Series: Navigating the Spirit of Prophecy
In Part 1, we looked at the major themes in the writings of Ellen G. White. The purpose of doing this was to establish a rough framework through which to reasonably evaluate and adequately interpret single statements from Ellen White’s writings.
This led us to identifying two introductory principles for navigating the spirit of prophecy: 1) be aware of the big picture, and 2) avoid harmonization of different Ellen White quotes. Yes, certain statements may naturally harmonize, but that should not be our goal. Please be sure to read that article if you haven’t.
Today, we are going to take one step back and ask the question about Sola Scriptura and how that applies to Ellen White’s writings.
As stated previously, we will not be seeking to prove or demonstrate how to test Ellen White’s writings, but it is critical to understand the relationship of her writings to the Bible. Understanding this provides at least one more important principle of interpretation.
So what does sola Scriptura mean? Simply, it means the Bible alone is the standard by and the foundation on which we form and test all teachings. It does not mean that believers cannot have other sources of truth or revelation, but that all other sources are subject to and tested by the Word of god. To put it in the words of my professor John Peckham, if we taught that sola Scriptura meant only Scripture, nothing else, then we would be limited to quoting ONLY Scripture and we could not even interpret it.
Furthermore, we must remember the historical setting where sola Scriptura was birthed. During the Reformation, it was essential for Martin Luther and the other Reformers to declare that Scripture was above tradition. In other words, it was not Scripture and Tradition that were the source of truth and revelation, nor could tradition be included as part of the foundation of truth. Tradition must always be dependant on Scripture, not the other way around.
To be more specific, my class notes from Dr. John Peckham contained, these important points regarding sola Scriptura:
Sola Scriptura means that:
- Scripture is the only infallible source of divine revelation that is available to contemporary humans collectively
- Scripture alone provides a sufficient and fully trustworthy basis of theology
- Scripture alone is the authoritative and final norm of theological interpretation that norms all others
Sola Scriptura does NOT mean that:
- Scripture is the only source of knowledge (e.g. general revelation, history, experience, etc.)
- All theological doctrine or ecclesiological practice requires a direct biblical statement(s)
- Interpretive communities and tradition(s) past and present should be dismissed and/or ignored
- Scripture excludes reason and/or requires no interpretation or that one's private interpretation of Scripture is the correct understanding of Scripture
I trust that these points and distinctions will be helpful as we try to understand the relationship between Ellen White’s writings and the Bible.
Much more could be discussed, but we may simply conclude Ellen Whites writings are NOT to supersede Scripture NOR be excluded by Scripture, rather (when properly understood) they will complement and be in harmony with Scripture.
Uriah Smith, one of the pioneers of the Adventist Church provided a helpful parable about a captain and crew going on a voyage and being given “book of directions”. See sidebar for full summary of his parable. The conclusion is that changing times and contemporary situations require add vision and revelation from God. Which is why Proverbs 29:18a says, “Where there is no vision/revelation, the people perish” (KJV). God continually provides further revelation for all people in all times, often that revelation is general but sometimes it is special divine revelation that comes through dreams and vision. No matter the source, we cannot reject without risk of peril.
Sincerely, Pastor Royce Odiyar (April 22, 2021)