Ellen White Under Fire: Identifying the Mistakes of Her Critics by Jud Lake (Pacific Press, 2010)
Dr. Jud Lake, a religion professor at Southern Adventist University, has emerged as one of the leading defenders of Ellen White, writing Ellen White Under Fire and operating a Web site dedicated to Ellen White apologetics. Ellen White Under Fire is highly recommended by Seventh-day Adventist thought leaders, and it will probably be widely used as a textbook for prophetic guidance classes in SDA universities. Lake’s book represents the most comprehensive and thoughtful recent attempt to answer the critics of Ellen White and of the SDA denomination. As such, it is a valuable articulation of current SDA thought. We recommend Ellen White Under Fire to anyone interested in her prophetic role in the SDA Church, but unfortunately, we cannot recommend its conclusions.
Ellen White Under Fire is based on extensive research from SDA scholars, but its coverage of the criticisms of Ellen White still leaves much to be desired. (For instance, Ronald L. Numbers’ book Prophetess of Health, the most significant critique of Ellen White, receives scant attention from Lake.) Dr. Lake has developed a fairly comprehensive list of EGW criticisms (22-24), but former Adventists would appreciate the inclusion of at least some evidence for those criticisms. On the positive side, Lake deserves credit for delivering a book with high readability. In effect, Dr. Lake serves as an intermediary, bringing SDA scholarly ideas down to the level of the average reader; unfortunately, his pro-Ellen White bias (the book is dedicated to her) results in obfuscation of her errors.
The publisher deserves credit for producing an attractive hardcover book, but there are a few problems with the publication format, including the lack of an index and the inconvenient location of notes at the end of the book. In addition, the guillotine-shaped F from the word Fire in the title may be a little over the top, but it probably accurately reflects SDA perceptions of Ellen White detractors. In fact, ministry organizations such as Sabbatismos don’t critique Ellen White’s writing maliciously. We’re trying to share our understanding of the gospel, and her gospel contradicts what we find in scripture.
Putting Context in Context
Lake’s thesis is that “Ellen White wasn’t the fanatic her critics make her out to be, that her prophetic gift doesn’t threaten the final authority of the Bible, and that she was a Christian woman with deep evangelical piety whose voice deserves to be heard in its original historical and literary contexts . . . .” (14). Lake believes that the critics have been unfair toward Ellen White, merely recycling criticisms promulgated by D.M. Canright, the most notable early EGW critic, without reference to the church’s answers. He indicates that the criticisms of Ellen White would be defused by employing correct principles of interpretation. In particular, people should read everything Ellen White penned regarding an issue, then explore the literary and historical context of each statement or testimony (180).
Several problems emerge from Lake’s rules of interpretation for Ellen White. First, her published writings are too vast to facilitate an exploration of everything she wrote on a particular subject. In addition, the Ellen G. White Estate hasn’t released all EGW writings for publication, so ordinary researchers are unable to access all statements of interest. Finally, the White Estate archive is accessible to approved researchers only, and even these scholars must submit requests to a committee if they wish to use unreleased material. How can anyone other than the most trustworthy SDA scholars gain access to all of Ellen White’s writings on a particular topic? It’s impossible. Therefore, Adventist pastors and laity are dependent upon the scholars to tell them what Ellen White means. And of course, the conclusions of the critics are rendered automatically invalid under Lake’s formula because they don’t have access to all her writings.
The interpretive problems are compounded when one considers that literary context is often impossible to establish because so many of her statements have been released in compilations that frequently use ellipses and often feature very brief quotations. In addition, literary context should include tracing the history of her published statements, and this is extremely difficult because most of the materials published during her lifetime were revised and reused—often several times, making it difficult for most people to trace growth or nuances in her thought process.
Historical context is also difficult to establish because most people can’t access the personal correspondence and other documents held in the White Estate. Obviously, the personal circumstances of the original recipient might have influenced a particular testimony. Generally, we don’t even know the identity of the original recipients. While we hate to pry into the personal lives of long-deceased SDAs, we are told that it’s impossible to fully understand and apply Ellen White’s counsel without studying the historical circumstances that prompted the testimonies. Many Adventists are actually happy with historical ambiguities because they can dismiss difficult testimonies, assuming that those rebukes apply to long-forgotten situations—not to their own lives.
According to Lake, critics such as Sabbatismos treat Ellen White unfairly by quoting her out of context in order to twist her meaning. He states, “To misrepresent the meaning of Ellen White’s writings and present to others a perspective of her words contrary to what she really taught is bearing a false witness. Moreover, to purposely and blatantly ignore the original contexts of her writings is a breach of Christian ethics and is patently wrong. Ultimately, those who engage in this unfair activity disqualify themselves as fair and objective interpreters of Ellen White’s writings” (201-202). However, Lake acknowledges that many legalistic Adventists misinterpret Ellen White (264-268), so by his own recognition, they must also be guilty of “bearing false witness.” Ironically, Lake also misrepresents the full context of various EGW statements, along with misrepresenting the views of the critics.
Ellen White Under Fire traces contemporary criticism of Ellen White back to arguments from D.M. Canright’s two most important books: Seventh-day Adventism Renounced (1888) and Life of Mrs. E.G. White (1919). Canright had been a prominent Adventist minister until he left the church after a long association with James and Ellen White.
Lake links the groundbreaking research of Ronald Numbers (Prophetess of Health) and Walter Rea (The White Lie) to Canright (65), and he contends that influential former-Adventist writers Dale Ratzlaff and Dirk Anderson merely “recycle Canright’s old charges” (78). Of course, the implication is that the criticisms are simply “mud from a muddy spring,” to borrow a phrase from Percy Bysshe Shelley. The SDA Church has thoroughly demonized Canright’s character, so when SDAs hear that modern critics are simply reusing Canright’s charges, they immediately shun further investigation. Although Lake doesn’t repeat most of the character assassinations against Canright, he is careful not to contradict them (75).
