first at the Bible. As we noted in part 1 of this series, the writer of the first Gospel informs us (in Matthew 27:9, 10) of a Messianic prophecy, written centuries before Christ's birth, which declared that Christ would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. Matthew attributes that prophecy to Jeremiah.
Matthew slipped. The writer was not Jeremiah, but Zechariah (chap. 11:12, 13).
We noted also the slight discrepancies among the four Gospel writers regarding the exact wording of the superscription written by Pilate and placed upon the cross above the head of Christ. Matthew lists Christ's miracles in a different order than does Luke, even as both writers handle the Sermon on the Mount in different ways--Matthew as a sermon outline, Luke as an evangelistic tool to demonstrate the truths taught by Jesus.
Mention might also be made of the fact that Hobab is described as Moses' brother-in-law in Numbers 10:29, while he is identified as Moses' father-in-law in Judges 4:11. The author of 1 Samuel 16:10 and 11 identifies David as the eighth son of Jesse, whereas the author of 1 Chronicles 2:15 says David was the seventh son. Luke 3:36 mentions a Cainan in the genealogy of Jesus, a person not mentioned in Genesis 11:12. Paul's account of the ratification of the first covenant in Hebrews 9:19 is not entirely in harmony with the account in Exodus 24:3-8.
Nor have we exhausted the list of inconsequential errors of minor, insignificant detail. The point we make here is, simply, that the "treasure" of God's good news is conveyed to mankind in "earthen vessels"; and that those earthen vessels--the packaging--contain mistakes, errors, discrepancies, call them what you will--that in no way deny the divine inspiration of the material nor the divine authority behind the messages.
Ellen White is in the same tradition with the Bible writers. The same kinds of minor errors found in Scripture also crop up here and there in her writings. A few were mentioned in the introduction to this presentation. Others could be cited.
Just after the turn of the century a worker in southern California attempted to justify his loss of confidence in the inspiration of the Testimonies because of an inconsistency in an Ellen G. White letter. In this letter Mrs. White spoke of the 40 rooms of the Paradise Valley Sanitarium near San Diego; in actuality there were only 38 rooms. The man apparently believed that if there were any inaccuracies in detail in any writings of one claiming prophetic inspiration, such inaccuracies negated the claim, and his confidence in Ellen White was seriously impaired.
In response, Mrs. White commented:
The information given concerning the number of rooms in the Paradise Valley Sanatarium was given, not as a revelation from the Lord, but simply as a human opinion. There has never been revealed to me the exact number of rooms in any of our sanitariums; and the knowledge I have obtained of such things I have gained by inquiring of those who were supposed to know. . . .
There are times when common things must be stated, common thoughts must occupy the mind, common letters must be written and information given that has passed from one to another of the workers. Such words, such information, are not given under the special inspiration of the Spirit of God.
On June 4, 1906, Ellen White wrote a letter to a brother in the church who had written to her earlier concerning the inspiration of the Testimonies:
In your letter, you speak of your early training to have implicit faith in the testimonies and say, "I was led to conclude and most firmly believe that every word that you ever spoke in public or private, that every letter you wrote under any and all circumstances, was as inspired as the Ten Commandments."
My brother, you have studied my writings diligently, and you have never found that I have made any such claims, neither will you find that the pioneers in our cause have made such claims.
When writing about the St. Bartholomew Massacre in the 1888 edition of The Great Controversy, Mrs. White mentioned in passing that it was the ringing of the bell in the palace of King Charles IX in Paris that was a signal to begin the wanton destruction that cost the lives of tens of thousands of French Huguenot Protestants on August 24, 1572.
After that volume was in print someone questioned the accuracy of her statement, suggesting instead that it may have been the bell in the church of St. Germain, across the street from the palace. Still another said no, it was the bell in the Palace of Justice around the corner from the royal palace!
Ellen White, in the revised 1911 edition of the book, redrafted the statement to read simply, "A bell, tolling in the dead of night, was a signal for the slaughter." The identity of the bell was not the issue; it was the events of that night that were important.
