SDA Doctrine versus Bible Truth: Ellen White
In brief, SDAs...
- Believe Ellen White was a true prophet of God
SDA Doctrine about Ellen White
Seventh-day Adventists teach the following about Ellen White:
1. Ellen G. White plays a central role in the SDA Church. One of the "27 Fundamental Beliefs" of the SDA Church is that Ellen White manifested the gift of prophecy and her writings are "authoritative" for the sect:
"18. 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. (Joel 2:28, 29; Acts 2:14-21; Heb. 1:1-3; Rev. 12:17; 19:10.)"
SDAs have two "inspired" sources of truth: The Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, which they refer to as the Spirit of Prophecy. SDAs say that the Bible is their primary source of guidance. It is called the "greater light." As recently as 2005, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists reaffirmed in a statement entitled "Resolution on the Spirit of Prophecy" that Mrs. White's writings contain "divine counsel" and are a source of "guidance, instruction, correction" for the SDA Church. Mrs. White's writings, although much more voluminous than the Bible writings, are referred to as the "lesser light."
2. Revelation 12:17 provides two identifying marks of the true remnant church in the last days:
- They keep the "Commandments of God", including the fourth commandment to keep the Sabbath holy.
- They have the "faith of Jesus" which Revelation 19:10 identifies as the "Spirit of Prophecy."
The Spirit of Prophecy was manifested in the life and writings of Ellen G. White. Therefore, the SDA Church is the only church that has the identifying marks of the remnant church of Revelation.
"The Bible assures us that the gift of prophecy will be active in the last days of this earth's history. It says the church will possess all the spiritual gifts, including the "testimony of Jesus," which is the "spirit of prophecy," or the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 1:4-47; Rev. 12:17; 19:10)
"Seventh-day Adventists believe that the gift of prophecy was manifested in the life and work of Ellen G. White, one of the early leaders of the church."2
Baptismal candidates in the SDA Church must pledge allegiance to the belief that the "gift of prophecy" is an identifying mark of the remnant church:
"I accept the Biblical teaching of spiritual gifts, and believe that the gift of prophecy is one of the identifying marks of the remnant church. ... I accept that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the remnant church of Bible prophecy."3
3. According to SDA leaders, the writings of Ellen G. White are "inspired" by the Holy Spirit in the same way as the Biblical authors were inspired.
ADVENTIST REVIEW: "As Samuel was a prophet to Israel in his day, as Jeremiah was a prophet to Israel in the day of captivity, as John the Baptist came as a special messenger of the Lord to prepare the way of Christ's appearing, so we believe that Mrs. White was a prophet to the church of Christ today. And the same as the messages of the prophets were received in old days, so her messages should be received at present times."4
RON GRAYBILL (Associate Secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate): "The quality of inspiration of Ellen White is equal to that of the Bible writers..."5
KENNETH WOOD (Editor of Review): "Ellen G. White was inspired in the same sense as were the Bible prophets."6
DON NEUFELD (Associate editor of Review): "She was inspired by God as were the Biblical writers..."7
ROBERT OLSON (Secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate): "I believe that both Ellen G. White and the Apostle Paul were true prophets who wrote under the influence of the Holy Spirit. My reason for believing in the inspiration of one is identical with my reason for believing in the inspiration of the other."8
MINISTRY MAGAZINE: "We believe the revelation and inspiration of both the Bible and Ellen White's writings to be of equal quality. The superintendence of the Holy Spirit was just as careful and thorough in one case as in the other."9
Mrs. White referred to her own writings as the "Spirit of Prophecy" and taught that they were inspired:
"The Holy Ghost is the Author of the Scriptures and of the Spirit of Prophecy."10
Problems with the SDA Doctrine of Ellen White
1. Having two sources of inspiration has proven to be a great challenge for the SDA Church. While it is claimed that Mrs. White's writings bring unity to the church, quite the opposite is true. There has been an endless debate within the SDA Church about just how inspired Ellen White's writings are. Some claim the quality of inspiration is the same as for the Bible. Meanwhile, others take the opposite view, that her writings are uninspired. In between the two extremes there are plenty of differing viewpoints, even among sect leaders. There is so much variance that it becomes confusing to understand exactly how inspired SDAs believe Mrs. White's writings to be. There are continual battles over which of her teachings should be obeyed, and which of her testimonies it is safe to ignore.
Many difficulties arise because some of Mrs. White's statements contradict the Bible, contradict known science, and even contradict each other. Wars are constantly raging behind the scenes regarding these statements, and many people have departed the sect because these contradictions could not be resolved in a meaningful way.
2. Seventh-day Adventists use Revelation 12:17 to identify their church as the remnant: "Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." They claim that one of the identifying marks of the remnant church is obedience to the Ten Commandments, including the Fourth Commandment. This restriction would remove the majority of Christian churches from being identified as the remnant. However, there are still over 500 Christian denominations and groups that keep the seventh day Sabbath. So, the second "identifying mark" in Revelation 12:17 is the "faith of Jesus," which SDAs claim to be the "spirit of prophecy" from Revelation 19:10. SDAs claim they are unique in being the only Sabbath-keeping group with a prophet, although other Sabbath-keeping groups, such as the Shepherd's Rod and the Branch Davidians also claim to have prophets.