The strategy of tying modern critics to Canright is unfair. The implication that Canright’s charges have all been answered must be accompanied by evidence, for IF Canright is generally correct from a biblical standpoint, then Adventism can never answer him successfully. The church’s comprehensive answers to Canright were delivered well after his death in 1919; the first formal answer was W.H. Branson’s In Defense of the Faith (1933), and a more complete reply was F.D. Nichol’s Ellen White and Her Critics (1951). Perhaps Canright’s arguments were so persuasive that answers were difficult to construct. If so, Canright’s staying power could be related to the essential truth of his points rather than to a lack of imagination among Ellen White’s critics.
Critics Reject the 1888 Message
Lake holds that Elder Canright (and the other critics) never understood or accepted the message of righteousness by faith that was introduced to the SDA Church at the 1888 General Conference session. Prior to 1888, the SDA Church had taught that the ceremonial law was the “schoolmaster” of Galatians 3, but the righteousness by faith message of Elders A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner contended that the schoolmaster was moral rather ceremonial. However, Jones and Waggoner continued insisting on the perpetuity of the ten commandments.
According to Lake, Canright took an extreme position prior to the 1888 General Conference, discarding the law and the seventh-day Sabbath altogether (54). However, Canright’s new position could only be considered extreme if it is unbiblical. Canright clearly understood that Galatians 3 presents a specific beginning date for the law, as well as a specific ending date (see Seventh-Day Adventism Renounced, pp. 318, 322, 334). Here is the key passage from Galatians 3:
“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator” (Gal. 3:16-19, NIV).
According to Galatians 3, the law came into effect 430 years after Abraham and lasted until the coming of Christ, the Seed. And because the Jews didn’t differentiate between moral and ceremonial laws (the writings of Moses were simply designated “the law”), Paul is really saying that all Old Testament law passed out of effect when the Seed came to earth. In standing against the perpetuity of the law given on Sinai, Canright stands with the Apostle Paul instead of standing with the 1888ers.
While Lake insists that Ellen White must always be quoted in context (and we agree), he doesn’t extend the same courtesy to Canright. He ignores textual context when he quotes Canright’s criticism of Adventism as centered on “law, law, law,” but then criticizes Canright for discarding the law entirely (54). Lake never explains Canright’s position on the beginning and ending dates for the schoolmaster of Galatians 3, and he never allows Canright to explain his position on the perpetuity of a higher law, of which the ten commandments were a mere manifestation (Seventh-Day Adventism Renounced, pp. 305-337).
Compounding the ill treatment of Canright, Lake distorts the historical context of 1888 by ignoring the legalistic implications of the message that supposedly introduced Adventism to righteousness by faith. In the revised edition of Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventism (2009), Dale Ratzlaff states, “At times [the 1888 message] sounds almost like the Pauline gospel; yet at other times it is distinct from it and confuses imputed and imparted righteousness. It has perfectionistic overtones and mistakenly equates the righteousness of the law with the righteousness of faith which is ‘God’s righteousness’” (317).
Rather than being a genuine teaching of “the vital, life-giving message of righteousness by faith” (57-58), the 1888 message actually promotes extreme perfectionism. For instance, shortly after the 1888 conference, one of originators of the righteousness by faith movement stated,
“It is only through being one with Him that we can be Christians, and only through Christ within us that we keep the commandments—it being all by faith in Christ that we do and say these things. When the day comes that we actually keep the commandments of God, we will never die, because keeping the commandments is righteousness . . . . Life, then, and keeping the commandments go together. If we die now, Christ’s righteousness will be imputed to us and we will be raised, but those who live to the end are made sinless before He comes, having so much of Christ’s being in them that they ‘hit the mark’ every time, and stand blameless without an intercessor . . . .” (A.T. Jones, qtd. in George R. Knight, From 1888 to Apostasy, Review & Herald, 1987, p. 56).
Because the 1888 message was in harmony with her perfectionism, Ellen White heartily endorsed it: “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. . . . It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God” (TM 91-92). For Ellen White and A.T. Jones, righteousness by faith is inextricably linked to perfect obedience to God’s commandments. Thus, faith enables the believer to keep the commandments, resulting in an orientation toward works rather than faith. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9).
For some reason, Dr. Lake chooses not to establish the historical and literary context of the 1888 messages. Instead, he simply blames the critics for not accepting righteousness by faith (83-84). Lake holds that “purposely and blatantly ignor[ing] the original contexts of [Ellen White’s] writings is a breach of Christian ethics and is patently wrong” (202), and we agree; we simply ask him to apply the same courtesy to Canright and all the other critics.
In contrast to the teaching of acquiring righteousness (perfect obedience) through faith, the true gospel teaches, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Rom. 4:5-7). Understood in its true context, the 1888 message is works-righteousness. That’s why Canright and the other EGW critics remain unimpressed by the SDA discovery of “righteousness by faith.”
Ellen White vis-à-vis Scripture
The Adventist Church believes that former Adventists reject the ministry of Ellen White because their view of inspiration is too rigid (106), so Dr. Lake spends a great deal of time explaining the Adventist position on inspiration. The dominant evangelical view, which Lake identifies as the verbal-plenary model, holds that the words of scripture are “divinely elicited and controlled,” but that the prophets’ “thinking and writing was both free and spontaneous” (J.I. Packer, qtd. on 108). Thus, most Christians recognize that God does not dictate scripture (109), but they insist that the message accurately reflects God’s communication. The action of the Holy Spirit infuses the entire process of inspiration—from its reception to its communication (transmission). Sabbatismos promotes the verbal-plenary model of inspiration because “all scripture is God-breathed” (II Tim. 3:16). Paul doesn’t say that only prophetic visions are God-breathed—he says that all scripture is God-breathed. Thus, God’s action of breathing the inspired message extends all the way from the initial communication to the writing of scripture. Inspiration is a continuum—not a one-time event.
Adventist scholars emphasize thought inspiration over verbal-plenary inspiration, which some SDAs falsely equate with divine dictation. However, SDA theologians have been unable to agree on the level of error that could creep into an inspired text via thought inspiration. Liberal SDAs accept the notion that inspired writings may reflect theological misunderstandings on the part of the writers, and this view comes in handy when they need to defend Ellen White against her shut door teachings and her inconsistent Trinitarianism. They can just say, “Well, she misunderstood some parts of her visions, and God graciously led her into greater light as she became able to accept it.”