Matthew's mistake in attributing the messianic prophecy of 30 pieces of silver to a wrong source (Jeremiah, instead of Zechariah) was duplicated by Ellen White in a Review and Herald article less than two years before her death. She wrote: "'The love of Christ constraineth us,' the apostle Peter declared." She was, of course, quoting 2 Corinthians 5:14, and the attribution should have been to Paul, not Peter.
Dates present unique problems. In two of her published volumes Mrs. White mentions joining her husband, James, at Wallings Mills, Colorado, on "Monday, August 8," 1878. This was obviously a clerical error, for in that year Monday fell on August 5, not August 8.
Of potentially greater seriousness is another problem in dating, misunderstood by some, and considered by one critic to be an unassailable argument for downgrading the nature and degree of Ellen White's inspiration.
In a postscript to volume 2 of Spiritual Gifts, Ellen White wrote this rather unusual statement and appeal: "A special request is made that if any find incorrect statements in this book they will immediately inform me. The edition will be completed about the first of October; therefore send before that time."
Can you imagine, exclaims one critic, the apostle Paul putting a postscript on one of his epistles telling the members of that church that if they found anything wrong in the epistle that they should write back to him before it was printed and sent out to all the churches?
How is this unusual statement to be understood?
First, volume 2 of Spiritual Gifts was an autobiographical account of the experiences of James and Ellen White from 1844 to 1860. The twofold purpose in writing this work was explained in the preface to the book (and therefore was quite likely overlooked by the critic; apparently very few people read the preface of any book!):
1. Ellen White wished, quite simply, to refute charges of Mormonism, which had been made especially in the "west." In March 1860, a man in Knoxville, Iowa, claimed to have known James and Ellen White 20 years earlier when they allegedly were leaders of the Mormon colony at Nauvoo, Illinois. (Twenty years earlier Ellen White was an unmarried girl of 12; she would not even meet James White for at least another five years!)
2. Ellen White also wished to confirm the faith of the believers. Some 16 years had now elapsed since 1844. There was now fruitage evident in the lives of others as well as in the lives of James and Ellen White. The last ten pages of this particular volume are filled with personal testimonies from different Adventist believers regarding the accuracy of the statements made in the text concerning her physical condition in vision, her healings from illness, the nature of the heresies the Whites encountered in the early days, in addition to the refutation of slanders made against the leadership.
Further along in the preface is this clue explaining the rather odd request for reporting "incorrect statements":
In preparing the following pages, I have labored under great disadvantages, as I have to depend in many instances, on memory, having kept no journal [diary] till within a few years. In several instances I have sent the manuscripts to friends who were present when the circumstances related occurred, for their examination before they were put in print. I have taken great care, and have spent much time, in endeavoring to state the simple facts as correctly as possible.
In writing this autobiographical account Mrs. White relied for dates largely on letters retrieved from the Stockbridge Howland family of Topsham, Maine. They had kept her child Henry for five years while Ellen journeyed with her husband James. Ellen had written the Howlands frequently as she and her husband itinerated from place to place.
Possible evidence that the odd request bore fruit is the fact that two dates appearing in Spiritual Gifts, volume 2, were altered in parallel historical accounts from the pen of Mrs. White in later publications:
In the earlier account of the first series of William Miller's prophetic lectures in Portland, Maine, the date is given simply as 1839, and the date of the second series was given simply as 1841.
A later parallel account, however, amends the dates for the first series to March 1840, and the second series to June 1842. The two-year interregnum is preserved in the later accounts, but the dates are adjusted by one year in each instance.
Ellen White certainly was not asking any reader to correct a message she had received from the Lord! It is therefore incorrect to give that impression, as some critics have done.
Perhaps one more example of the "earthen vessel" imperfections in the "packaging" of the prophetic message will suffice to show that Ellen White (like the Bible writers before her) was thoroughly human, and subject to simple mistakes the Holy Spirit never bothered to correct (although He easily could have):
Ellen White conducted a continuing correspondence with a colporteur named Walter Harper for more than a score of years. In one letter she asked to borrow one thousand dollars, offering him four to five percent interest over the period of the loan (while banks at that time were offering only three to four percent--more evidence against the "exploitation" charge).
