Ellen White, Inspiration and Christmas


Ellen White, Inspiration and Christmas

By Jaymark Molo

“Not again.” Some would sigh of complaint. I feel the same sentiment for those who have already made up their minds regarding this issue. Much has been discussed in my previous work and they are requested to read it all over again if they want to.[1] However, another pertinent issue has been put on the table regarding Christmas and this has something to do with nature of inspiration of Ellen White with regards specifically to her comments on Adventist Home (AH), chap. 77, under the sub section, “Christmas.”

The question of this short article is not primarily: “How much of the writings of Ellen White are inspired?” But it specifically seeks to answer the contention whether the AH (chapter 77) is inspired by God or not.

1. Another Course to Take. Since the Bible is not necessarily against tradition, but only to unbiblical traditions. We are delighted to hear what Ellen White says about Christmas. Fortunately, her writings supports that there is no problem celebrating Christmas as long as materialism is denounced and Christ becomes the supreme object.[2] Since this a plain reading of the writings of EGW, some have found difficulty accepting this position due to apparent paganistic root.

Now this presents an insurmountable dilemma for those who accept the writings of EGW as inspired and yet hold the position that Christmas has no place for the life of Christians. For they are force to take either of the following positions: (A) Christmas has paganistic roots but Ellen White find it no problem endorsing it as long as Christ becomes the centre of the celebration. (B) Christmas has paganistic roots and Ellen White erred with regards to this topic for she is: (1) fallible, (2) her writings on AH are not inspired. [3] Position A is less likely true because that would put Ellen White under trial for endorsing paganism. That would reasonably disqualify her as a genuine prophet. Not unless the real issue is materialism, not paganism. Position B seems veritable course for others and this has become popular nowadays.[4]

2. Inspired or Not: AH chapter 77. This issue is not new at all in the time of Ellen White. We can agree right off the bat that not all her writings are inspired by God. In fact, on August 30, 1906, there appeared in the Review and Herald this statement from the pen of the inspired writer, addressing the said issue.

“In your letter,” she asked, “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 inspired as the ten commandments.”

She responded, “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.” However, although not all her writings are inspired, it is dangerous to put our position as a judge whether her writings are inspired or not. “And now, brethren, I entreat you not to interpose between me and the people, and turn away the light which God would have come to them. Do not by your criticisms take out all the force, all the point and power, from the Testimonies. Do not feel that you can dissect them to suit your own ideas, claiming that God has given you ability to discern what is light from heaven and what is the expression of mere human wisdom. If the Testimonies speak not according to word of God, reject them. Christ and Belial cannot be united. For Christ’s sake do not confuse the minds of the people with human sophistry and scepticism, and make of none effect the work that the Lord would do.”[5]

Unfortunately, some are hasty to regard the writings of EGW as non-inspired if it does not suit their taste.

“Many times in my experience I have been called upon to meet the attitude of a certain class, who acknowledged that the testimonies were from God, but took the position that this matter and that matter were Sister White’s opinion and judgment. This suits those who do not love reproof and correction, and who, if their ideas are crossed, have occasion to explain the difference between the human and the divine.

“If the preconceived opinions or particular ideas of some are crossed in being reproved by testimonies, they have a burden at once to make plain their position to discriminate between the testimonies, defining what is Sister White’s human judgment, and what is the word of the Lord. Everything that sustains their cherished ideas is divine, and the testimonies to correct their errors are human–Sister White’s opinions. They make of none effect the counsel of God by their tradition.”[6]

It is spurious to make some distinctions, unless Ellen White clearly states that she is merely giving opinion of her own.[7] So the thumb rule is: Accept the writings of Ellen White as inspired unless she regarded it as a human opinion. Same case with AH chapter 77. Here are some helpful references to read:

a. Testimonies:

“In the testimonies sent to _____ I have given you the light God has given to me. In no case have I given my own judgment or opinion.”[8]

b. Books:

“Sister White is not the originator of these books. They contain the instruction that during her lifework God has been giving her. They contain the precious, comforting light, that God has graciously given His servant to be given to the world.”[9]

c. Articles:

“I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision–the precious rays of light shining from the throne.”[10]

d. Letters:

“Weak and trembling, I arose at three o’clock in the morning to write to you. God was speaking through clay. You might say that this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God, to bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me.”[11]

e. Interviews:

“He [Elder G. A. Irwin, President of the General Conference] has with him a little notebook in which he has noted down perplexing questions which he brings before me, and if I have any light upon these points, I write it out for the benefit of our people, not only in America but in this country.”[12]

3. Common Matters and Spiritual Matters. Although there is wisdom in looking for tangible indicators whether the writings of Ellen White as inspired or not such as: “I was shown,” “Thus saith the Lord,” etc. The non-appearance of such indicators does not mean the absence of inspiration. But when Ellen White talks about common things, we must regard it as non-inspired.