The entire SDA theology of identifying themselves as the "remnant church" is built upon a literal English translation of Greek words in Revelation 19:10: "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." SDAs read this as: "the testimony of Jesus is Ellen White's writings." While Mrs. White's writings do, in some instances, testify of Jesus, so do the writings of many other Christian authors. SDAs say that what sets Mrs. White's writings apart from all others is that her writings carry the inspiration of a prophet. They claim she received her message from visions and dreams. However, SDAs have difficulty pointing to any "new light" in her writings that was not already known, preached, and taught by those around her. Furthermore, they admit that large parts of her writings were actually plagiarized or copied from other Christian authors.
In reality, the "Spirit of Prophecy" in Revelation 19:10 is referring to the prophetic spirit manifested by the Apostles and recorded in the New Testament. While the KJV captures the literal translation of Revelation 19:10, modern translations do a much better job of capturing the essence of the point being made in the verse. Notice how the passage is emphasizing Jesus and His relationship to prophecy:
For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus. (New Living Translation)
For the substance (essence) of the truth revealed by Jesus is the spirit of all prophecy [the vital breath, the inspiration of all inspired preaching and interpretation of the divine will and purpose, including both mine and yours]. (Amplified Bible)
The message about Jesus is the spirit that gives all prophecy. (New Century Version)
For those who speak for Jesus are led in what to say as the early preachers were led. (New Life Version)
What Jesus taught is the very heart of prophecy. (NIV, Reader's Version)
Those who tell about Jesus have the spirit of a prophet. (Worldwide English)
Everyone who tells about Jesus does it by the power of the Spirit. (Contemporary English Version)
Any believer in Christ who has the New Testament has the "testimony of Jesus." For a deeper study on the meaning of the "testimony of Jesus," click here.
Bible Truth about Ellen White
All Christian churches have the Testimony of Jesus (Spirit of Prophecy)
The Testimony of Jesus does not single out the SDA sect as the true church. All Christian churches that use the New Testament have the "Testimony of Jesus." John had the "testimony of Jesus" in the first century, which he recorded in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1:2,9). How could Ellen White be the "Testimony of Jesus" when John already had the "Testimony of Jesus" in the first century? The Apostles were "eyewitnesses" to Jesus and testified of Him in the New Testament (Luke 1:2, 2 Peter 1:16). The New Testament is the true testimony of Jesus from those who were actually eyewitnesses of His majesty. Therefore, the remnant church holds onto the inspired writings of the New Testament, not Ellen White.
The importance of testing the prophets
The Bible commands believers to "test" the prophets to determine whether or not they are sent by God (see 1 John 4:1). Mrs. White penned over 100,000 pages of writings, so there is plenty to test. The Bible provides seven specific tests of a prophet and much research has been undertaken to determine whether or not Mrs. White passed those Biblical tests. The weight of that collective evidence indicates that Mrs. White failed most of the seven Biblical tests of a prophet. The evidence is far too extensive to properly cover in this format, so please click on the following link to examine the evidence for yourself: Ellen White and the Biblical Tests of a Prophet.
Here is a summary of the main criticisms of Ellen White:
- Her visions contain falsehoods. Her visions about future events have proven inaccurate. Some of her visions contain knowledge obtained from others. There are natural explanations for the feats she is said to have performed while in vision.
- Her writings contain superstitions, fables, myths, falsehoods, and absurdities. Her writings contradict science, history, and common sense.
- Her visions taught a shut door of salvation. She taught from her visions that a door of probation was closed in 1844 against all non-SDAs. The SDA Church and Ellen White later backed away from this position and tried to hide the earlier visions showing a shut door of salvation.
- Her health visions contain falsehoods and extremes, and thus they cannot be from God.
Her health teachings contradict known scientific facts and contain knowledge primarily obtained from other health reformers.
- Her writings contradict the Bible at times, and are inconsistent with Biblical historical facts. In addition, she frequently adds to the Bible.
- She copied extensively from others while denying she did so. It would appear that all the major thoughts and ideas in her writings were derived from others. She copied both truths and falsehoods into her writings.
- Her writings contain confusing and contradictory statements.
To study an extensive list of questions and answers regarding Ellen G. White click here.
1. Belief #18 of the "27 Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists". Quote was taken from the SDA web site http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/fundamental/index.html on Nov. 30, 2007.
2. E. Harold Roy, Th.D., Twenty-seven Points (Hour of Prophecy, 1996), 86.
3. Official Seventh-day Adventist Baptismal Vows, #8 and #13. Quote was taken from http://www.bible.ca/cr-SDA.htm on Nov. 30, 2007.
4. Review & Herald, October 4, 1928.
5. Ronald Graybill, Associate Secretary of the White Estate in a talk given at Southern Missionary College, Sep. 27, 1980.
6. Kenneth H. Wood, Review, Sep. 4, 1980, 15.
7. Don Neufeld, What Ellen White Has Meant to Me, 157.
8. Robert Olson, What Ellen White Has Meant to Me, 165.
9. Ministry, October 1981.
10. Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 3, 30. More claims that Mrs. White made about her own writings can be found here.