On November 9, 1906, Mrs. White wrote Brother Harper in a state of great agitation. Her embarrassment and discomfiture are all too evident; they drip from nearly every line on the page!
Harper had written for a copy of a testimony which Ellen White had originally sent to General Conference President George I. Butler and which apparently was already well known generally in the field. It was not uncommon for these kinds of quasi-public letters to be circulated freely among church members at large at that time.
After the letter had been dispatched, Mrs. White discovered to her consternation that she had sent the wrong letter! In writing to Colporteur Harper she first reminds him that what she sent him was "my special personal property," and then she asks for its immediate return, instructing him not to make the matter public, and if it has already been seen by other eyes such individuals should be instructed in the importance of confidentiality.
She concludes by instructing Brother Harper not even to make a personal copy of the letter before he returns it, telling him that she has, now, the letter she originally intended to send him.
Although obviously embarrassed by the mistake, she does not hesitate to speak of "what I have done in mistake," admitting (as she always did when asked directly) that she was human, and subject to the frailties of human nature.
Inspiration's "more-sureness" did not extend (as the "strait-jacket" theory would erroneously suggest) to precluding the prophet's making of minor errors. Only when such errors would materially affect (a) the direction of God's church, (b) the eternal destiny of one soul, or (c) the purity of a doctrine, would the Holy Spirit step in to correct the situation immediately through the prophet, so that there would be no permanent damage.
C. Major Matters of Substance
On occasion the prophets, ancient and modern, did make major mistakes that needed the immediate correction of the Holy Spirit. Probably the most prominent example in Scripture is the incident recorded in both 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17.
One day King David called in Nathan, a literary but noncanonical prophet, to tell him of his concern over the lack of a suitable building to house the ark of the covenant and other liturgical furniture of the Jewish ceremonial ritual, which dated back to Sinai and the Mosaic tabernacle tent.
In what was probably an expansive mood, David suggests that an appropriate building be constructed, especially since the king himself now lives in a luxurious palace. Perhaps he indicated that this building, worthy of the worship of Jehovah, be on such a scale of magnificence that any Gentile traveling within a hundred miles of Jerusalem would detour just to see this wonder of the ancient world.
Nathan, perhaps thinking of the tremendous cost of such an edifice, and possibly having some misgivings about the prospect that he might be asked to lead out in a fund-raising campaign, displayed some reticence. And quite possibly David, sensing that reticence, suggested further that he, the king, would pay the entire cost out of his royal treasury.
At any rate, Nathan now becomes as enthusiastic as the monarch; and gives his wholehearted approval of the project.
That night, when Nathan was back in his home, God came to him and told him, in effect, that he had not properly represented Jehovah's will when he gave the prophet's cachet to the king's proposal. Nathan should have checked with "headquarters" first before endorsing the project.
Nathan was instructed to go back to the king the next day and tell the monarch that God appreciated the generosity which prompted such a magnificent plan, but that it was not God's will for the temple to be built by David. Instead, it would be Solomon's temple, for David had been a man of war, a man of bloodshed. David could draw the blueprints and specifications, he could hire the contractors and artisans, and he could even provide the money to pay for it. But it would be Solomon's temple, not David's.
Nathan, probably somewhat abashed, manfully returned to the king the next day to tell him of the heavenly amendments to the royal plan. And David, "a man after his [God's] own heart," concurred and said, "so be it." And so it was.
In more modern times, God's most recent prophet of record, Ellen White, had several experiences in which she took positions contrary to the will of God, and the situation was sufficiently serious for God to intervene to correct the matter, again working through the prophet to accomplish that end.
One such incident was the resolution of the question of the correct time to begin observance of the Sabbath. Seventh-day Adventists originally learned of the seventh-day Sabbath through the labors of Seventh Day Baptist adherents, who observed the day from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. Some Seventh-day Adventists followed the example of the Seventh Day Baptists in this sunset-to-sunset observance.
