Friday, February 27, 2009

The Trilemma of Sister White

The Trilemma of Sister White

“Don Quijote de la Mancha” was a book written hundreds of years ago by a man called Miguel de Cervantes – considered by many the Spanish Shakespeare. Cervantes allegedly started writing Don Quijote while in jail for financial discrepancies in his tax collecting account. In his years in jail, disillusioned with his government and with time to meditate, he wrote the novel that became a classic. The story follows a man who has lost his mind and believes he is a knight. In his delusion he goes out to save his imaginary damsel in distress called Dulcinea accompanied by a servant called Sancho Panza. As he searches for her he looks at the windmills and he imagines them to be giants. He sets out to attack them in spite of Sancho’s now famous saying, “Don Quijote those are not giants they are windmills!” Some scholars now believe that Cervantes saw himself as Sancho Panza faithfully following a “lunatic” king.

Someone studied the life of Jesus and concluded that there are only three possibilities with Jesus. He is either: a liar (conman), a lunatic or He is the risen Christ, the Lord of all Creation, the Alpha and the Omega, the King of Kings. The lesson quotes Clifford Goldstein concluding the same thing about Ellen G White. This is what he says about it,

“Ellen White made claims about her ministry that leave no room for compromise or ambivalence about those claims. She claimed to have seen things that could have come only from supernatural inspiration. Either her claims are true or she was a lunatic and/or a powerful liar who promulgated her insane ravings or amazing deceptions from the middle of the nineteenth into the second decade of the twentieth century.”

Why would Clifford Goldstein write that? Because, millions of the world population have believed what this woman has claimed to be: inspired. And, this we have believed for more than 160 years. So there are three options: She was who she said she was, we are all fools, or we are all Sancho Panza’s.

So what do we do with all the evidence? We have all the visions, and witnesses to them. We also have all the books and articles written by a woman that barely had a grade school education. She predicted things that have come true even to this day. She also revealed things about people that no one else knew. How do you explain all that? It had to be supernatural, even divine.

But, a mere intellectual acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God and man, or that Sister White was indeed a divinely inspired prophet will do nothing for us. Only the belief of Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior will save you. Likewise with Sister White writings, only accepting them as God’s message to you and you heeding to them will make a difference. Do her writings lead you to repentance or criticizing others? Do her writings lead you to study scripture or to ignore or reject them? Do her writings lead you to a more loving and fulfilling relationships with Christ or not? All this requires faith.

The author of Hebrews wrote that “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). And what is faith? “… faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). A mere belief is not enough, because as James says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).

Now, Paul says “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). This can mean that faith is what can happen when you hear the word of God, be it from the Bible or Sister White. Faith is the favorable response of heeding a warning that the path we are pursuing is sinful, and we are in need of repentance. You know that little cherished sin that she warns against in her writings. It does not seem harmful and we are unwilling to let go.

Part of having faith is, believing in what we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). We can not see where will this little cherished will eventually lead us, but the invisible God does. We also cannot see where heeding God’s warning will lead us, but the invisible God does. So, when we have faith, we hear then we believe what we hear and follow it, even if it defies all worldly logic and wisdom. So the question is how are we responding? This will determine whether we have faith or not.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Avoiding The Two Extremes

Avoiding The Two Extremes

The lesson says 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. This is said to be a conclusion derived from a statement prepared by an ad hoc committee of the General Conference on the relationship between the Bible and Ellen G. White. It is true that it is perhaps to easy to fall on either extreme.

As we read part of this statement - the one quoted below - many of us will think of people that fall partially or in total opposition to the following portion of the statement. (Maybe it is us that fall in this category.)

"(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."

On the one hand, Sister White said many times that her writings point toward the (Colporteur Ministry, p. 125; Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 663, 664 ). In fact, she says that her ministry would not be needed if people studied the Scriptures*. On the other hand, all her writings have been tested against the standard which is,

Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

We can safely say that we do not have to "… despise [her] prophecies". We have tested them all; and held fast to them because they are good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 NKJV).

Since Ellen White was inspired then what she wrote or spoke did not come by her own will, but she spoke or wrote as she was moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Since her writings are inspired then they are also "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.

How can we have a correct understanding of the inspiration and authority of the writings of Ellen White? Is it any different than doing it with the Bible? Can we do this on our own?

Paul says 1 Corinthians 2:14 that "…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can have a correct understanding of the Bible. This is also true with Sister White's writings (or any other prophet).

Friday, February 06, 2009

Testing the Prophecy

Testing the Prophecy

There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, "Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!" The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces. "Don't cry 'wolf', shepherd boy," said the villagers, "When there's no wolf!" They went grumbling back down the hill. Later, the boy sang out again, "Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!" To his naughty delight, he watched the villagers run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away. When the villagers saw no wolf they sternly said, "Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don't cry 'wolf' when there is NO wolf!" But the boy just grinned and watched them go grumbling down the hill once more. Later, he saw a REAL wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, "Wolf! Wolf!" But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn't come. At sunset, everyone wondered why the shepherd boy hadn't returned to the village with their sheep. They went up the hill to find the boy. They found him weeping. "There really was a wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, "Wolf!" Why didn't you come?" An old man tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the village. "We'll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning," he said, putting his arm around the youth, "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!" This means that liars can tell the truth. So there is a danger in judging what is said by the person who says it. Perhaps we should spend more effort testing what is said instead of testing who says it.

This seems to be the emphasis of 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 NKJV

20 Do not despise prophecies.
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.

It does not say test the prophets, but test the prophecies. This also seems to be what is stressed on Isaiah 8:20 NKJV

20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

The emphasis here is on what they say, if it does not agree with “the law and the testimony,” then there is no light in them. (This text also tells what the criteria are for testing the prophecy.)

A prominent Rabbi was given one of Ellen G. White books to read: Patriarchs and Prophets. After reading it he was convinced that she had to be inspired. He knew nothing of her or any other of her writings. He knew nothing of her life and her hardships. He knew nothing of her vision episodes. But, he believed that Sister White had to be led by God to write this book, because she wrote the book in an ancient style that was unknown in her time and only discovered years after her death. To this Rabbi only God could do something like that. This Rabbi knew the “law and the testimony.” He tested Sister White’s writings against this standard. He found that it was good – therefore of God, so he held fast to it.

As with this rabbi, many recipients of prophecy in the Bible did not know the prophet and heeded his message believing it was the Word of God. (Consider the Ninevites with Jonah). Others who knew the prophets all along rejected the message. As Jesus said in Matthew 13:57, “… A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” So, as we can see in the end is not about the prophet, but about who sent the prophet. It is not about the life of the prophet, but about the death of Christ.

In the end, no matter who God sends the issue is, do we believe the message? Do we have the faith, belief and trust in God as the Ninevites had. They knew nothing of Jonah, but they did not despise the prophecy, they tested it, found it good, and held fast to it and repented. Are we?