David DePinho's Testimony
My name is David W. DePinho. I am a chaplain serving on active duty with the United States military. Prior to that I was a civilian pastor in the state of Indiana. In both situations I was serving in the capacity of a Seventh-day Adventist ordained minister. I am no longer a Seventh-day Adventist minister. I now serve as a chaplain for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), a 35 million member umbrella organization for small denominations and independent non-denominational churches.
As I begin, I want the reader to know that during my years as an Adventist pastor—as both a local civilian pastor and a military chaplain—I have appreciated very much the SDA Church leadership with whom I have worked. Most recently the Endorsing Officer for Adventism was the perfect gentleman and dealt with me in as kind and Christian a way as anyone could hope. I believe him to be a true Christian man.
When I was working for the Indiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (SDA’s) from 1990-1997, I likewise had the most positive relationships with the administration. They were fine people and I still consider them as friends. Much the same could be said of my Adventist undergraduate and seminary professors at Andrews University (an Adventist denominational school). I do not have a bad word to say about anyone in the SDA Church that I ever had the pleasure to work with or under. In my experience they are good folks trying to do right as they see it.
In addition to my good relationships with leaders of the Church in the past, in my recent studies of issues relating to Ellen White and some of the SDA doctrine which eventually led to my leaving the SDA church, persons with whom I dealt gave me the utmost respect and courtesy. I continue to respect these men, and will for the rest of my life. Not just one or two, but every one of them were "tops" in dealing with me.
I write the above paragraphs so you, the reader, will sense my spirit and intention as I write about my journey out of the SDA church. I left reluctantly and I left with remorse that my decision would disappoint leaders who have stood with me at each juncture of my ministry. My professors were there when I came to them as a young man just out of the Marine Corps. They helped me through the maturing process, as my personality softened under the influence of the spirit of Christ. They were there at my ordination, they supported me through the trials of the ministry to my local churches and they were there supporting me as I entered the military to serve as a chaplain.
Please do not misunderstand, my reluctance and remorse in leaving Adventism are not because I do not stand by the integrity and Biblical correctness of my decision. I do, very much so. But the reason I make mention of this remorse is because I know many of the people I respect within Adventism will reason that I left because I fell away from the Lord to one degree or another. After all, since Adventists believe the SDA church represents the best presentation of Biblical truth on earth, they must reason that I left the "truth".
So Adventism has done a great deal of good in my life. My professors, for the most part, taught me biblical Christianity. So you might be asking, "What’s the problem? You liked the leadership and truly found Christ?" I would answer that that is correct. I did. But in life, and in the area of religion, it is possible to find Christ in spite of our contortions of the Word of God. Jesus remarked to the religionists outside Jerusalem, if the people did not praise God, the very rocks would cry out. God is big enough to use even a church that was founded on false doctrine. And God used Adventism to reach me, but God never leaves us where He finds us. That I found Christ in Adventism does not provide a "pass" for a church that teaches false doctrine. The system of Adventism must bring itself fully into line with the Bible. Many others have fallen victim to the false teachings of Adventism and as a result teach and believe lies of legalism and other heretical teachings of Mrs. Ellen White.
KEYS TO UNDERSTANDING ADVENTISM:
Adventism is a unique system of beliefs held together by one idea more then any other. That idea is that Adventism is "right", that Adventism represents "truth". It is an idea that has a powerful influence on church members. If challenged, Adventists will digest and interpret information about doctrine with the premise that: "Adventists are right".
I have to admit that for years that idea, that I was "right" and had the "truth," kept me from really reading to "understand" the perspectives of those who would question Adventist beliefs. Rather then reading to understand, I read to defend Adventism, I read to find the faults in the arguments of my "foes," as I saw them. I suppose its all part of the human condition; we are naturally defensive with regard to our beliefs. But I have come to believe that this tendency is exploited foundationally from early Adventist teaching.
For the many years I was an Adventist I saw myself as a person with an open mind. I kept reading the opposition’s material but with each new book or article that I read, I felt comforted to conclude that the writer was wrong, and that Adventists were right…again! Lucky for the SDA church, most books and articles that seek to critique or attack Adventism simply do not understand the workings of Adventist thinking. So my thinking went largely unchallenged.
As I said, the human mind is wired to defend itself against change. When an important belief is challenged and someone makes a credible point against the validity of an Adventist doctrine, the Adventist believer thinks of another Adventist doctrine in which they "know" themselves to be right and also "know" the author is "wrong", thus trumping any validity to the point made by the critic.
For instance, if a writer is perceived to be "wrong" on the State of the Dead, then he can not be trusted to rightly evaluate the Adventist understanding of the "Investigative Judgment." But more then that, most Adventists would simply not even read the author. The Adventist will refer back to other things they believe the author is wrong about. Simply put, Adventism is an "Us versus Them" construction. Usually, Adventists do not deal with one issue at a time because they see churches as "wholes", as systematic doctrinal schemes. In Biblical terms, Adventism believes itself to be the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, the true Church of God (Rev. 12). Members of other denominations are simply "non-Adventists." Catholic believers are represented as those who are following the woman who rides the beast, and Protestant churches are the harlot daughters of the beast. (Some Adventists do not hold these views, particularly the more mature members who see past these ideas and hold a more Christian understanding of Bible prophecy.)
As a result, those who would detract from the validity of Adventism do so with a tremendous handicap. Adventists see the body of doctrines that is "Adventism" to be "the truth" as a whole, or if not all truth, at least the best exposition of truth that exists. Adventists could only expect or accept a valid attack to come from someone who is right on all points of doctrine, and have a clear system of "truth". Since other churches are seen to be tainted with error and represent the "chaos" of spiritual Babylon it is unlikely that anyone will be accepted as having the credibility to break down these presuppositions. Of course, the truth is that no person or denomination has every piece of truth perfectly figured out. We will all be learning and discovering our infinite God throughout eternity.
As a side note, Adventism also heightens the importance of issues that are secondary in nature with regard to human salvation, while at the same time maximizing the importance of issues that are heretical and undermine the core message of salvation. Early Adventism demonstrated this clearly when it taught the Arian doctrine (the belief that Jesus is not God but a created being like humans) while making the practice of the Sabbath a testing truth for salvation. Thus the doctrine of the trinity was perverted and the Sabbath was taught as a saving truth.
Another problem is that it is not possible for critics to deal with the 27 doctrines of Adventism at the same time. As a result, Adventists will just mentally remind themselves that the critic who makes a good point in one area is wrong about a doctrine that is not under discussion in another area. It is a kind of Catch 22 for anyone seeking to find the cracks in the armor of Adventism.
Conceptually, Adventism sees itself as a "ship" on a journey to the second coming of Jesus. The ship is similar in concept to Noah’s ark. If an Adventist leaves the denomination they are leaving the ship. To them, other ships (denominations) are false ships, or at best, sinking ships. Adventists believe, on this basis, that they are in great danger and will most likely be "lost" as a result of leaving Adventism. So this last emotional issue combines with the other intellectual issues to make Adventists slow to change. This operates as a powerful deterrent to discourage those who might otherwise honestly question or challenge what they have been taught. To the credit of those who dealt with me, this was never mentioned.
HOW DID I BREAK THROUGH THAT KIND OF THINKING?
