Additional Helpful Points in the Interpretation and Use of the Ellen G. White Writings, Part I
Additional Helpful Points in
the Interpretation and Use of the Ellen G. White Writings, Part I
The Ellen G. White writings were penned through a period of seventy years. Certain communications were written for individuals, others for the church, and still others for both Adventist and non-Adventist readers. Accordingly, it is important to take into account certain points when interpreting and using these writings. Therefore, I share the following taken from Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White, vol. 3:
1. The Counsels are not given to take the place of faith, initiative, hard work, or Bible study.
God did not use the spirit of Prophecy to make us dependent or weak. Rather, the counsels are to make us strong by encouraging us to study the word of God and by encouraging us to move forward.
2. Study the counsels to learn God’s will, not to prove preconceived conclusions.
Ellen White explains, “Why will not men see and live the truth? Many study the Scriptures for the purpose of providing their own ideas to be correct. They change the meaning of God’s word to suit their opinion…. They quote half a sentence, leaving out the other half, which, if quoted, would show their reasoning to be false. God has a controversy with those who wrest the Scriptures, making them conformed to their preconceived ideas” (Ellen G. White, MS 22, 1890).
3. Recognize that conditions in institutions and in the experience of the individuals may change.
The purpose of the testimony of reproof is to bring about a change. If that change has taken place, cognizance should be taken of this. In a message sent to the General Conference session of 1893, Ellen White declared, “Not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history” (Christian Service, p. 41). This statement must be understood as applying to the situation in 1893, at the time the message was presented. It was given to startle the church and to lead to a change of conditions so that a much greater percentage would be ready to meet the Lord. To apply this statement in strict detail today would be out of keeping with an understanding of the purpose of the giving of the testimonies.
4. Avoid unauthenticated statements. Care should be exercised not to employ unauthenticated statements.
Many times they are in conflict with the true teachings of the Spirit of Prophecy, and their use may be perilous. On this point Ellen White has counseled: “And now to all who have a desire for truth I would say: Do not give credence to unauthenticated reports as to what Sister White has done or said or written. If you desire to know what the Lord has revealed through her, read her published works. Are there any points of interest concerning what she has not written, do not eagerly catch up and report rumors as to what she has said” (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 696).
5. Correct conclusions harmonize with the over-all tenor of the Spirit of Prophecy’s writings.
Conclusions reached as the result of a study of the Testimonies must be in harmony with the tenor of the writings themselves, taken as a whole. Statements picturing deplorable conditions of individuals or groups may be isolated from their setting and put together in such a manner as to yield a picture quite out of harmony with the over-all presentation and Ellen G. White’s conclusion. Statements delineating certain phases of counsel may also be misused. If the conclusion reached by assembling a group of statements is not in harmony with the general tenor of Ellen G. White’s teachings as a whole, faulty work has been done. To be continued next week.