Three other positions were also taken by Seventh-day Adventists: (1) Some in Maine advocated a sunrise Saturday to sunrise Sunday observance, based upon a misunderstanding of Matthew 28:1 ("In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week"). (2) Some "legalists" held out for "legal" time--midnight to midnight. (3) And a third group held for "equatorial time." On the equator the sun daily rises at 6:00 a.m. and sets at 6:00 p.m. Captain Joseph Bates was the leader of this group, and he had strong support from both James and Ellen White for his position.
The sunrise group was taken care of comparatively early, for in vision on one occasion Ellen White heard the angel quote from Leviticus 23:32, "From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath." Most Seventh-day Adventists, however, continued to follow equatorial time.
In the summer of 1855 James White requested John Nevins Andrews, one of our earliest scholars, to research the subject. His conclusions were presented to the General Conference session in Battle Creek in November of that year. On the basis of nine Old Testament texts and two New Testament texts, Andrews demonstrated that, for the purpose of the immediate discussion, "even" and "evening" were synonymous with sunset.
Nearly all attending the conference accepted the Andrews conclusion. But the redoubtable Captain Bates held fast to his equatorial time theory. And Ellen White (who first learned of the Sabbath from Bates) sided with her mentor. The conference was thus left divided and in confusion.
God moved quickly. As this General Conference session drew toward its close, those present united in a season of earnest prayer for the prosperity of the cause, and during this prayer meeting Ellen White was taken off in vision and shown that sunset was the correct time to begin the observance of the Sabbath. Nearly everyone accepted the light from heaven, and the spiritual gift of prophecy again produced its fruit of unity.
It was clear to everyone at the conference that God was speaking and leading, for Ellen White was not now merely repeating her personal, previously held views. And the function of the Spirit of prophecy in the life and work of the church again was illustrated in this experience. For the gift of prophecy was never given to initiate, but rather to confirm and corroborate whether the church members were headed in the right direction on the basis of their Bible study, or to correct and redirect, if they had gone as far as they could and were headed in the wrong direction.
Another incident in which Ellen White had to reverse an earlier position had to do with the proposed closing of Southern Publishing Association in 1902.
Ellen White returned from nine years' service in Australia in 1900 and located in the Napa Valley at an estate called "Elmshaven" near St. Helena, California. In 1901 she left early to attend the General Conference session, which would open April 2 at Battle Creek, traveling by way of Nashville, Tennessee, where her son Edson had begun a new private publishing enterprise. A shoestring operation, the printshop was first housed in a chicken house/barn, and was subsequently relocated in town in March 1900.
On the day the GC session opened, Ellen White penned "An Appeal for the Southern Work." She spoke of the need for schools, sanitariums, and a publishing house where books could be produced for use by denominational workers in the south. She spoke of Edson's limited operation, and urged the brethren to take it over since a larger building was necessary for the kind of program she envisioned.
This counsel to establish and equip a large publishing house was one of the first perplexities to confront Arthur G. Daniells, newly elected president of the General Conference. The church already had two publishing ventures, one in Battle Creek and one in Oakland, California. Both were in a state of "marked depression," there being little demand for our literature at this time (there were only a few colporteurs in the field, and these were experiencing only average success). In fact, both publishing houses were taking in a substantial volume of commercial printing in order to maintain solvency.
The GC Committee felt the time was not opportune to take on a third house when the other two were barely functioning on half-time, and that such a move would serve only to drive all three houses further into commercial work.
But Daniells had complete confidence in Ellen White's vision, for he had worked with her in Australia during the 1890s, and he persuaded the committee to ratify Heaven's plan.
Then Mrs. White further complicated the situation for church leadership by urging the discontinuance of all commercial work at all of our publishing houses. This would mean closing half of the presses and dismissing half of the employees, and some members on the committee began to wonder out loud if the prophet (now 74 years of age) might not be suffering from senility. Some even felt the messages on the publishing work were not really inspired of God.