If Adventist believers are reluctant to deal with doctrines "one by one" and therefore will not evaluate doctrines individually, what is to be done? How can an honest Adventist really come to a fair and honest evaluation of his or her belief system as it is taught in the Adventist Church? I think my experience will be helpful to the reader.
I remember when my thinking began to change. I have to admit I did not expect to change, or want to change, with regard to Adventism. I was very content as an Adventist. I had supportive denominational leaders, who I consider friends to this very day. I have a good marriage, great kids and am doing well as a Chaplain. It is somewhat of a paradox that it was my contentment with life and with Adventism that ultimately led me to leave.
Since things were going so well for me I was ready for another challenge. I remembered my old friend from college, Pastor Clayton Peck, now, no longer an Adventist pastor. Clay is the pastor of a non-denominational church called Grace Place located in Berthoud Colorado. I thought, "If I take my time with him and see what’s going on with his thinking, I might be able to bring him back into the church. I reasoned he probably was emotionally hurt from battling the Adventist church over contemporary worship issues. "Clay is a good man and a serious Christian, He will come back. After all, every honest person will have to conclude Adventists are right!"
And thus, from my world of contentment and harmony, I e-mailed Clay and began a dialog. For weeks we talked about the Sabbath, the Sanctuary and Adventist doctrine of the Investigative Judgment and I made arguments I was proud of and felt were logically sound. Clay was a gentleman in every respect. He was patient, kind and respectful, he stayed with the issues consistently. I remembered why I liked him so much in our school days.
Then one day Clay said, "Dave, would you do something for me? Would you read about the Shut Door doctrine in early Adventism? And before you do, read the story of Israel Dammon on the www.ellenwhite.org site on the internet." He continued, "I believe Ellen White is an issue that has to be settled before we can really talk productively about issues of Bible doctrine. If EGW has doctrinal authority as an inspired prophet of God, then she holds the trump card on any theological discussion we might have. You have to somehow end up where EGW was on all the major issues. On the other hand, if she does not have doctrinal authority, we can go back and objectively study the Bible."
I felt his request was reasonable, I also felt that this would be a good opportunity to share some of Ellen White’s material that I felt would be persuasive in reclaiming him for Adventism. I believed wholeheartedly that Ellen White was a prophet and now I could prove it. I have a double major in religion from Andrews University and a Master of Divinity from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from undergraduate school, and while seminary had no such recognition program, I had a respectable Grade Point Average there too. So I felt that I understood the issues and was well equipped to defend the truth.
I did not know it then but Clay had asked me to evaluate the "lynchpin" of Adventism.
An honest evaluation of Ellen White and her role in Adventism is absolutely essential before Adventists can honestly study Bible doctrine. Some wax eloquent about the beauty of "this doctrine" or "that" and its special meaning for Christians. Others speak about the freedom and the joy in Christ of being set free from "this regulation" or "that teaching". However, when it comes to Adventists, these issues cannot even be discussed intelligently until the issue of the authority of Ellen White is addressed.
You ask why? Some of you reading this are saying, "I don’t need Ellen White to support my beliefs, I believe, teach and support everything from the Bible!" But hold it right there for a moment. I am about to PROVE that that is impossible.
Two points make it clear that Ellen White is where we must start:
First, looking at Ellen White (EGW) provides us an opportunity to deal with a "concrete" issue rather than a theological one. For instance, it’s easier for us to get a handle on terms, ideas and the application of those ideas. We can deal with actual events and happenings since there is a wealth of contemporary source material to test her work as a prophet.
Second, EGW is a "doctrine" in and of herself within Adventism and that has a couple of serious implications. This must not be overlooked or down played. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual dated 1986 and issued by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists we find listed on page 28, doctrine number:
17. "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." (emphasis supplied)
Adventists will often say they support their church doctrine because of the Bible alone and not EGW. I said it too, over and over again. But I can now see that that is impossible with the above doctrine. Logic dictates that if EGW is to be used for "guidance, instruction and correction", and she is an "authoritative source of truth", then Adventism has two truth sources. So the last statement in doctrine 17 above "the Bible is the standard" is a logical fallacy as long as EGW is doctrinally held to be an authoritative source of truth as well.
As I wrote above, in the system of Adventist beliefs, EGW herself is a doctrine! While I know it is possible to support the doctrine of prophets living in the end of time by the Bible, it is not possible to test a person who claims to be a prophet (or a "messenger" which EGW said encompassed all the work of a prophet and more) without looking at the things they teach, wrote and said. Do not read further until you understand this paragraph.
For those Adventists who still believe that the Bible is the supreme authority and are willing to really test EGW against the Bible, consider this. If EGW is not "biblical" and contradicts the Bible when she says "I saw" or "I was shown" or relates the scenes of a vision, then Adventism is teaching false doctrine in supporting her role as a prophet in the church. That is clear, isn’t it?
Since Adventism is a system that is held to be truth, if acceptance of EGW as a prophet "falls" then all Adventist teachings must come under a fresh reevaluation, with the preface understanding that Adventism is wrong about EGW. This reevaluation, ultimately, was what led me to leave Adventism.
I finally concluded that EGW could not be a divinely appointed prophet. As a result I began to look at Adventist doctrine openly and honestly for the first time. This was not because I expected my doctrine to be wrong. Remember, I held it because I learned it from the Bible. But when I stopped again to really look at my doctrinal beliefs, now without EGW’s writings to "clear things up", I had to admit that Adventism makes some very bold statements on some very thin evidence.
As a matter of conscience, experience, and integrity, if you or I are going to make bold extraordinary claims, we had better have extraordinary evidence. Consider your personal life. If you are going to tell your friend their spouse is unfaithful, you had better be able to back it up with facts, witnesses, pictures or something. But speculation, feelings or rumors just are not enough to risk the kind of heartache that would be caused to your friend’s marriage if you were wrong. Never mind the damage to your own reputation if you did not have solid evidence for such a charge.
The early Adventists knew that EGW’s living prophetic ministry, more than the Bible, was the one issue that gave Adventism the extraordinary credibility to say extraordinary things. James White (EGW’s husband) wrote:
"Our position on the Testimonies [EGW’s writings] is like the keystone to the arch. Take that out, and there is no logical stopping place till all the special truths of the message are gone. ... Nothing is surer than this, that the message and the visions belong together and stand or fall together." Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Aug 14, 1883
As I wrote earlier, EGW is the "linchpin" of Adventist teaching. James White calls her the "keystone". EGW never disagreed with these words of her husband. During the time Dudley Canright (one of Adventism’s oldest and strongest critics) was still an SDA pastor he said virtually the same thing years later, and again, EGW never refuted the idea.
EGW said something similar when she penned these words:
"If the Testimonies [her own writings] speak not according to this word of God, reject them. Christ and Belial cannot be united."-- Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 691.