On the other hand, conservative SDA scholars such as Dr. Lake reject the idea that a thought-inspired writer could garble a message from God. They are forced to hold thought inspiration because it was taught by Ellen White and because it was officially endorsed at the 1883 General Conference session (110). In 1883, Ellen White wanted to publish a revised version of her early Testimonies; obviously, updating the Testimonies would be impossible if God had dictated the original words. Therefore, it was imperative that Ellen White adopt a flexible theory of inspiration, so her early teaching that the Holy Spirit had “dictated” scripture was necessarily abandoned (1SG 176). However, she continued to insist on a view of her own inspiration that is hardly separable from divine dictation. Writing in 1900, she declared, “The Holy Ghost is the author of the Scriptures and of the Spirit of Prophecy” (3SM 30).
Because Lake is a conservative SDA, he accepts thought inspiration while rejecting the notion that inspired writers could misunderstand or misrepresent their revelations (94). To distance himself from the liberal overtones of thought inspiration, he identifies the dominant SDA view as the “whole-person” model of inspiration (115-120). The whole-person concept teaches that “while the words of scripture weren’t the primary focus of the process of inspiration, it did reach the words of the biblical writers . . . .” (115). Thus, the inspired words “reliably disclose God’s thoughts and will to us” (119). It sounds like Lake is moving toward the dreaded verbal-plenary model, but he insists that the two are distinct, apparently because verbal-plenary is more closely linked to divine dictation (115).
Lake criticizes Canright for stating that Ellen White considered “the very words in which her visions are recorded” as divinely inspired (106; Seventh-Day Adventism Renounced 138), but Lake omits the evidence supporting Canright’s statement:
“I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision, as in having the vision” (1SM 36; 2SG 293).
“Before I stand on my feet, I have no thought of speaking as plainly as I do. But the Spirit of God rests upon me with power, and I cannot but speak the words given me. I dare not withhold one word of the testimony.... I speak the words given me by a higher power than human power, and I cannot, if I would, recall [retract] one sentence” (1MR 28).
“While I am writing out important matter, He [God] is beside me, helping me. He lays out my work before me, and when I am puzzled for a fit word with which to express my thought, He brings it clearly and distinctly to mind” (2MR 156-157).
“As soon as I take my pen in hand, I am not in darkness as to what to write. It is as plain and clear as a voice speaking to me, ‘I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go’” (2MR 319).
“For thirty years we [reference to herself] have been receiving the words of God and speaking them to His people” (4T 229).
Lake is wrong to state that “Ellen White never claimed, as Canright charged repeatedly, that her very words were inspired” (111). In reality, when it suited her, Mrs. White was very definite about the precision of her words; however, when she wrote something embarrassing, she was happy to revise it under the guise of thought inspiration.
The Bible Only?
The Seventh-day Adventist Church makes strenuous claims for its belief in “the Bible and the Bible only,” without which it couldn’t be considered a Protestant denomination. The exact relation of Ellen White to the Bible has been a quandary for Adventists ever since the inception of the church. James White claimed that Ellen’s ministry was in harmony with sola scriptura so long as her visions did not add any doctrine not found in scripture (133), and G.I. Butler, an early president of the SDA General Conference, agreed: “If the Bible should show the visions were not in harmony with it, the Bible would stand and the visions would be given up. This shows plainly that we hold the Bible the highest, our enemies to the contrary, notwithstanding” (135). Unfortunately for Adventism’s claims, EGW does add doctrines such as the Investigative Judgment that are never mentioned in scripture. Many of her teachings add to scripture, contradict scripture, and obfuscate cardinal doctrines such as the completed atonement (see p. 228) and the nature and work of Christ.
Lake states that “Ellen White’s inspiration equals that of the Bible writers, but her prophetic authority is limited because of the nature of its relationship to the Bible” (151). What is her relationship to the Bible? She is a “postcanonical” prophet whose writings must be tested by scripture (155), but “her inspiration is qualitatively the same” (160); therefore, her writings “require full, equal obedience” as compared to scripture (161).
Sola Scriptura was the Protestant response to Roman Catholicism’s use of supposedly inspired but non-canonical sources. The Catholic Church considers the teachings of the saints, the decrees of the popes, and the decisions of church councils to be authoritative (but non-canonical) revelations of God’s will, and the Protestants rejected any authority aside from scripture. It didn’t matter that the authority was non-canonical. No other sources of authority were allowed. Thus, Protestantism was founded on the idea that there would be no further prophets with the same degree of inspiration as the Bible. Such a person would be an authority, and no additional authority was permitted. Yes, Protestants do allow for the spiritual gift of prophecy such as that predicted in Joel 2, but such prophecies are strictly for encouragement (1 Cor. 14:3). They are not authoritative in the sense that people have to believe them (1 Cor. 14:29).
In contrast to Protestantism, Adventists do consider Ellen White’s writings a “test,” according to pioneer SDA leader J.N. Andrews (159). It is not acceptable to merely assert that Ellen White is subordinate to scripture because she is not part of the canon. If the SDA Church wants to believe in sola scriptura, it must have no source of authority aside from the Bible. Period. St. Ellen is not allowed as “a continuing and authoritative source of truth,” as delineated by SDA fundamental belief number 18 (167). That’s not sola scriptura! If the SDA Church wishes to keep Ellen White as a prophetess, they should at least be honest and acknowledge that they do not believe in “the Bible and the Bible only.”
The Literary Dependence (Plagiarism) of Ellen G. White
A special aspect of Ellen White’s relationship to scripture is the issue of plagiarism. Adventist writers insist on trying to show that the Bible writers utilized various sources in the same manner as Ellen White (124). Ellen White copied extensively from other writers in virtually all of her books, using the details gleaned from others to give her accounts an “I-saw-it” quality. I’ve personally studied her plagiarism in The Desire of Ages, Sketches From the Life of Paul, and Patriarchs and Prophets, and she frequently follows her sources page after page, so that it seems she was simply writing with the Bible at one hand and a scholarly Christian book at the other. In many chapters, her own input was minimal. To compound the ethical problem, Mrs. White repeatedly denied referencing or even reading outside sources until after she had written her messages.