“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. Questions are asked at times that are not upon religious subjects at all, and these questions must be answered. We converse about houses and lands, trades to be made, and locations for our institutions, their advantages and disadvantages.” Selected Messages, 1:38, 39.

Housel Jemison reasonably observes:

“It seems clear from this statement that Mrs. White intended to convey the idea that when she dealt with common subjects, or answered questions ‘not upon religious subjects,’ there would be nothing in what was spoken or written that would suggest it had been given by inspiration. The opposite idea is implied: That which was written or spoken under divine direction would bear its own credentials, either in the spiritual nature of the matter dealt with, or by some such indication as ‘I was shown.’[13]

Upon observing the nature of AH chapter 77, one could justly assess that although there are no “Thus says the Lord”, nor “I was shown”,  it is still inspired by God for it is a religious subject and spiritual in nature. For instance:

a. It talks about Spirituality:

“The youth should be treated very carefully. They should not be left on Christmas to find their own amusement in vanity and pleasure-seeking, in amusements which will be detrimental to their spirituality. Parents can control this matter by turning the minds and the offerings of their children to God and his cause and the salvation of souls.”

b. It talks about Morality:

“Thousands of dollars will be worse than thrown away upon the coming Christmas and New Year’s in needless indulgences. But it is our privilege to depart from the customs and practices of this degenerate age, and instead of expending means merely for the gratification of the appetite, or for needless ornaments or articles of clothing, we may make the coming holidays an occasion in which to honor and glorify God.”

c. It talks about Christ:

“There is no divine sanctity resting upon the twentyfifth of December; and it is not pleasing to God that anything that concerns the salvation of man through the infinite sacrifice made for them, should be so sadly perverted from its professed design. Christ should be the supreme object; but as Christmas has been observed, the glory is turned from him to mortal man, whose sinful, defective character made it necessary for him to come to our world.”

d. It talks about Sin:

“On Christmas, so soon to come, let not the parents take the position that an evergreen placed in the church for the amusement of the Sabbath school scholars is a sin; for it may be made a great blessing.”

Folks, this is no common talk. These words are coming from the Lord. F. M. Wilcox, for many years editor of the Review and Herald, commented:

“We must believe that what she gave, by either voice or pen, in printed page or through the medium of correspondence, as the messages of God, was true to this representation. We must accept her statement as true relative to this, or else reject altogether her call to the prophetic office.”[14]

Position B is  less probable, but position A is more plausible. There is reasonableness to believe that  AH chapter 77 comes from the Lord, not a mere opinion of a prophet.

__________________

[1] Jaymark Molo, see: https://amologetics.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/could-seventh-day-adventist-celebrate-christmas-3/

[2] http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/889/archives/issue-2006-1535/ellen-g-white-christmas

[3] However, there are some who are willingly to adapt the radical view of Graeme Bradford to discredit the role of the writings of Ellen G. White in Christmas. See: Graeme Bradford, Prophets are Human (Victoria, Australia: Signs Publishing Company, 2004) 91pp. This view has been reasonably critiqued by the following scholars, see: Angel Manuel Rodriguez, “Prophets are Humans: Book Review,” Reflections BRI Newsletter 10 (April 2005): 8-10. See also, William Fagal, “New Testament Era Prophets—Are They Less Reliable?” (http://www.whiteestate.org/issues/NTProphets.htm). A more balance approach can be found in the works of Juan Carlos Viera, The Voice of the Spirit: How God Has Led His People through the Gift of Prophecy (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Assn., 1998). See also, Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the LordThe Prophetic Ministry of Ellen White (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 1998).

[4] It seems to me that this has been the position of my good friend and respected apologist Ronald Obidos.

[5] Testimonies, vol. 5, 691.

[6] Selected Messages, 3:68 (MS 16, 1889).

[7] See Manuscript 107, 1909.

[8] Testimonies to the Battle Creek Church, 1882, p. 58.

[9] Colporteur Ministry, 125.

[10] Testimonies for the Church, 5:67.

[11] Testimonies for the Church, 5:67.

[12] Letter 96, 1899 (Selected Messages, 3:51).

[13] T. Housel Jemison, A Prophey Among You, 396.

[14] The Testimony of Jesus, 64.

 

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One thought on “Ellen White, Inspiration and Christmas

  1. ken says:

    you nailed it down friend…

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