But be certain that this is not easy to do if you are considering remaining in the Adventist Church. Open questioning is often worse then silent conclusions in Adventism. Again we read from EGW’s own hand:
"Some write to me, saying that God has revealed to them that Sister White is in error, that she is influenced by the leaders to believe some things that are not true, and to reject some things that are true. But the word comes again, "Heed them not; I have not spoken by them, nor given them any word or message. They have spun lying words, from the suggestions of Satan." Selected Messages Book 2, page 76, paragraph 2
While I do not want to make more of this statement than is warranted, it does seem to say that when it comes to "beliefs" or teachings EGW says she is not to be considered wrong. She flatly denies any of her core ideas are from others or that others influenced her beliefs or writings. In the course of your wider study you will be able to evaluate if this is true. EGW asserts that her writings are not to be filtered by men but to be accepted as she wrote them. Consider this statement that clarifies what I have just said. It is from Selected Messages Book 1, page 38, paragraph 1-3 or 4:
Chapter Title: Ellen G. White and Her Writings, The Sacred and the Common
March 5, 1909
"I am troubled in regard to Brother A, who for some years has been a worker in southern California. He has made some strange statements, and I am pained to see him denying the testimonies as a whole because of what seems to him an inconsistency--a statement made by me in regard to the number of rooms in the Paradise Valley Sanitarium. Brother A says that in a letter written to one of the brethren in southern California, the statement was made by me that the sanitarium contained forty rooms, when there were really only thirty-eight. This, Brother A gives to me as the reason why he has lost confidence in the testimonies. . . .
"The information given concerning the number of rooms in the Paradise Valley Sanitarium was given, not as a revelation from the Lord, but simply as a human opinion. There has never been revealed to me the exact number of rooms in any of our sanitariums; and the knowledge I have obtained of such things I have gained by inquiring of those who were supposed to know. In my words, when speaking upon these common subjects, there is nothing to lead minds to believe that I receive my knowledge in a vision from the Lord and am stating it as such. . . .
"When the Holy Spirit reveals anything regarding the institutions connected with the Lord's work, or concerning the work of God upon human hearts and minds, as He has revealed these things through me in the past, the message given is to be regarded as light given of God for those who need it. But for one to mix the sacred with the common is a great mistake. In a tendency to do this we may see the working of the enemy to destroy souls". (emphasis mine)
So in the particulars regarding "common" things, EGW uses the information she has from human sources and we should not think she is claiming that God has told her these things. EGW says that it is only on theological matters that we should hold her to absolute "truth", or as she says, "light given of God" since these are the issues God himself has shown her. So if we find EGW taught false doctrine in Biblical matters we should remember that she believed it was shown to her in a vision or dream from God and that would qualify her as a false prophet. But it would not be fair to question her on issues about common things that do not have an impact on theology.
Again EGW counseled pastors not to interpret her theological content but to allow it to be accepted as it is written. She wrote:
"God has given me a marked, solemn experience in connection with His work; and you may be assured that so long as my life is spared, I shall not cease to lift a warning voice as I am impressed by the Spirit of God, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear. I have no special wisdom in myself; I am only an instrument in the Lord's hands to do the work He has set for me to do. The instructions that I have given by pen or voice have been an expression of the light that God has given me. I have tried to place before you the principles that the Spirit of God has for years been impressing upon my mind and writing on my heart.
"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 the 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 skepticism, and make of none effect the work that the Lord would do. Do not, by your lack of spiritual discernment, make of this agency of God a rock of offense whereby many shall be caused to stumble and fall, "and be snared, and be taken." Testimonies Vol 5, p. 691, written 1889 (emphasis mine)
"At times I am carried far ahead into the future and shown what is to take place. Then again I am shown things as they have occurred in the past. After I come out of vision I do not at once remember all that I have seen, and the matter is not so clear before me until I write, then the scene rises before me as was presented in vision, and I can write with freedom. Sometimes the things which I have seen are hid from me after I come out of vision, and I cannot call them to mind until I am brought before a company where that vision applies, then the things which I have seen come to my mind with force. I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision, as in having the vision. It is impossible for me to call up things which have been shown me unless the Lord brings them before me at the time that He is pleased to have me relate or write them." Spiritual Gifts (1860), vol. 2, pp. 292, 293.
Look at what it says on the next page:
"In bearing the testimony which the Lord has given me for the last fifteen years, I have been opposed by many who became my bitter enemies, especially those whose errors and sins have been revealed to me, and have been exposed by me. Some of these have carried out their feelings of revenge, as might be expected, in attacking the humble instrument, and circulating unfavorable reports against me." Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2 p. 294, written 1860.
EGW considers herself an instrument in God’s hand, who is not responsible for what God has her write or say. Notice the quote below which again is meant to impress readers with the point that the words EGW speaks or writes on theological issues are God’s words which are given as God would have them be related.
"The question is asked, how does Sister White know in regard to the matters of which she speaks so decidedly, as if she had authority to say these things? I speak thus because they flash upon my mind when in perplexity like lightning out of a dark cloud in the fury of a storm. Some scenes presented before me years ago have not been retained in my memory, but when the instruction then given is needed, sometimes even when I am standing before the people, the remembrance comes sharp and clear, like a flash of lightning, bringing to mind distinctly that particular instruction. At such times I cannot refrain from saying the things that flash into my mind, not because I have had a new vision, but because that which was presented to me perhaps years in the past has been recalled to my mind forcibly." The Writing and Sending Out of the Testimonies, p.24.
EGW is absolutely clear. She says her words should be taken as they are, if we find theological error, her role as a prophet should be rejected. She says that in relating her visions, God is in control. So Adventists must deal with EGW and decide if she is a true prophet or not. She cannot be ignored. If a person believes EGW to be a prophet, then to be honest, they must heed her instruction to investigate her, and accept or reject her on the basis of the conclusions reached. To do that we must read what she wrote.
I will share some of the research I have done on an early doctrine of Adventism known as the "Shut Door doctrine". This is the idea that in 1844 Jesus moved to the throne of God in the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary just prior to the second coming of Jesus in glory. The idea that the door was shut to the lost was first taught by disappointed Millerites (but then it was the door of the parable of the 10 virgins) who soon (shortly after October 22nd 1844) rejected it. Many early Adventists who had not come under the influence of EGW rejected it like others, until EGW had a vision that assured them that the work for sinners was in fact, finished. Due to that false vision of EGW, work for the lost among Adventists would not begin again for nearly seven years. But that evidence will come later.
Now watch out, if EGW is rejected then something momentous has happened. A doctrine of Adventism is seen to be wrong. A teaching of the SDA Church is seen to be a "false teaching". We could therefore say with complete honesty that Seventh-day Adventists teach at least one "false doctrine". Do you see why EGW is so important? I hope now you will study this question with a personal stake in it, to be honest with yourself, no matter what the conclusion.
EGW represents a test case. If Adventists are wrong about her, then the next logical question is what else could they be wrong about. Perhaps Pastor Clay Peck knew that when he asked me to study the issue. This is not to say other doctrines of Adventism must be wrong, but that Adventists should reevaluate their beliefs without the smugness that comes from believing you have a recently living prophet verifying your conclusions and beliefs. There is one doctrine of Adventism however that must be wrong if EGW is rejected. That is the doctrine of the `Remnant’. Since EGW is 50% of the support for teaching that Adventism is the Remnant Church of Bible prophecy, if she goes, so too does this doctrine.
So in agreement with Pastor Peck I went off to really investigate the issues surrounding EGW. I decided to look at both sides, to read the material "pro and con" and make my best defense. I was confident I would be able to see through the lies that sought to discredit this powerful woman of God, as I then saw her.