Adventist writers such as Lake insist that Ellen White did nothing wrong, and that her actions are similar to those of the Bible writers, but is this assertion fair? Lake argues that Paul used lines from several Greek poets without attribution (120), that Luke used a variety of sources for his gospel (121), and that the Book of Revelation borrowed visionary descriptions from the ancient Book of Enoch (120-121). Thus, Lake concludes that Ellen White’s borrowing “was no different from the practice of the biblical writers” (124).
Literary “Dependence” of the Apostle Paul
The following quotes supposedly reveal Paul’s borrowing from the Greek culture:
“One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies” (Titus 1:12).
“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28).
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (I Cor. 15:33).
Was Paul trying to cover his use of the ideas of others? No! He acknowledges his use of sources in the first two quotes, and the third was probably a well-known Greek proverb (see Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 808, 1957). As a point of comparison, it isn’t necessary to acknowledge Ben Franklin when saying, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise!” The phrase is so common that no one would charge the user of this proverb with dishonesty. In addition, quotation marks hadn’t been invented when the Bible was being written, so Paul clearly did his best to give proper credit when appropriate. But Ellen White should be charged with dishonesty because she frequently denied using sources, copied extensively, and was clearly dependent upon the writings of others to describe details that she claimed to have seen directly in vision.
Is the Gospel of Luke Plagiarized?
Suggesting that Luke’s research was similar to Ellen White’s is also disingenuous because Luke clearly states that his material is based on sources “who from the first were eyewitnesses”:
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you . . . .” (Luke 1:1-3).
Like Paul, Luke humbly acknowledges his use of human sources. Why couldn’t Ellen White do the same?
The Book of Revelation—Indebted to the Book of Enoch?
Dr. Lake’s most intriguing attempt to vindicate Ellen White’s literary indebtedness is his connection of the Book of Enoch to the Book of Revelation. According to Lake, “John borrowed lines from the book of Enoch” to help him describe what he had seen in vision. Let’s look at one of the parallel passages listed by Lake (the other five supposed parallels are discussed in Appendix A):
“And the first heaven shall depart and pass away, and a new heaven shall appear” (Enoch 91:16).
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1, NKJV).
Unfortunately for Lake’s argument, the Apostle John was not borrowing from the Book of Enoch; instead, he was probably drawing on an Old Testament concept: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth . . . .” (Is. 65:17, KJV; see also Is. 66:22). Maybe the writer(s) of Enoch were literarily dependent on Isaiah….
The parallels between Enoch and Revelation are merely common phrases of Jewish apocryphal literature. God inspired Bible writers to use terminology that was familiar to the people, but the prophets had no literary dependence on extra-biblical sources employing these terms. In fact, the extra-biblical authors themselves may have been largely dependent on inspired sources for many of the common apocalyptic terms.
On the other hand, EGW was evidently reliant on outside sources for descriptive material and other extra-biblical details. She neglected to acknowledge these sources, in contrast to the forthright approach of Bible writers such as Luke and Paul. In addition, the vast majority of Ellen White’s plagiarisms were not common terminologies of her day, so her use of descriptive phrases does not parallel John’s supposed indebtedness to the Book of Enoch. Mrs. White copied sources repeatedly, page by page, as anyone can verify by reading SDA scholar Fred Veltman’s Life of Christ Research Project. Ellen White hadn’t seen any visions from God, so she had to create the illusion of a visionary experience by borrowing descriptions and historical details, then denying any familiarity with the outside sources. Surely her ethical situation is far different from that of the biblical prophets.
Is Jud Lake Being Fair to the Critics (or to Ellen White)?
As mentioned previously, Lake believes that the critics have been unfair to Ellen White. He bluntly states, “To misrepresent the meaning of Ellen White’s writings and present to others a perspective of her words contrary to what she really taught is bearing a false witness. Moreover, to purposely and blatantly ignore the original contexts of her writings is a breach of Christian ethics and is patently wrong. Ultimately, those who engage in this unfair activity disqualify themselves as fair and objective interpreters of Ellen White’s writings” (201-202). But has Lake properly interpreted Ellen White’s statements based on historical and literary context, and has he extended the same courtesy to the critics? Lake routinely summarizes arguments from the critics, then answers his summary rather than their actual words. In addition, Lake generally deletes the reasoning of the critics, such as when he cites Canright’s “law, law, law” comment without allowing Canright to explain why he had concluded that the law was obsolete (54). Such treatment shows that Lake is intent on assuring loyal Adventists that everything has been answered without actually answering the real points.
Even more serious than distorting the critics is Lake’s distortion of Ellen White. Ellen White Under Fire often fails to acknowledge the spectrum of EGW quotes on a given topic, relying on her uplifting quotes and ignoring or minimizing her difficult ones. In addition, Lake often avoids a full discussion of the literary context, and he sometimes doesn’t fully state the historical context. Such distortions prevent Ellen White from being understood as she deserves to be understood—in her own voice and in her own era. Instead, she remains a captive of the authorized SDA interpreters because most people don’t have the time or resources to investigate her thoroughly. She was a remarkable woman whose “inspiration” consisted of her ability to glean information from a variety of sources and apply that knowledge in ways that her followers found useful. Despite her prophetic delusions, she deserves better than to have her clear statements twisted by the Adventist Church, which has woven a tapestry of error that even she wouldn’t recognize. This section will present three case studies to demonstrate Lake’s repeated avoidance of full context.
Case Study 1: The Shut Door
One of the areas that Lake de-contextualizes is Ellen White’s early teaching regarding the shut door. The shut door doctrine held that only Millerite believers could be saved after the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844—the date upon which William Miller predicted Christ’s second coming. Christ did not return, so some Millerites salved their injured pride with the idea that the door of probation had closed in 1844. Thus, all non-Millerites would be lost. Most Millerites quickly rejected the shut door, but the group that eventually became Seventh-day Adventists maintained the shut door until the early 1850s (see Arthur L. White, “Ellen G. White and the Shut Door Question,” p. 24 – paper available from White Estate), largely because Ellen’s visions taught the shut door.