At the end of the year Daniells went to Nashville for the first annual meeting of the board of Southern Publishing Association, only to discover that during the first year of operation the house had lost $12,000, equivalent to the original capital invested in the venture! He was assured that they had now turned the corner; but at the end of the second year, and at the end of the third, the plant regularly continued to lose $1,000 a month.
An investigative commission was appointed. It visited Nashville, and returned with the recommendation that the printing equipment be sold to a junk dealer (the machinery was secondhand and "broken-down" when purchased, and they feared the boiler would explode at any moment) and that the "publishing" house be downgraded to a depository where books printed at the other two plants could temporarily be stored until needed by colporteurs.
The GC Committee still deferred to its prophet, and sent a small delegation to Elmshaven to present the hard facts to Mrs. White and receive (they hoped) her approval of their stop-gap plan to salvage the new publishing house.
Meeting with Daniells and Ellen White were: W. T. Knox, president of the newly-organized Pacific Union Conference (in 1909 he would be elected treasurer of the General Conference); W. C. White, the prophet's son, traveling companion, and confidant; A. T. Jones, president of the California Conference (he would later defect and join John Harvey Kellogg in Battle Creek against Ellen White's counsel); J. O. Corliss, a minister in California at the time who had pioneered the work in Australia with both the prophet and Daniells; E. R. Palmer, secretary of the General Conference; and Clarence Crisler, formerly Daniells' private secretary and now stenographer to Ellen White.
Ellen White listened in silence to the tragic litany of failure reported by the brethren. She was deeply grieved and perplexed, undoubtedly in part because it was her son who had started the program, and because she had given her personal backing to the denomination's taking it over in an expansion program.
Perhaps the committee members reminded her of her recently published counsel:
As church schools are established, the people of God will . . . learn how to conduct the school on a basis of financial success. If this cannot be done, close the school until, with the help of God, plans can be devised to carry it on without the blot of debt upon it. . . . We should shun debt as we should shun the leprosy.
Mrs. White finally spoke. She agreed that the publishing house must be put on a sound financial basis. "If it cannot, it had better be closed." Pressed for a solution she did not have, Mrs. White finally conceded that the publishing house should be turned into a depository.
Daniells, fortified by Crisler with a transcript of Mrs. White's written words in his pocket, boarded the train for Battle Creek, greatly relieved. He promptly called the GC Committee into session upon his return, and they as promptly voted the publishing house out of existence as a printer of literature, and then turned their attention to other, more pressing concerns.
A few days later a bombshell exploded in the form of a follow-up letter from Mrs. White. She now counseled not closing the printing operation at Nashville, but rather recommended that the brethren lay plans to prevent further indebtedness and move forward in faith; if the Lord's counsel were followed, He would give success. With some embarrassment, undoubtedly, she said that the instruction she had given to the committee of visiting brethren was wrong. The very night after the meeting the Lord had given her a vision, showing her she was wrong, and telling her what course should actually be pursued.
On October 20, the day after the committee met under the large oak tree on the lawn at Elmshaven, Ellen White wrote A. G. Daniells:
Last night I seemed to be in the operating room of a large hospital, to which people were being brought, and instruments were being prepared to cut off their limbs in a big hurry. One came in who seemed to have authority, and said to the physicians, "Is it necessary to bring these people into this room?" Looking pityingly at the sufferers, he said, "Never amputate a limb until everything possible has been done to restore it." Examining the limbs which the physicians had been preparing to cut off, he said, "they may be saved. The first work is to use every available means to restore these limbs. What a fearful mistake it would be to amputate a limb that could be saved by patient care! Your conclusions have been too hastily drawn. Put these patients in the best rooms in the hospital, and give them the very best of care and treatment. Use every means in your power to save them from going through life in a crippled condition, their usefulness damaged for life."
The sufferers were removed to a pleasant room, and faithful helpers cared for them under the speaker's direction; and not a limb had to be sacrificed.