I checked out the Ellen White Estate Web Site and the material at Andrews University on their web site. I looked at the detractors' (critics') material too. I read books, lots of them. I read Pro-Adventist books including the following: I read Messenger of the Lord by Dr. Herbert E. Douglass, Luke, a Plagiarist? by George Rice, Why I Believe in Mrs. E. G. White and Ellen White and Her Critics by Francis D. Nichol, I Was Canright’s Secretary by Carrie Johnson, The World of Ellen G. White Edited by Gary Land, The Ellen G. White Writings by Arthur L. White, Early Writings by Ellen White, Testimonies Volume One by Ellen White, The Great Controversy by Ellen White, The Desire of Ages by Ellen White, Steps to Christ by Ellen White, "Foundations…by Damsteegt and a dozen or so other pro Ellen White books. I also read numerous articles seeking to defend or promote the writings of Ellen White from hard copies I had in my library and those I found on the web sites.
On the other side I read White Washed by Sydney Cleveland, Prophetess of Health: Ellen G. White by Dr. Ronald Numbers, The White Lie by Walter Rea, Life of Mrs. White by D.M. Canright, Visions of White by Snook and Brinkerhoff, and The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventism by Dale Ratzlaff, as well as numerous articles from web sites critical to Adventism.
Newer books such as Dale Ratzlaff’s The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventism, written in 1996, are much more effective in breaking the assumptions of Adventist believers. Dale uses logic and Biblical truths accepted by Adventists of today to show that no matter what you think about today’s Adventism, when Adventism was formed it taught false doctrine. Think about what I just wrote. At the same time Adventism formulated the doctrine that it was the one true Remnant Church of Bible prophecy, I found that Adventism was teaching clear heresy that all Adventists would reject today, such as the Arian heresy (that Jesus is not eternally God) and the Shut Door in heaven which taught Adventists to stop sharing the Gospel to the lost.
Dale gives evidence of such false teachings for readers to evaluate themselves. As a result, modern Adventists are able to imagine themselves rejecting the Adventist church if they had lived when it started because it was teaching heresy they could not accept today. If God is the same yesterday, today and forever, the same standards of truth for the people who lived at the beginning of Adventism would apply to us today. Error is error and truth is truth. This idea of obvious false doctrines in Adventism in the early years of the church really challenged me. Ellen White said that all those who rejected early Adventism (with it’s accompanying false doctrines) were lost! EGW said all the false doctrines of Adventism in the beginning were true, that they were present truth.
Isn’t that an interesting proposition? If a Methodist or Baptist rejected the false teachings of early Adventism, EGW says they would be lost for not accepting present truth!
Imagine if Adventists still taught the Arian heresy. If I were to say to a Christian who believes Jesus is fully God:
"Join my church, we reject Jesus as God but we do teach the correct Sabbath."
Right or not about the Sabbath issue the serious Christian would respond:
"Sorry, Jesus is my God and Savior as the Bible says, I could not join a Church which rejects Jesus as God."
Some Adventists today actually have the gall to say that the errors of the past were present truth at the time! Give me a break! Would you have rejected Adventism on the grounds I outlined? I would have. Which is more important, Jesus’ role as God and Savior or the teaching of the Sabbath? James White went to his grave teaching Jesus was a created being and was not fully God. Uriah Smith a major figure of early Adventism lived most of his life teaching the same. And EGW only "clarified" the issue on the side of the Trinity after her husband was long dead.
I dialoged at some length with the university professor who taught the Ellen White class at my Alma Mater as well as the religion department chairman there. In that dialog I wrote an imaginary story that was no doubt lived out to some extent in the lives of early Adventists. I have altered it slightly for ease of reading in this testimony:
My department chairman asked me:
"Just which one of the key, mature teachings of EGW would you want to jettison? Can you accuse her of portraying a false Gospel in the final analysis? Has the over all tenor of her work been to lead people to the Lord, His Word, and a vision of Christian living, self-sacrifice and witness or not?"
The professor who taught the Ellen White class also asked:
"Just which of Ellen White's broader expositions of Bible truth do you want to throw out?"
I am not able to look at these things as irrelevant just because they happened more then a hundred years ago. I have to say: What if these things were taught today? It was "today" to the founders when they taught that Jesus was not God. It was "today" when the founders taught that the Gospel was not to be shared with the lost. It was "today" in the lives of hundreds of early believers when all of this was happening that they said that Adventism was the true Church of God on earth and other Churches and their members represented the "lost" the "rejected of God" and "Babylon". I cannot say these things are small when I consider that they had a contemporary audience, that they applied these things to their witness for Christ and to their life. These false teachings were of fundamental importance and destroyed the Gospel message.
EGW condemned the faithful pastors of non-millerites and later on, the faithful witness of non-Adventists. She says that God no longer listened to their prayers because they rejected Miller and his teachings and later her teachings. She says they are lost when they reject her false teachings about the gospel being closed to anyone who was not a part of the Millerite 1844 date setting fiasco and the subsequent teaching of the "Shut Door". We cannot explain these things away saying they were "Present Truth" (Adventism says false doctrines of the past were okay, since they were somehow true for that time!). No, they were errors, errors about salvation, errors about the Gospel, and just because change came to some of these things we cannot say that when error was taught in the name of God that it was not heresy. God does not lie. Not even to make His points.
Imagine this scenario of those early events:
It is the year 1844, and I am a young Brethren Church member. I am Arminian rather then Calvinist, (I believe it is possible to be lost having once been saved, as do the Methodists). I am a Trinitarian, I believe in adult believer baptism, and know salvation is by grace alone. My friend, who is with me, is a Seventh-day Baptist (SDB), he likewise holds similar beliefs but also the particulars of the Seventh-day Baptists (for the purpose of this illustration I will not debate their rightness or wrongness).
I tell my friend who is the SDB that I am drawn to the persuasive words and teachings of those who are preaching Mr. Miller's ideas. My pastor at the Brethren Church and my SDB friend remind me that no one can know the day or the hour of Christ's coming. They say that the Millerites, though persuasive and seeming to have Biblical reasons for their teachings, are still wrong. My friends quote from the Bible "The first to come forward and present his case, seems right until another comes forward and questions him". "These Millerites are teaching in direct opposition to the word of God," they say. "No man knows when Jesus is coming again".
I refuse to listen to my friends. I respond that there is too much of "God" in this. I do not fully understand it, but "Miller is right!" I declare. I join the Millerites and expectantly wait for the Second Coming on Oct., 22 1844. But on the 26th of October 1844, a few days after my terrible disappointment, (since Jesus did not come as expected) my Pastor and my SDB friend approach me and say: "We are sorry Dave. We live and learn. Hopefully this experience will teach you to trust God’s word over the persuasive messages of preachers who disregard it's plain warnings."
I can reply in one of two ways…
I can say:
"Yes, I see what you were trying to tell me now. If only I would have believed the Bible's clearest warning about ‘the day and the hour’ rather then following the complex numerical calculations of Mr. Miller."
Or I might say:
"Wait, it all worked out in the charts that Mr. Miller provided. We could not have been wrong. I must look for the true answer to this because it is very important for me, something must have happened on 22 October 1844!"
If I reply the first way I can get on with my Christian living and the work of sharing Christ to the lost. If I reply the second way, another scenario develops. Let us see how that second scenario develops.