Lake’s treatment of the shut door is brief due to the complexity of the topic (337 note 11). We don’t object to his limited approach, but we do object to his avoidance of context regarding the points that he chooses to address (22, 208). He relegates the actual criticisms to a single endnote reference (299 note 15). Then Lake paints a rosy picture of Ellen White’s involvement with the shut door, quoting only a short phrase from her shut-door teachings and totally removing it from the historical and literary context:
“Shortly after the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844, Ellen believed . . . that the door of salvation was closed to the world. At some point after this, but before her first vision, she adopted the position . . . that the October 1844 date was all wrong. Her first vision in December 1844, however, reaffirmed the prophetic significance of the 1844 movement and the shut door. At this point Ellen readopted certain aspects of Miller’s shut door teaching but not her initial, prevision view that all the world was doomed. Her revised view [based on the vision] . . . allowed for the salvation of individuals who hadn’t heard the 1844 message [the endnote supporting this statement refers to a manuscript that is unpublished as of June 2010]. It is in this historical context that we should view the controversial words in the initial presentation of her first vision, when she wrote of the ‘wicked world which God had rejected’” (208 – sorry for the length of this quote, but I wanted to preserve Lake’s context).
Here is Ellen White’s shut-door quote in context:
“Others rashly denied the light behind them [the light from the Millerite movement], and said that it was not God that had led them out so far. The light behind them went out leaving their feet in perfect darkness, and they stumbled and got their eyes off the mark and lost sight of Jesus, and fell off the path down in the dark and wicked world below. It was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another . . . . [The bold portion was edited out of the widely available account in Early Writings, p. 14]” (A Word to the “Little Flock,” p. 14).
There are three groups in this vision: faithful Millerites on the path to heaven, fallen Millerites, and “all the wicked world which God had rejected.” Where is the fourth group—the group that hadn't actually rejected Miller's message, making them still eligible for heaven? In this vision, Ellen White established that all who were not on the Millerite path to heaven were rejected by God, as were all Millerites who denied the validity of 1844 (notice how Lake neglects to include the word all at the beginning of his brief quote). Where in this vision does Ellen White “[allow] for the salvation of individuals who hadn’t heard the 1844 message”?
Lake gives the impression that Ellen White's first vision actually teaches an open door for those who hadn’t rejected William Miller’s teachings, but there is no evidence for an open door in the first vision. In fact, Ellen White didn’t mention an “open door” until 1849 (see EW 42), although she appears to have recognized the need for public evangelism in 1848 (3LS 125; Arthur L. White, “Ellen G. White and the Shut Door Question,” p. 24). Thus, Ellen White’s “revised view” of the shut door actually came several years after her first vision.
In addition, Lake neglects to mention the literary context of the controversial lines—and the literary context is that Ellen White deleted them from Early Writings. Why? Was she hoping that A Word to the “Little Flock” would be forgotten? If the first vision was theologically correct, why would Ellen delete the most striking portion? In addition, would God shut the door of salvation against those who knowingly rejected the Millerite Movement? Miller’s theology contained a great deal of error (see Dale Ratzlaff, Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventism, Rev. ed., Chapter 4). How could Miller's 1844 message have been a testing truth for anyone? Any doctrine damning opponents of Millerism should be unacceptable to all thoughtful Adventists.
The literary/historical context of the shut door should include additional statements from Ellen White, but somehow, there was no room in Ellen White Under Fire for the quotes:
“The view [vision] about the Bridegroom's coming I had about the middle of February, 1845. While in Exeter, Maine, in meeting with Israel Dammon, James, and many others, many of them did not believe in a shut door. I suffered much at the commencement of the meeting. Unbelief seemed to be on every hand. There was one sister there that was called very spiritual. She had traveled and been a powerful preacher the most of the time for twenty years. She had been truly a mother in Israel. But a division had risen in the band on the shut door. She had great sympathy, and could not believe the door was shut. (I had known nothing of their differences.) Sister Durben got up to talk. I felt very, very sad. At length my soul seemed to be in an agony, and while she was talking I fell from my chair to the floor. It was then I had a view of Jesus rising from His mediatorial throne and going to the Holiest as Bridegroom to receive His kingdom. They were all deeply interested in the view. They all said it was entirely new to them. The Lord worked in mighty power setting the truth home to their hearts. Sister Durben knew what the power of the Lord was, for she had felt it many times; and a short time after I fell she was struck down, and fell to the floor, crying to God to have mercy on her. When I came out of vision, my ears were saluted with Sister Durben's singing and shouting with a loud voice. Most of them received the vision, and were settled upon the shut door” (5MR 97-98 – this statement was written in 1847, and it reinforces the idea that God had rejected “all the wicked world”).
“Then I saw Laodiceans. They will make a mighty effort. Will they get the victory? . . . . Anguish of spirit will seize them. Dare they admit that the door is shut? The sin against the Holy Ghost was to ascribe to Satan what belongs to God, or what the Holy Ghost has done. They said the shut door was of the devil, and now admit it is against their own lives. They shall die the death” (5MR 204 – this statement was penned in 1850, and it refers to those who rejected the Millerite message).
An additional aspect of the historical context is that Joseph Bates and Otis Nichols both affirmed that Ellen White taught the shut door doctrine that was standard among the early Adventists, and James White taught a hard-core shut door in his writings (A Word to the “Little Flock” 21; Arthur L. White, “Ellen G. White and the Shut Door Question,” p. 54; Gerald Wheeler, James White: Innovator and Overcomer, pp. 44-45 note 37). We understand that Lake couldn’t address all these issues in his book, but a little more context would have been helpful as one reviews Lake’s assertion that Ellen’s first vision corrected her view of the shut door.
Case Study 2: Wigs & Insanity
Ellen White taught that wigs can cause insanity, and the critics consider this a clear sign of her lack of inspiration. Lake, on the other hand, charges that the critics ignore the historical facts about wigs, asserting that Ellen White was actually correct. Apparently, some wigs of Ellen White’s day were full of pests capable of penetrating the scalp and causing severe irritation. Therefore, Lake contends that Ellen White’s statement linking wigs to insanity is true (186). However, Lake doesn’t cite her full statement, so let’s look at it in greater context:
“We cannot afford to live fashionably, for in doing thus, we sacrifice the natural to the artificial. Our artificial habits deprive us of many privileges and much enjoyment, and unfit us for useful life. Fashion subjects us to a hard, thankless life. A vast amount of money is sacrificed to keep pace with changing fashion, merely to create a sensation. The votaries of fashion who live to attract the admiration of friends and strangers, are not happy--far from it. . . .
