Lesson 10 is a rehash of doctrines that all Adventists are familiar with. These doctrines were formulated and agreed upon by the brethren, and then Ellen White put her stamp of divine approval upon them. Let us look at each one briefly.
This doctrine arrived in the SDA Church in 1888 via A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner. To her credit, she adopted the 1888 message and put her influence behind it. One might wonder why, if the Lord already had an appointed messenger in His church, namely Ellen White, did He not send the "righteousness by faith" message to her? The fact of the matter is, no new revelations regarding any religious subject ever came through Ellen White. It seems her position was to put the "stamp of approval" upon whatever doctrines the leading men devised.
After the 1888 message, another message came to the SDA Church. In 1901, A.F. Ballenger began studying the SDA Sanctuary message. He compiled an impressive array of Biblical evidence showing the traditional SDA position was wrong. Unfortunately for Ballenger, Mrs. White had visions earlier in her career that already put the "stamp of truth" upon that teaching. To discard this traditional SDA teaching would be to discard the teachings of Ellen White. Mrs. White would not put up with this, so she fired off a testimony to Ballenger instructing him to trust "demonstrations of the Spirit" rather than relying solely on the Word of God.1 Ballenger chose to follow the Bible and was eventually cast out of the SDA Church. This episode gives lie to the pretense that Seventh-day Adventists view the Bible as the "final" authority. Since that day, many an Adventist scholar has challenged the traditional SDA teaching, but the church's corporate executives are still loathe to change this doctrine for fear of upsetting the "authority" of Ellen White.
The Sabbath doctrine was not discovered by Seventh-day Adventists studying their Bibles, nor was it communicated to them via Ellen White. The primary influence in bringing the Sabbath to the attention of early Adventists was Joseph Bates, who acquired the teachings from the Seventh Day Baptists, who had been keeping the Sabbath for over 100 years. At first the Whites were unwilling to accept the Sabbath, but they eventually adopted it. Afterwards, Ellen White had visions that put the "stamp of approval" on Bates' Sabbath doctrine.
The "state of the dead" was first promoted among first-day Adventists. This teaching was later adopted by Sabbath-keeping Adventists. As mentioned earlier, in one of her earliest visions Mrs. White saw the dead saints walking around up in Heaven. After she adopted the doctrine of soul-sleep, she never again saw the dead saints in vision.
The whole reason that Adventists even exist today is because of a faulty understanding that the Lord was returning to the earth in 1844. Perhaps some good came from this failure, because early Adventists spent a lot of time digging through the Scriptures trying to understand end-time events. To their credit, Adventists have rightly concluded that there is no secret rapture, and many a church could learn something from the Adventists on this point.
Did Seventh-day Adventists lose sight of the most important Christian message: The gospel of Jesus Christ and His righteousness? Pfandl writes in Friday's lesson:
During the early years, many of our pioneers became imbalanced in their preaching of the law. Hence, Ellen White wrote in 1890: “As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law.”What a shocking admission that the "remnant" people, God's one true church, the sole object of God's approval, led by a prophetess that was supposedly in constant communication with heaven, should lose sight of the most important truth in the Bible! All the while Adventists were deriding other churches as "apostate Protestantism" and "whores of Babylon" those very churches were the ones sending out missionaries and giving the true gospel message to the world while Adventists were as "dry as the hills of Gilboa." How could God's "remnant" be so wrong about the most critical Christian doctrine for 44 years? And when it did come, why were they so loathe to accept it? Does this sound like the actions of the "true church" to you?
1. Ellen White, letter "A Warning Against False Theories," May 24, 1905, MR 760.