I search for an explanation of the disappointment. Not getting beyond my past interpretation of Oct. 22, 1844, as a date of prophecy, I settle on the answers of James and Ellen White and those who stand with them. This time I proclaim, with the Whites:
- That we are among the "Remnant" (the last true followers of Jesus);
- Ellen White is God's special messenger or prophet;
- The door of salvation is shut to the wicked world (no new converts from among the unsaved). No more teaching of the Gospel to the lost;
- Millerites who have not continued trying to understand Oct. 22, 1844 are all lost;
- I look forward to Christ’s Second Coming in 1851, seven years of a "tarrying time" (a waiting time) have elapsed, along with the Whites and brother Bates, who likewise have accepted EGW's role as a prophet;
- The Sabbath is the Third Angels message of Rev 14 and it runs from 6pm to 6pm;
- I have given up the doctrine of the Trinity. There is only one God! Jesus is created. James White has assured me and his wife the prophet has not spoken to say he is wrong;
- I accept the Sanctuary message and the Investigative Judgment, learning that I must faithfully reproduce the character of Jesus to vindicate Jesus against Satan’s accusations;
I am really feeling good now since I know these "truths". I reassure myself that there is safety in following truth. We were wrong in teaching that 1844 would be the Second Coming but we have grown in great light from God. All of those who have turned their backs on truth no longer have the light of God in their lives, this I know since EGW has informed me of this. God has truly smiled upon my willingness to follow truth wherever it leads. I try to live holy and I do not waste my time on unbelievers, since they are forever lost.
My SDB friend visits me again. Since he has heard that I now believe in the Sabbath, we discuss it together. He tells me the Bible is clear, if I am going to keep the Sabbath it begins at sundown and should be kept as the Bible says or it is not being kept! I am wrong, he declares, to try to keep it from 6pm to 6pm. He tells me that salvation is in Christ and Jesus is fully God, it is only in Jesus "as God", he says, that he could provide for our salvation. He warns me again that there is no Biblical evidence for a seven-year tarrying time ending in 1851. He gently repeats to me that this is the same mistake that I made concerning 1844 and I am repeating it. He tells me that it is crazy to accept the teachings of people who are listening to EGW's "visions" which teach that salvation is closed for all the lost, including even the sincere Millerites who will not listen to the shut-door Adventists. Again he assures me that I am wrong, and shows from the Bible that salvation is open to all until Jesus returns.
I reject his counsel. I have been with the Adventists for six years and I feel that they are "meeting my needs" and I find assurances that I am correct through the prophetic role of EGW. I ask myself, "Which one of the fallen Churches of Babylon who are prostituting themselves to the Beast have a living prophet?!" 1851 comes and goes, I am still on earth, I am a little disappointed again but I am O.K. with this "minor" disappointment, after all we were pre-warned by our Adventist leadership months ago that Jesus sets his own times. We are told Jesus might have come if we were more faithful. I feel guilty that I have not been more faithful. Was it my fault Jesus did not come?
Some time in 1851 a man is converted to Adventism and the Whites accept it as a true conversion even though he was not part of the Millerite movement! How can this be? Boy, we are changing, but that is O.K., I have to admit I feel a bit relieved about salvation being open to the lost now, because I never felt comfortable with the teaching that everyone but Adventists were in "darkness" and lost. I feel bad I did not share my faith to my agnostic brother before he died last month. But I thought, what's the use, he’s lost anyway "the door was shut!"
But I console myself; God is good, He knows what He is doing. 1853(4) comes and the Sabbath hours are revised to "Even to Even"! I think back to my conversation with my SDB friend. He was right after all! "No matter," I say, I'm right now too. I feel troubled about these changes that reflect the beliefs of churches within Babylon, but I feel the Lord has led me. I am reminded by the writings of EGW that the only way I can really get into trouble "is to forget the way the Lord has led me in the past."
It is now 1855; my old Pastor and friend see me at the grocery store. "Hello Dave," they greet me, "how are things going? I understand the Church has changed some of their doctrine again?"
"Yes," I say, a little embarrassed, "We are following ‘Present Truth’, so we can expect to advance in the light as it comes to us."
My friends are somewhat incredulous. "What?" they say. "When we presented these same truths to you a few years ago, you rejected them and called us Babylon! You said you were in the ‘Remnant’ church. You said we were rejecting true light as taught by the Adventists! Forgive us Dave, but now you wake up to the same things we were saying all along just because your leaders starting teaching it years after we told you so, and now you say it is ‘Present Truth’?! Give us a break!"
"Forgive us," they continue, "but you are deceived Dave, and you have no credibility with us anymore." "The Adventists have been teaching false doctrine (as I now readily admit) for years, and Dave, you said they were right. You can't explain it away saying that `it was true for that time' when it was error for all time!!!! It now turns out that we `Babylonians’ were right all along and after these years how can you look at us with a straight face and say, you have ‘present truth?!?!’"
I look to my friends and hang my head in embarrassment and shame. I have rejected all of their solid Biblical counsel for years because it did not come through those I trusted in "My Church". I go home to my wife and kids and quietly eat my dinner, ashamed to admit the truth--my friends we right all along.
This is not an unreasonable scenario. In fact, to one extent or another it was most likely lived out in the lives of "hundreds" of early Seventh-day Adventists (I say hundreds and not thousands because most people did not join the Adventists with their many clear heresies until a decade or so passed between them and the memory of their worst anti-Gospel heresies).
Adventism of today has a right, like any other Church, to defend its doctrines on the basis of Bible study. It cannot appeal to the leading of God in their church history. They readily admit that they were more wrong than the Seventh-day Baptists on the Sabbath issue (the rightness or wrongness of either group’s current position not being under discussion). As we can see from this story, error is never "Present Truth". In the light of hindsight, how can Adventism maintain that these things were true in any sense whatsoever? But EGW maintained either that:
a. These teachings were true for their time
b. She never taught these errors
c. Others were distorting the Adventist positions.
But the evidence reveals she did believe and teach these things, proclaiming that God validated these teachings through her visions and dreams as a prophet. She is therefore a false prophet for doing so. Her denials of what really happened are a secondary issue of integrity.
Adventists regularly dismiss these particulars and appeal to the fruit of the ministry of EGW, supposing it to be good spiritual fruit. But that is not an easy sell to those who are versed in her first 40 years of "ministry" which can be demonstrated to be very, very bad fruit. At the most fundamental level, she taught a false Gospel. Only as she matured and accepted the doctrines of the Methodists, Brethren, and Seventh-day Baptists, who she had years earlier relegated to the roles of the lost, would she again speak with a more Biblical voice.
If you or I were caught teaching the things I have spoken about, you would not hesitate to condemn me as wrong, wouldn’t you agree? Adventists feel justified in saying that the Bible writers did similar things to what we find in EGW. But friend, NONE of the Bible writers ever had a vision that taught heresy as truth. Some of the Bible writers may have been hypocrites at times and all were sinners, but scripture never teaches hypocrisy and error as truth!
Some Adventists appeal to personal experience. But as biblical Christians, we cannot appeal to personal experience because although experience is valuable, it is not enough. The experiences of dozens of false movements with "prophets", so called, demonstrate that. Adventism can only test prophets and test itself by the Bible.
I hope that the reader can see that I am not, and I was not, looking for perfection. Perfection is not reasonable to expect from humanity. I do not look for it even in God’s prophets. If Ellen White had stolen cars, committed adultery and murder, I could say, well, we all sin. After all, King David did some very terrible things. So, no, I am not looking for perfection in the life of EGW.