“Fashion loads the heads of women with artificial braids and pads, which do not add to their beauty, but give an unnatural shape to the head. The hair is strained and forced into unnatural positions, and it is not possible for the heads of these fashionable ladies to be comfortable. The artificial hair and pads covering the base of the brain, heat and excite the spinal nerves centering in the brain. The head should ever be kept cool. The heat caused by these artificials induces the blood to the brain. The action of the blood upon the lower or animal organs of the brain, causes unnatural activity, tends to recklessness in morals, and the mind and heart is in danger of being corrupted. As the animal organs are excited and strengthened, the moral are enfeebled. The moral and intellectual powers of the mind become servants to the animal.
“In consequence of the brain being congested its nerves lose their healthy action, and take on morbid conditions, making it almost impossible to arouse the moral sensibilities. Such lose their power to discern sacred things. The unnatural heat caused by these artificial deformities about the head, induces the blood to the brain, producing congestion, and causing the natural hair to fall off, producing baldness. Thus the natural is sacrificed to the artificial.
“Many have lost their reason, and become hopelessly insane, by following this deforming fashion. Yet the slaves to fashion will continue to thus dress their heads, and suffer horrible disease and premature death, rather than be out of fashion” (Health Reformer Oct. 1, 1871).
Lake claims that the critics of Ellen White fail to recognize that wigs could be harmful due to the presence of pests that could cause intense itching, apparently leading to insanity. Does the context of Ellen White’s statement support Lake’s contention? First, Ellen White’s thesis reveals that she has an overall objection to fashion because fashionable attire is unnatural and expensive, and it cannot produce happiness. She continues by arguing that wigs heat the brain, corrupting morals, weakening intelligence, producing baldness, and eventually leading many to “become hopelessly insane.” The fear of heating the brain comes from the pseudoscience of phrenology popular in Ellen White’s day, but Lake chooses not to interact with this aspect of the historical context, which was discussed by former-SDA scholar Ronald L. Numbers in Prophetess of Health (2008 ed., pp. 204-205).
Ellen White doesn’t say anything about insects infesting wigs. From the context, she expresses a general distaste for fashion, and she bolsters her point by saying that wigs overheat the brain, leading to insanity and death. Scalp itch, on the other hand, causes neither insanity nor death. Judging from the full context, Ellen White was clearly incorrect in her attack on wigs.
Case Study 3: Pestilence & Prophecy
Another example of incomplete context in Ellen White Under Fire arises from Lake’s defense of a statement that EGW made during a cholera epidemic in 1849:
“The Lord has shown me that precious souls are starving, and dying for want of the present, sealing truth, the meat in due season; and that the swift messengers should speed on their way, and feed the flock with the present truth. I heard an Angel say, ‘speed the swift messengers, speed the swift messengers; for the case of every soul will soon be decided, either for Life, or for Death.’
“I saw that those who had the means, were required to help speed those messengers, that God had called to labor in his cause, and as they went from place to place, they would be safe from the prevailing pestilence. But if any went that were not sent of God, they would be in danger of being cut down by the pestilence; therefore all should earnestly seek for duty, and be sure and move by the direction of the Holy Spirit.
“What we have seen and heard of the pestilence, is but the beginning of what we shall see and hear. Soon the dead and dying will be all around us. I saw that some will be so hardened, as to even make sport of the judgements [sic] of God. Then the slain of the Lord will be from one end of the earth, to the other; they will not be lamented, gathered, nor buried; but their ill savor will come up from the face of the whole earth. Those only who have the seal of the living God, will be sheltered from the storm of wrath, that will soon fall on the heads of those who have rejected the truth” (Present Truth, September 1, 1849).
Ellen White seems to be making a prediction that the 1849 cholera pestilence is a forerunner of the plagues of Revelation, meaning that the world would soon end. Lake correctly points out that various Bible texts portray the Lord as coming soon (192), but these were general admonitions rather than specific prophecies. God has always wanted His people to view the second coming in terms of its nearness, but He has never sent misleading time-limited prophecies regarding the immediacy of the second coming.
In contrast to the general hope of Christ’s soon return found in various Bible passages, several instances early in Ellen White’s ministry elicited fairly specific time-limited prophecies from the young messenger. In 1847, she predicted that the Lord would return during the era of slavery in the United States. In 1856, she declared that some Adventists present at a conference in Battle Creek, MI, would be alive at the second coming (1T 131). During the American Civil War, Ellen White stated, “All heaven is astir. The scenes of earth's history are fast closing. We are amid the perils of the last days. Greater perils are before us, and yet we are not awake” (1T 260). She went on to clarify that there would be a brief time of peace after the Civil War, followed by the chaos of the apocalypse (1T 268). Historical context demands that a person consider whether God inspired any of these time-limited prophecies. Ellen White repeatedly linked end-time events to various issues of her day, and she was wrong every time. Could the pestilence vision simply align with the naïve apocalyptic suppositions of a recovering Millerite?
The biggest flaw in Lake’s argument is that he doesn’t reveal the entire historical/literary context of the pestilence article. The vision was reprinted in Early Writings—minus the portion quoted here. Why was the passage about “soon the dead and dying will be all around us” deleted from Early Writings? Could it be that Mrs. White knew her prediction had been inaccurate? If she considered this vision an accurate prediction of end-time dangers, why did she delete it? And why does the Preface to Early Writings emphatically state that “no portion of the work has been omitted. No shadow of change has been made in any idea or sentiment of the original work . . . .” (Early Writings Preface, p. iv)? The answers to these questions would be vital to the establishment of the full literary and historical context of Ellen White’s “pestilence” vision, but Lake is happy to simply imply that this prediction will either be fulfilled in the future, or else it was a conditional prophecy (192-193).
