Series: Navigating the Spirit of Prophecy
In future weeks, I will be more focused and specific regarding the goal of navigating the message and ministry of Ellen White. However, to begin with I must first discuss the context and scope of these articles.
My primary aim is not to prove that Ellen White is a prophet or explain how to test her writings, rather to learn how to properly interpret and apply her writings so that we can receive the greatest benefit possible from them. Incidentally, there will be plenty of opportunities and material to suggest credibility and even defend the prophetic ministry of Ellen White.
Additionally, there are a multitude of places we could start and topics we could focus on when discussing the gift of prophecy and specifically, Ellen White. But because I hope to be somewhat brief I will usually provide one or two articles or additional source for further reading and study. Usually, these will be very interesting and powerful pieces that will help you in understanding Ellen White and how God used her.
As we move through this writing series, please let me know if you have questions. I cannot promise that I will have all the answers, but I’m happy to discuss openly and honestly about any topic on your heart and mind. The only thing I ask in return, as a reader and co-follower of Christ, be open and always willing to grow and be stretched. Likely, we will cover some very difficult topics but all who are diligent seekers of truth will always have reason to hope and to strengthen ones faith. Difficulties are not to be avoided but to be leveraged in strengthening our relationship with God and others!
So what’s it all about?
What is Ellen White and her writings all about? One way to practically answer that question is to look at the some of the major themes of her writings. You might be asking how does that help? First of all, Ellen White has written an incredible amount of information, which actually provides a profound testimony to her calling from God and evidence that God abundantly blessed her efforts. But because she wrote so much, and a lot of her messages have now been published, including unpublished testimonies and personal letters, it can be easy for someone who is studying her writings to find some random quote and miss the big picture.
So, do we know what the big picture is and what the major themes in Ellen Whites writings are? According to the Ellen White Estate, there are at least seven major themes in her writings. Here are the themes they have selected:
- The Love of God
- The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
- Jesus Christ, His Sacrifice, His Heavenly Intercession, and Salvation Through Him
- The Believer's Response--Love of God & Love of Neighbor
- The Centrality of God's Word
- The Third Angel's Message and Seventh-day Adventist Mission
- The Second Advent
Notice, what is included in this list, versus what is not? Of course health, could easily be identified as a major theme in her writings, along with marriage and family, etc. But these seven themes provides an important frame work for understanding and interpreting the rest of her writings. In other words, this could provide our first interpretive principle in properly understanding the writings of Ellen White.
Let’s Dig a Little Deeper
At the top of this list we find the major theme about the “love of God”. Could there be a greater theme than this? John 3:16 says, “for God SO loved the world—that He gave…”. God is a giver, God is a lover, therefore everything that Ellen White writes will somehow be in harmony with this overarching truth and theme found in her writings and in the Bible. Notice, I used the word harmony. We could also use the word compliment. But, I did not use the word “harmonize”. The difference between harmony and harmonize is an important theological distinction. Just like the difference between unity and uniformity. People can be united even when they are unique. In other words, people do not have to have identical beliefs, personalities, or interests to be united. An application of this is that Ellen Whites writings may add to or go beyond what the Scripture says, and this can still be in complete harmony and not in contradiction with the Word of God. Therefore, if we find something, in her writings that seems to be in contradiction with the Word of God or in contradiction with something she has written elsewhere, we must ask the question is there ACTUALLY a contradiction? Or am I trying to force and harmonize two messages to say exactly the same thing? Instead, it would be better to zoom out look at the big picture theme and ask is my understanding correct or could there be something I am missing? These are logical questions to ask, but often we are not intentional enough to ask them, or we prematurely have been blinded by some detail that threatens or offends us. Then instead of being open and honest we are tempted to look at it skeptically and not fairly. A humble learner will always patiently examine the breadth of a topic before rushing to a conclusion.
There are many things apparently difficult or obscure, which God will make plain and simple to those who thus seek an understanding of them.
So in this first instalment of “Navigating the Spirit of Prophecy" we have learned: 1) seven of the major themes in Ellen Whites writings, 2) the importance of comparing the details of what she has written with the big picture, and 3) the importance of seeking harmony not harmonization. Harmony will always maintain the distinct details of the immediate context will discovering how it fits in the bigger picture. Harmonization usually destroys the contextual details and differences.
This week at prayer meeting, we read this quote from the book Steps to Christ by Ellen White, it is a very fitting conclusion. “By faith we may look to the hereafter and grasp the pledge of God for a growth of intellect, the human faculties uniting with the divine, and every power of the soul being brought into direct contact with the Source of light. We may rejoice that all which has perplexed us in the providences of God will then be made plain, things hard to be understood will then find an explanation; and where our finite minds discovered only confusion and broken purposes, we shall see the most perfect and beautiful harmony. 'Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am know' 1 Corinthians 13:12” (p. 112-113).
I hope this has been a blessing, and please feel free to share any questions you have with me. For further reading, please check out this link and this amazing attachment of a first hand account of someone who visited Ellen White in her home. The chances are you have never read anything like this and I believe you will find this fascinating and eye opening.
Blessings, Pastor Royce Odiyar (April 14, 2021)