In a letter written several weeks later, addressed to "My Brethren in Positions of Responsibility," Mrs. White pointed out that
During the night following our interview in my house and out on the lawn under the trees, October 19, 1902, in regard to the work in the Southern field, the Lord instructed me that I had taken a wrong position.
The prophet had erred, and the error was sufficiently serious to warrant the Holy Spirit's stepping in immediately and correcting it so that there would be no permanent damage.
We do have a "more sure word of prophecy." If the prophet in his or her humanity errs, and the error is sufficiently serious to affect the direction of the church, the eternal destiny of a member, or the purity of a doctrine, God moves in immediately through the prophet, to correct the error so that there is no permanent damage!
One other instance of Ellen White's reversing herself and her position comes to mind in connection with the premature issuance of her Testimony No. 11. The brethren were trying to raise money to launch Battle Creek Sanitarium, and they knew that Ellen White had had a vision on the subject. They felt, logically, that if they could use her counsels in marshaling their arguments on behalf of the sanitarium, they could more quickly raise the funds they so desperately needed.
So they pressured Mrs. White to bring out Testimony No. 11 before she was prepared to hand it over to the printer. She acceded reluctantly to their importunings, but later regretted it; and in Testimony No. 12, which followed shortly, she publicly admitted that "under these circumstances I yielded my judgment to that of others and wrote what appeared in No. 11 in regard to the Health Institute, being unable then to give all I had seen. In this I did wrong."
Elaborating, she said, "What appeared in Testimony No. 11 . . . should not have been given until I was able to write out all I had seen in regard to it."
A comparison of No. 11 and No. 12 shows a slight (but perhaps significant) shift in her theological position with regard to the relationship between health reform and the third angel's message.
In No. 11 she wrote: "The health reform, I was shown, is a part of the third angel's message and is just as closely connected with it as are the arm and hand with the human body." In No. 12 she wrote: "The health reform is closely connected with the work of the third message, yet it is not the message."
Concerning this undue pressure from church leaders, Ellen White vowed never again to be forced into an untenable position of writing on any subject before she felt ready:
I must be allowed to know my own duty better than others can know it for me, especially concerning matters which God has revealed to me. I shall be blamed by some for speaking as I now speak. Others will blame me for not speaking before. . . . Should I delay longer to speak my views and feelings, I should be blamed the more by both those who think I should have spoken sooner and by those also who may think I should not give any cautions. For the good of those at the head of the work, for the good of the cause and the brethren, and to save myself great trials, I have freely spoken.
What do Seventh-day Adventists say, then, about the infallibility and inerrancy of the prophets? "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter."
The Bible writers themselves were not infallible men. However, the Holy Spirit who inspired them was infallible. Their revelations ("this treasure") came directly from an infallible God. These inspired men communicated the message as fallible men, using imperfect human language ("earthen vessels") as the medium of that communication.
With regard to Ellen White, the question was raised while she was still alive, "Do Seventh-day Adventists regard Sister White as infallible?"
The question was answered in the pages of the Review and Herald in 1883 by W. H. Littlejohn in a succinct, forthright statement:
No. Neither do they believe that Peter or Paul was infallible. They believe that the Holy Spirit which inspired Peter and Paul was infallible. They believe also that Mrs. White has from time to time received revelations from the Spirit of God, and that revelations made to her by the Spirit of God are just as reliable as revelations made by the same Spirit to other persons.
The Seventh-day Adventist denomination today still holds that Ellen White was reliable, trustworthy, and authoritative as a prophet of the Lord.
The Adventist church maintains that she was inspired in the same manner, and to the same degree, as the prophets of the Bible; and yet, paradoxically, the church holds also that we do not make her writings another Bible, nor do we even consider them an addition to the sacred canon of Scripture.
The explication of this position more fully in a discussion of "the proper relationship of the writings of Ellen G. White to the Scriptures" will be the subject of part 3 of this series.
With Peter one may declare with courage and confidence, "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 drawn, and the day star arise in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19).