The three case studies presented in this section, along with evidence from other sections of this review, paint a troubling picture. Clearly, fairness requires that Ellen White’s defenders should at least allow her to speak in her own voice before they begin rationalizing. As it is, the Adventist laity simply read their evaluations of Ellen White without ever exploring how flimsy those evaluations are.
The “Evangelical” Ellen White
Lake devotes Chapter 13, “An Evangelical at Heart,” to an important issue that many of Ellen White’s defenders either avoid or treat only in passing, and that is a positive attempt to show that Ellen White is actually a true prophet. Instead of simply arguing that her ministry COULD be in harmony with the prophetic experience of Bible prophets, Lake devotes significant effort to giving evidence that she SHOULD be considered a prophet of God. We commend Lake for this attempt, but we must disagree with his picture of an evangelical EGW. Ellen White was neither an evangelical nor a Protestant because she violated the foundational doctrines of the Bible only and righteousness by faith alone.
Did Ellen White Uphold Sola Scriptura?
Lake begins by stating that the Adventist prophetess “affirmed the Bible as final authority” (252), but she taught that many people would be lost for disregarding the authority of her writings (1SM 40-48). In addition, she used her prophetic authority to settle doctrinal disputes arising from Bible study (1SM 161). That’s not sola scriptura—it’s exactly what the Reformers wanted to get away from (see section of this review entitled “The Bible Only?”).
Was Ellen White an Orthodox Trinitarian?
Next, Lake argues that Ellen White was an evangelical because she taught the doctrine of the Trinity (252), but that was only in the later years of her ministry (The Desire of Ages, published in 1898, is widely considered her first clear affirmation of the Trinity). Prior to embracing the Trinity, Ellen White stated that the fall of Satan and his followers was prompted by their jealously against Christ for honors that He received from the Father. Apparently, the angels in heaven didn’t understand Christ’s divinity, and this caused the great controversy:
“The great Creator assembled the heavenly host, that he might in the presence of all the angels confer special honor upon his Son. The Son was seated on the throne with the Father, and the heavenly throng of holy angels was gathered around them. The Father then made known that it was ordained by himself that Christ, his Son, should be equal with himself; so that wherever was the presence of his Son, it was as his own presence. The word of the Son was to be obeyed as readily as the word of the Father. His Son he had invested with authority to command the heavenly host. Especially was his Son to work in union with himself in the anticipated creation of the earth and every living thing that should exist upon the earth. His Son would carry out his will and his purposes, but would do nothing of himself alone. The Father's will would be fulfilled in him” (1SP 17-18).
“Satan and his sympathizers were striving to reform the government of God. They were discontented and unhappy because they could not look into his unsearchable wisdom and ascertain his purposes in exalting his Son Jesus, and endowing him with such unlimited power and command. They rebelled against the authority of the Son” (1SP 19).
Ellen White maintained this non-Trinitarian understanding of the origin of the great controversy until her death (see GC 495). Lake faults the critics for frequently citing the following quote as an anti-Trinitarian statement: “The man Christ was not the Lord God Almighty, yet Christ and the Father are one” (183-184; LHU 235 & 5BC 1129 – 1956 ed.). Lake claims that the critics unfairly emphasize the main clause over the subordinate clause, but no solid Trinitarian would ever say, “The man Christ was not the Lord God Almighty.” Jesus WAS the Lord God Almighty—even in His humanity. Given her Trinitarian confusion, how can EGW be given any particular credit for affirming the Trinity—a cardinal doctrine of Christianity?
Did Ellen White Understand the Nature and Work of Christ?
According to Lake, the evangelical Ellen White also “affirmed the person and work of Jesus Christ” (253), but this sunny view must be balanced against her consistent errors regarding Christ’s nature and ministry. For instance, she repeatedly confuses Christ with Michael the archangel (see RH Feb. 8, 1881 or Truth About Angels 144; also see Christ Triumphant 130 or 10MR 159-160). She added to her misunderstanding of Christ by emphasizing His humanity over His divinity, thus making Him a moral example who possessed no advantage over humanity. She also gave a legalistic slant to Christ’s substitutionary death and taught an incomplete atonement. Sadly, although Ellen White wrote passionately about Christ, she did not affirm the full biblical understanding of the Savior’s life and ministry.
Did Ellen White Understand the Gospel?
The next support for Ellen White’s prophetic ministry is that she “affirmed the historic Protestant understanding of justification and sanctification” (254). Because Ellen White is so clearly a perfectionist in her understanding of sanctification, Lake points to John Wesley as a leading Protestant who taught a doctrine of character perfection similar to Mrs. White (254-255; see also 230-231), but Lake’s parallel is faulty for three reasons. First, Wesley’s ideas about perfection are actually more mellow than Mrs. White’s extreme views. In addition, Wesley never claimed to be an inspired prophet, so no one is obliged to accept his authority. Finally, Wesley wasn’t alive during the Reformation, so his views couldn’t reflect the “historic Protestant understanding of . . . sanctification” as articulated by reformers such as Luther and Calvin. Neither Ellen White nor Wesley understood that sanctification is not a process of attaining character perfection; instead, sanctification is a gift from God, bestowed in like manner as justification (see I Cor. 6:11). Wesley’s errors cannot absolve Ellen White from hers.
Was Ellen White a True Defender of the Faith?
Lake also seeks to credit the evangelical Ellen White for rejecting various Adventist heresies such as anti-Trinitarianism, legalism, the holy flesh movement, and pantheism (257-259), but Ellen White didn’t embrace the Trinity until 1898, and she remained a devoted character perfectionist until her death. The holy flesh notion taught that perfection must extend beyond mere character to the actual bodies of believers (thus, true believers would be in perfect health and would never become aged). Pantheism asserts that God is literally present in all entities of His physical creation. Why should Ellen White receive credit for rejecting such extreme notions? It certainly doesn’t require prophetic insight to reject the holy flesh fanaticism; in fact, all it would take is one gray hair…. While we appreciate Dr. Lake’s attempt to demonstrate why Ellen White’s prophetic claims should be believed, we must contend that each point of evidence actually precludes Ellen White from being a genuine prophet of God.