The things I am outlined are "damning" not just "damaging" to early Adventist credibility. EGW was teaching error in the name of God and claiming her visions were the source of that error. Biblical writers have never said "God showed me..." and then had what they prophesied turn out to be error. Never. Cases such as Jonah’s prophecy to Nineveh and Isaiah with Hezekiah demonstrate contextually their conditional nature. Adventists who point to these Bible stories to mitigate the charges against EGW are unable to point to similar EGW documentation to show her predictions are conditional.
When EGW speaks she says that she is not only led by God in the receiving of the visions and dreams but also in the relating of them. So, they are just as God would have them to be delivered with no mention of conditionality in historical context or in the "testimonies" of EGW themselves.
"At times I am carried far ahead into the future and shown what is to take place. Then again I am shown things as they have occurred in the past. After I come out of vision I do not at once remember all that I have seen, and the matter is not so clear before me until I write, then the scene rises before me as was presented in vision, and I can write with freedom. Sometimes the things which I have seen are hid from me after I come out of vision, and I cannot call them to mind until I am brought before a company where that vision applies, then the things which I have seen come to my mind with force. I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision, as in having the vision. It is impossible for me to call up things which have been shown me unless the Lord brings them before me at the time that He is pleased to have me relate or write them. Spiritual Gifts (1860), vol. 2, pp. 292, 293.
After she says this in unequivocal terms, her defenders, in light of her clear teaching of error on things such as the Shut Door must say, "Well, she must have misunderstood the visions she received". What is so difficult for EGW to understand when she reads (or as she claims, sees in vision) about the simple Gospel message? How does the message of universal salvation to all the repentant world get turned around to the degree that EGW is able to say God told her the Gospel age is over in 1844!? The answer is that God did not speak to her. Mrs. White did understand what she wrote. That is the point in the above quotation. I will share the content of the Shut Door visions below for you to evaluate yourself.
EGW says that when God was ready for her to relate a point, then that point was brought to her mind with force! But Adventists want so badly to salvage her they say she misunderstood it. The Bible says: 2 Peter 1:20 "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation".
So if we were to accept the defender’s explanation, we would have to accept that EGW misunderstood what God was saying and then taught that error in the name of God. EGW would teach what she thought God was saying even when she did not really know by providing her own interpretation, so her quote (see above) would amount to little more than a bold faced lie. This, then, would serve as another evidence she is a false prophet. This all adds up to one unavoidable conclusion. Adventist history does not show Adventism to be the "Remnant" of Bible prophecy.
Adventism is severely flawed doctrinally; even more than the Protestant churches that Adventism wants to label "Babylon". But there is one important difference: Adventism cannot admit its errors or grow out of them as long as they hold to the teaching that EGW is a prophet of God. EGW was right in one important statement that went like this: "Believers are in great danger if they forget the leading of the Lord in the past."
SO WHAT ABOUT ADVENTISM NOW, TODAY?
On paper, in their doctrinal statements, Adventists continue to be very heretical legalists. And that is why they struggle with the "Historical Adventists" who seek to faithfully reproduce early Adventism with its associated heresies.
Historical Adventists are clearly legalists. Other Adventists, Adventists who read their Bibles and do not spend a great deal of time in the writings of the church and EGW are often true Christians because they neglect Adventism’s particulars which they probably do not understand or care to understand. They embrace the clearer Bible message about salvation by grace.
I wrote to a member of the staff at the Ellen White Estate and it carries such an orderly form I have decided to reproduce it for the reader much as I sent it out to that staff member. It demonstrates the extent of the denial of the real issues concerning EGW.
Here is that e-mail response. I have added some clarification in parenthesis.
The Ellen White Estate Staff member (name omitted), wrote:
Was she (EGW) human and hence fallible? Of course. But do these failings warrant classifying her as a false prophet? No. Moses killed an Egyptian; he also disobeyed God by striking the rock twice. Should we therefore declare him to be a false prophet and discard the Pentateuch? No. This would be "flyspecking (nitpicking)." David committed adultery, murdered, and lied. Should we therefore discard the Psalms? Of course not. Then what should we say about Ellen White, whose ministry has led thousands to Jesus?
When I read that I wondered if we were talking about the same subject. I have no problem with EGW's humanity. I have a problem with her saying "God showed me" when God did not show her. This is very different then having a problem with her sins.
If Ellen White were alive, we could ask her to explain what she meant by "I was shown" or "I saw" in various instances. And I am sure we would receive a clear, satisfying answer.
When she was alive many of these questions were put to her. Some by Adventist Doctors, and she never answered them. They asked her, "how could God show you about the sins of an individual when those sins never happened?" EGW was given the opportunity to explain many of these things. She chose not to answer, there is no record she every responded to these questions. That leaves us with the responsibility to answer them for ourselves as responsible Christians.
I feel very comfortable with the fact that Ellen White did not at first understand the meaning of what God showed her. God does the best He can with the instruments available to Him.
In essence you feel comfortable laying the responsibility or blame for these heretical teachings at the feet of God. Preaching and teaching the nearness of the Second Coming of Christ as did the Bible writers is not the same as preaching a timetable and a date for the Second Coming. The Bible tells us this is NOT to be done. The chart that William Miller used to preach that Jesus would come in 1843 was stamped with divine approval by EGW. How could the chart showing biblical evidence for Jesus second Coming to earth in 1843 be in any sense "true"? That is a clear heretical teaching which contradicts the clear word of scripture.
It is the responsibility of the communicator to communicate. If EGW "misunderstood" her visions then God is responsible.
You say that EGW "is a head injury victim." The brother in Canada diagnosed her as having temporal lobe epilepsy. A large committee of specialists in this field examined this charge several years ago. The substance of their carefully worded statement in response was, "No way." My own response is, "If temporal lobe epilepsy can have such a positive effect on a person as it did on Ellen White, may God give us more people with the affliction." I dismiss the charge as having no merit.
I raise this as a ‘possible’ defense for EGW's false teachings. It is my honest attempt to defend her from charges of "knowingly perpetrating evil". If you disregard this possibility we are left with no reasonable answer than to say EGW was knowingly deceiving God's people, as you will see below in further responses.
Other churches that grew out of the Millerite movement --for example, the Advent Christian church--are virtually inconsequential today, and as F. D. Nichol once remarked (in substance) to one of their church leaders who attributed the remarkable vitality and growth of the SDAs to "better leadership," "No, my brother, the difference was that from the beginning God gave the Spirit of prophecy to a frail young woman in New England (EGW)."
I don't think size is a valid measure of success when it comes to "denominationalism". The issue is "Christianity". In other words, other groups that grew out of the Millerite heresy and died as believers went back to Christian Churches who did not hold to Millerism and their descendents are in those groups. A topically dedicated denominational edifice like "Seventh-day Adventist" is not required to gauge positive impact. Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and other denominations with prophets have done relatively well. Does their success equate to truth or that God's will is being accomplished?
I think you are correct however in that EGW is the reason Adventism and its denominational identity have remained intact. Without her role as a "prophet" within Adventism, the false teachings of Adventism's early years and subsequent lingering differences from evangelical Christianity would have caused us to rejoin with the larger Bible believing community.
Adventism has largely changed its modern ‘presentation’ with regard to things like the Investigative Judgment and the Sanctuary to bring them more into harmony with the evangelical world. Generally, as they are currently understood and taught by pastors such as myself and the Adventist Chaplaincy Endorser for instance, they are not heresy. But as long as Adventism supports EGW’s role as a prophet it will forever be assailed by those purists who wish to teach the doctrine as presented by EGW and early Adventism such as is currently the case with those who call themselves "Historical Adventists".
