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Why is it that some Seventh-day Adventists refer to Ellen White’s writings more than they do the Bible?

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Why is it that some Seventh-day Adventists refer to Ellen White’s writings more than they do the Bible?


Steve Answers:

I spend a fair amount of time around many Seventh-day Adventists who refer to the Bible much more than they refer to Ellen White. At the same time, I’ve been around those who refer to Ellen White’s writings much more than they do the Bible, and interestingly enough, I don’t like it.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I disagree with Ellen White’s writings, or that I ignore them. In fact, those who don’t read what Ellen White wrote miss out on great material. But those who fail to read the Bible, or simply don’t make time for it, miss out on the Word of God.

With millions of Seventh-day Adventists in the world, some refer to Ellen White more than the Bible. But that’s not the official belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Seventh-day Adventist doctrines are based on the Bible and the Bible only.

The Latin term sola scriptura (meaning “only Scripture”) has been used by Christians for centuries to indicate that the Bible is the only source for Christian beliefs. This use came as a response against those who held church traditions as a priority over Scripture. For those who use the writings of Ellen White as their priority, I would say to read the fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (www.adventist.org/beliefs/fundamental/index.html). One will see that our official statement continues to base our beliefs on the Bible.

Of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the first one is “The Holy Scriptures.” Some wonder why our belief in the Bible is the first on the list, while our beliefs about God come after it (beliefs 2 through 5 are about the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). But that’s because the Bible is our primary source of finding out about God. Obviously, the Bible is extremely important to Seventh-day Adventists.

Is the Bible important to you? How important? Is it merely a reference book that you use when you have a question? Is it a love letter that feeds your soul? Is it an assignment that you feel compelled to complete? Is it a boring book that others enjoy but you don’t? Is it personal to you?

Your question makes me wonder why some people refer to Ellen White’s writings more than the Bible. There are probably many different reasons. One might be that a person found something very helpful and wants to share that with others. Or maybe there is something specific in White’s writings that isn’t even in the Bible (there are far more pages of Ellen White’s writings than what you will find in the Bible). Or maybe a person is more familiar with Ellen White’s writings, so it’s easier to refer to them. Because Ellen White wrote more recently than the Bible writers did, some might prefer a more recent message. Some see Ellen White’s writings as God’s final message to this world, so they rely heavily on them.

While I believe God gave both specific and general messages to His people through Ellen White, I don’t think she was the final messenger—the last person for God to use. And here’s why: Talking about things that will happen in the end times, God says in Joel 2:28: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions” (NLT).* Peter cited this in Acts 2:17, and continued God’s message in verse 18: “In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy” (NLT). That sounds like more than one messenger; indeed, it sounds like many.

Of course! A prophet simply passes along a message. I expect God to send lots of messages as the history of this world comes to an end. And I would expect that there will be false prophets to create a distraction from the true ones (see Matthew 24:24).

I find that very few people read the writings of Ellen White. Too bad, because they miss out on a lot. I’ve re-written one of my favorite books by Ellen White—Steps to Christ. I did that because I think the message in the book is so important and so few young people read it. I’m hopeful that they will read a more current version of the same message. The new version is called Connection: How to Have a Relationship With God. It’s available as an audio book, too. (Jerry Thomas has written more current versions of two other great
Ellen White books: Messiah [The Desire of Ages] and Blessings [Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing].You can get the books at www.adventist bookcenter.com.)

My advice is to read the Bible. And I would also advise you to read Ellen White’s writings. I do both, although I definitely give preference to the Bible. Ellen White held the Bible in much higher regard than she did her own writings. Anyone who utilizes her writings more than the Bible are not following her writings, because she says not to do that. She places the Bible above her own writings. Her readers should do the same thing!

*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
 
Context and Common Sense, Please!

Most people can read Ellen White and apply her words to their own lives in a sensible manner. Common sense and reading something in context helps us stay on target instead of misusing Ellen White’s writings. The same thing could be said of Scripture, too.

Here’s an example of something specific that was written. Would you take this as a message specifically to you, or would you get the general message?

“I was shown that independence, a firm, set, unyielding will, a lack of reverence and due respect for others, selfishness and too great self-confidence, mark the character of Sister A. If she does not watch closely and overcome these defects in her character she will surely fail of sitting with Christ in His throne” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 305).

Was this written to you? What if you are a “brother” and not a “sister”? This specific message was written to “Sister A.” Would you look for a female in your church whose first name or last name begins with the letter “A” and tell her that this message was for her? I hope not! And yet the general message given to this specific person might have a general application to several people in your church, yourself included.

We could do the same thing with a passage from the Bible. “I also received a report of scandalous sex within your church family, a kind that wouldn’t be tolerated even outside the church: One of your men is sleeping with his stepmother” (1 Corinthians 5:1, Message).*

Was this written to your church? Could it be written to your church? Most people understand that 1 Corinthians was written to the church in Corinth. But most people would also be quick to understand that God is not in favor of a man sleeping with his stepmother. In the same way, most would understand that selfishness and a lack of respect or reverence are character defects to be overcome, whether your name is “Sister A” or not.

In short, context and common sense, please! in reading Ellen White.

*Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. 



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