According to Canright, “Men who are conscious of being in the right can afford to state the position of their opponents fairly” (Seventh-Day Adventism Renounced, p. 306). Ellen White Under Fire doesn’t provide a balanced view of Ellen White’s theology—nor is it a fair treatment of the arguments of her critics. Essentially, Dr. Lake and the other defenders of Ellen White fail to give the whole literary and historical context of Ellen White’s teachings, even though they loudly assert that this must be done. SDA authors routinely summarize certain criticisms without including the evidence offered by the critic. Then they summarize Ellen White in ways that minimize the context, or else they quote tiny snippets of a controversial statement, leaving out the most damaging parts. We recognize the difficulty of providing FULL historical and literary context, but SDA apologists should make a greater effort to provide a balanced view of context.
For a start, they could address the most significant arguments against Ellen White, and they could begin quoting the leading critics instead of summarizing arguments unfavorable to EGW. Second, they could actually share the reasons (e.g. actual Ellen White quotes) for the various criticisms. Unfortunately, we must argue that Lake and the other SDA defenders of Ellen White shortchange the critics by ignoring context, which “is a breach of Christian ethics and is patently wrong” (202).
Before concluding, we would like to reiterate one major point regarding SDA defenses of Ellen White, and we aren't completely blaming Dr. Lake for this, but it seems these defenses are aimed at persuading the SDA laity that every charge against Ellen White has already been answered—without actually answering the questions. Such a strategy merely creates the impression that questions have been answered, but is it ethical? Average loyal Adventists such as many members of our own family (who would never dream of reading our Website for fear of deception) read the SDA writings and assume that everything has been answered. In our opinion, the most significant questions have merely been swept under the rug by the denomination. We pray that SDA thought leaders will consider every means possible to enhance transparency, including “stat[ing] the position of their opponents fairly.” We encourage clear and direct answers in SDA publications that accurately represent the most important criticisms, quote the controversial EGW writings in their historical and literary context, and then offer the church's explanation.
Is the Book of Revelation Literarily Dependent on the Book of Enoch?
“After that I saw . . . a multitude beyond number and reckoning, who stood before the Lord of Spirits” (Enoch 40:1)
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands . . . .” (Rev. 7:9, NKJV).
These supposed parallels merely mention a numberless multitude standing before God’s throne. The authors employ different words, so there is no essential literary connection. In addition, the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary states that chapters 37-71 of the Book of Enoch “must be attributed either to a Jew or to a Christian of the 1st or 2nd cent. A.D.” (p. 890, 1960 ed.). Thus, at least according to SDA scholars, the Book of Revelation possibly preceded the writing of Enoch 40.
“And I saw and behold a star fell from heaven” (Enoch 86:1).
“Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.” (Rev. 9:1, NKJV).
The term star is used in the Bible to denote angels or powers of heaven (see Rev. 1:20, Judges 5:20, Is. 14:13, & Daniel 8:10), so it isn’t particularly notable that John saw a star (Satan) falling from heaven. That view would be in line with Isaiah 14, which could also be the source for the writer of Enoch:
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars [angels] of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit” (Is. 14:12-15, NKJV).
“They were all judged and found guilty and cast into this fiery abyss” (Enoch 90:26).
“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15, NKJV).
The only significant parallel between Enoch 90:26 and Rev. 20:15 is the idea of casting the wicked into fiery torment—hardly a unique concept. For instance, Jesus said, “The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:49-50, NKJV). One could just as easily say that Jesus was literarily dependent on Enoch as to imply that John somehow benefitted from Enoch’s description to help him write Revelation. Both ideas are absurd.
“Their names shall be blotted out of the book of life” (Enoch 108:3).
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:5, NKJV).
The expression blotted out appears frequently in scripture (e.g. Deut. 25:6, Neh. 4:5, Ps. 109:14, and Is. 44:22, to list a few). Therefore, this parallel only proves that blotted out was a prominent Jewish term used alternately for the blotting out of sin or the blotting out of the sinner. John’s use of the term is no indication of any literary dependence on the Book of Enoch.
“The horse shall walk up to the breast in the blood of sinners” (Enoch 100:3).
“And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs” (Rev. 14:20, NKJV).
In line with the other symbolic expressions utilized by John, we believe that the parallel above reflects a common Jewish apocalyptic expression rather than literary dependence. However, we did not find a similar expression pre-dating the Book of Enoch (we did find several uses of this symbolism after the Book of Revelation was written). It is inappropriate to consider Enoch as a human source that helped John describe his visions; rather, John simply used common apocalyptic phraseology to help his readers relate to his topic. In contrast, Ellen White needed the descriptions provided by theologians and historians to give her readers the illusion that she saw Bible events in vision.
Ellen White’s View of Her Inspiration
"The message the Lord has given me to bear has been in a straight line from light to light, upward and onward from truth to advanced truth" (3SM 74).
"The Holy Ghost is the author of the Scriptures and of the Spirit of Prophecy. These are not to be twisted and turned to mean what man may want them to mean . . . ." (3SM 30; 2 MR 189).
“[T]here is one straight chain of truth, without one heretical sentence, in that which I have written. This [chain of truth], I am instructed, is to be a living letter to all in regard to my faith” (3SM 52).
“There are some professed believers who accept certain portions of the Testimonies as the message of God, while they reject those portions that condemn their favorite indulgences. Such persons are working contrary to their own welfare and the welfare of the church” (9T 154).
“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” (3SM 26; 2MR 87).
“I am instructed to say to our churches, Study the Testimonies. They are written for our admonition and encouragement upon whom the ends of the world are come. If God’s people will not study these messages that are sent to them from time to time, they are guilty of rejecting light” (2MR 191).
"It is Satan's plan to weaken the faith of God's people [SDAs] in the Testimonies. Next follows skepticism in regard to the vital points of our
faith, the pillars of our position, then doubt as to the Holy Scriptures, and then the downward march to perdition. When the Testimonies, which were once believed, are doubted
and given up, Satan knows the deceived ones will not stop at this; and he redoubles his efforts till he launches them into open rebellion, which becomes incurable and ends in destruction" (4T
Joseph Rector, July 14, 2010