If EGW's statements were available and read by the masses of the Adventist Church, we would see more of the heresies of the "Historical" Adventists. Make no mistake about it; the abuses of the Historical Adventists originate from a faithful application of EGW's own words. Just as in her own time there was a church congregation which burned their photos in response to EGW's comments that photos were idolatry, only to have EGW chastise them for applying her words as they were written!
With regard to the statement EGW made about some who lived in her time living to see Jesus come and others who would be "food for worms". To me, this comes within the framework of conditional prophecy. God wanted to have the gospel message, in the context of the three angels' messages, carried to the world soon after 1844. His people did not rally to the extent necessary. Christ's coming has been delayed further by insubordination. Should we blame the prophet or the people? If the prophet, what shall we say about statements such as "Behold, I come quickly" and "Surely I come quickly" (Rev. 22:7, 20)? And shall we call Paul a false apostle because he said, "Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb. 10:37)?"
Preaching the nearness or the sureness of the Second Coming is very different from fixing a time or window of time for the event. Again, you feel comfortable blaming God for this and suggest that God misled biblical prophets in the past. Further, in an effort to defend EGW you repeat a defense she was fond of--you blame the people of the church. This attempt to defend EGW by creating guilt and laying it at the feet of the people is offensive.
Her statement was neither general as in the instances you just cited, nor was it conditional as was Jonah's. She said nothing about conditionality and the people present report nothing conditional about her statement. In the Bible’s abbreviated story of Jonah the response of the people to humble themselves is contextual proof that the prophecy was delivered conditionally. Nothing in scripture even remotely equates to the false teachings of the "Shut Door" doctrine where EGW proclaimed an end to the Gospel age! Nor is there anything similar to the EGW "food for worms" error under discussion.
As we know from epistemology (the study of the nature or grounds of knowledge), one best gains new knowledge by connecting it with the familiar. But what if you have no adequate frame of reference for the new knowledge? You may need time and new information to get it right. In Mrs. White's case, the Holy Spirit kept working with her until the truth became clear. Ellen White rightly acknowledged her full dependence on the Holy Spirit both in giving her a vision and in explaining it. But that did not mean her understanding was infallible.
I must take decided issue with you here. The historical record indicates that there was a clear "framework" for EGW to understand and teach truth "if" it had been revealed to her by God. Joseph Turner (an early Millerite Adventist) first taught the "Shut Door" as EGW would later teach it. What is more, Adventists were beginning to teach the door of salvation was open to sinners for repentance shortly after the 1844 disappointment, only to have EGW stop them "cold" and hold them in error for an additional 6-7 years! The issues were abundantly clear. The early Adventists were even identified as being "Sabbath and Shut door" people.
Clearly the framework for understanding was overwhelming. Either folks outside the Millerite movement could be saved or they could not. This was not rocket science or brain surgery. God’s words says:
"Go therefore and preach the Gospel to all nations…"
What possible framework was lacking for EGW to misunderstand God's word as it is written and instead proclaim:
"My accompanying angel bade me look for the travail of souls for sinners as used to be. I LOOKED BUT COULD NOT SEE IT FOR THE TIME FOR THEIR SALVATION IS PAST. Dear Brother and Sister, I have now written the vision God gave me. I am tired sitting so long. Our position looks very clear. WE KNOW WE HAVE THE TRUTH, THE MIDNIGHT CRY IS BEHIND US, THE DOOR WAS SHUT IN 1844 AND JESUS IS SOON TO STEP OUT FROM BETWEEN GOD AND MAN." Letter 5-1849, White Estate, (March 24-30, 1849)
Regarding EGW and the Shut Door. Ellen White maintained, and the evidence supports, that, while she and others believed for a time that no more sinners would be converted after 1844, she was never instructed in vision that the door of salvation was shut for the world.
This is simply not true. EGW said she did not teach it from vision, but the evidence is overwhelming that she was either forgetful or knowingly lied about what she said and taught from her visions. EGW did teach "from her visions" that the door was shut.
"The light behind them (Millerites who did not become Adventists) 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." Ellen G. White, A Word to the Little Flock, p. 14.
Again: (my comments are capitalized)
Under date of May 30, 1847, James White wrote:
"When she (EGW) received her first vision, Dec. 1844, she and all the band in Portland, Maine, (where her parents then resided) had given up the midnight-cry, and shut door, as being in the past (NO LONGER TO BE BELIEVED). It was then that the Lord shew her in vision, the error into which she and the band in Portland had fallen. She then related her vision to the band, and about sixty confessed their error, and acknowledged their 7th month experience to be the work of God.--James White, A Word to the Little Flock, p. 22"
(IN OTHER WORDS, TRUTH CAME TO THE BAND VERY QUICKLY BUT EGW HAD A VISION THAT LED THEM BACK INTO THE SHUT DOOR HERESY!)
Again EGW writes:
"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. (THIS WOMAN THOUGHT CHRISTIANS SHOULD STILL PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE LOST)
(I had known nothing of their difference.) 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. (IN OTHER WORDS THEY ACCEPTED EGW’S VISION THAT THE DOOR OF SALVATION WAS CLOSED TO UNBELIEVERS) Previous to this I had no light on the coming of the Bridegroom, but had expected Him to this earth to deliver His people on the tenth day of the seventh month. I did not hear a lecture or a word in any way relating to the Bridegroom's going to the holiest."--Letter 3, 1847. (To Joseph Bates, July 13, 1847)
I continued my response:
So, I am not sure what you are talking about when you say EGW did not teach this heresy from vision, she clearly did. As is evidenced from the last quote, she had visions at just the right time to maintain Adventists, who were starting to accept truth, in the belief of a heretical lie!
You say that EGW maintained that she did not teach this heresy from visions. You Quote EGW who said years later in 1883:
"For a time after the disappointment in 1844, I did hold, in common with the advent body, that the door of mercy was then forever closed to the world. This position was taken BEFORE my first vision was given me. (EMPHASIS MINE.). "I am still a believer in the shut-door theory, but not in the sense in which we at first employed the term or in which it is employed by my opponents." 1SM 63.
Robert Olsen, former head of the Ellen White Estate and loyal EGW supporter comments on this 1883 quote above, when he rightly corrects it with facts and suggests her statement is misleading.
"Ellen White appears to be saying that she immediately adopted "the true position" after receiving her first vision. However, such an interpretation of her words does not seem to be in harmony with other documents of the time, especially Otis Nichols' letter to William Miller. (See entry No. 24.)" THE "SHUT DOOR" DOCUMENTS Ellen G. White Estate, Washington D. C. April 11, 1982
Olsen does not supply any detail concerning the "documents" of the time to which he refers. But (as the reader will already see) from quotes supplied here we know what Olsen was referring to. Once again, the evidence is overwhelming that EGW did teach, from her visions, that non-millerites were forever lost and outside the ‘Shut Door’ and that those who were Millerites and did not accept Adventism as presented by EGW were also lost.
With regard to the 1843 chart you referred to. For reasons that God alone can explain, Bible students in 1843 needed the experience of 1843-1844. Obviously God could have "stepped in" and guaranteed every date, every line of reasoning, when Charles Fitch and Apollos Hale prepared their chart. But that kind of divine intervention has been rare throughout history. Permitting men and women to work through their problems, learning special lessons that would not have been experienced otherwise, seems to have been God's general plan.
Are you saying that God thought the people needed to be deceived about the 1843-1844 fiasco? Interesting argument. Sir, the problem is not that they were wrong, we both agree on that. The problem is that EGW says that they were right, that God manipulated things to such an extent that "not one line of the chart should be changed" as she said.
Sir, it is simply not logical, let alone correct in any sense of the word to suggest that the 1843 chart is divinely appointed as EGW does and as you have just done saying that it represented truth for their time! EGW said that pastors of the time had "blood on their hands" for rejecting the 1843 message and that the 1843 message was a "saving truth". It turns out that they were more able to read God's intentions then the Adventists since God did not come in 1843 or 1844 for that matter. And it is simply unbiblical to call the 1843 message a "saving message" as EGW does. No time message is a saving message. The Gospel is the saving message!
In closing, you did not really speak to the substance of my points. I am coming to realize the reason is that there are no substantial, credible answers to these problems.
Your tendency to ignore or defend over against the substance of the EGW errors and heresies does not serve Adventism well. Why? Because a positive "spin" does not change "facts" no matter how well meaning we may be. The Bible says we will know them by their fruits. Saying EGW makes us feel warm when we read her is not enough. Joseph Smith has followers in Mormonism who testify similarly. The Bible commands us to "test the prophets", not putting our most positive spin on what they say and reducing the conclusion to subjectivity. But we are called to apply an objective, honest look.
The false teachings, false testimonies to people with a disregard for the instruction of Matthew 18, contradictions, suffocating spirituality demonstrated in her guilt mongering (so different from the attractive spirit demonstrated in the words and actions of Christ), demonizing of opponents and other practices of EGW do not allow us as Christians to continue to recommend EGW as a source of authority for Christian believers. If we said she was just a Christian writer like you or I that would be one thing, but not a divinely appointed messenger speaking for God.
I hope you will accept my reply in the genuine spirit of love that it is intended. I know you have labored long in the service of God as you have understood it. Just as I did for the many years I served as a pastor.
I would ask you to look again at the EGW record from a more objective position. Your conclusions might be very different.
Finally, truth is not error, and error is not truth, no matter who says so. You remember that the Apostle Paul said we should not even believe an angel from heaven if that angel taught falsehood. Our desire to vindicate EGW will not change truth into the error, or vise versa no matter how hard we try or how good our intentions. In the end, I believe I cannot stand with her, lending my credibility to her writings either silently or actively, if I did, I would be sharing in the deception.
This e-mail and the imaginary story from another give the flavor of my objections to the leaders of the Adventist church. They represent the end of long dialogs that encompassed numerous e-mails. The information I was sharing with these men was coming from the writings of EGW herself, and from the accumulated research of friends and foes alike of Adventism. I had a wealth of information fresh from my study. You can check the quotes for yourself at the Adventist Church’s EGW web site.
As I said, I read! I read for months, I read into the night for weeks at a time. I read with zeal to vindicate not just Ellen White but myself, since I had for so long pointed to EGW as a genuine prophet for God’s last day Church. To my surprise and dismay I was finding more problems then answers. These e-mail messages above represent the latter end of my efforts. I began by writing friends of mine who are Adventist pastors to see what they knew, so they could talk me out of my preliminary conclusions. I was once again impressed with the quality of my friends and their loving spirit--they stuck by me even when we disagreed. But with regard to our topic, I was also impressed that they, like me, had not really taken the critics’ material seriously. They had never done a fair and honest evaluation of EGW as I was seeking to do then.
I wrote to the Ellen White Estate and spoke to two members of the staff. I called my Endorser at the General Conference Headquarters. I spoke with trusted senior Adventist pastors and other Chaplains endorsed by the Adventist Church. I spoke with another General Conference officer who was related to a local church member. I spoke at length with my pastor at my local Adventist Church. Answers to solve the problems were not forth coming.
I carried on a prolonged e-mail dialog with a professor who now teaches the Ellen White class at the university I graduated from. He was thoughtful and patient. However, he was unable to answer the problems. He and the others were content to say that the "weight of the evidence" was on EGW’s side. He responded to my suggestion that EGW was the victim of the results of her head injury saying: "If a head injury results in such service to the Lord then by all means, let me have a head injury!" Needless to say, that was not very helpful to me. His opinion was mirrored nearly word for word in a response I received from a member of the Ellen White Estate Staff. In each case when I pinned them down to the issues, most stopped responding to my e-mails (to their credit, not all).
To my surprise I found a range of responses from other Adventist pastors and leaders. Some Adventist leaders offered satisfactory answers to some of my questions. I knew there would be answers to some of it, detractors (critics) can get carried away and pile on when there is the smell of blood. But for the most part the core issues went unanswered.
Some pastors admitted they didn’t really accept the church’s positions regarding EGW and ignored her in their ministry to minimize her influence on their congregations.
Some felt I was right in every way and admitted they only stayed in the Adventist Church because they were comfortable there and they had no place else to go for a job. One Adventist University religion scholar admitted that he only stayed in Adventism because that is where his friends were! He said he knew the message was not true, which is why he could never do evangelism for Adventism. I was disappointed for both him and myself when he admitted it.
I was not getting the "straightening out" I wanted and I began to feel the pull of a final decision. The "death blow" fell when I re-read Dale Ratzlaff’s new book, The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventism. It is the best work I have read, in that he adequately debunks Ellen White and shows she could not have been a prophet. He does it with a pastor’s heart as well, if you can look past the title of the book.
So this is my "short" testimony to those who might be tempted to lightly dismiss the critics of Adventism. Any honest evaluation must start with Ellen White. If you or anyone can believe her to be a true prophet after honestly evaluating the bulk of the evidence both pro and con, then studying doctrine would be a waste of time. On the other hand, if you find that Ellen White taught error in the name of God and know the difference between right and wrong you will come to know Ellen White is at best a well meaning self deluded head injury patient, and at worst a deceiver.
Either way, EGW fits the biblical definition of a false prophet. And Adventism, as a result, teaches at least two false doctrines. If that is your final conclusion with regard to Ellen White, then look at the other doctrines of Adventism again. But do it intelligently. Do it by looking at the best material out there on both sides. Dale Ratzlaff’s Sabbath in Crisis and Dr. Jerry Gladson’s A Theologian’s Journey from Seventh-day Adventism to Mainstream Christianity are thoughtful books and worth reading. Dirk Anderson’s web site is also an excellent source of very well written material.
Do not miss Robert Olsen’s study of the Shut Door at the White Estate’s web site. All of these are worth your time.
God says that he desires those who worship Him to worship in spirit and truth. If you come to believe you are lending your support to a denomination that teaches error, then have the courage to leave that denomination, and say and support only what you know to be true. Your church membership is a testimony to what you believe, in Adventism perhaps more than other churches, since EGW says in essence "love us or leave us" "all or nothing".
Remember, Adventism holds 27 "fundamental" beliefs. EGW is a fundamental issue in Adventism, not a negotiable extra. Teach less if you need to, but do not teach error while arguing that it is not a big deal. The challenge is yours. May God bless your study of His word and your walk with him. To borrow a phrase from a T.V. show commercial for "The X-Files", the truth is out there, and God is the author of that truth. It’s not all in one place, or one denominational system, but rather in God’s holy word, the Bible.
Chaplain David W. DePinho