How to Interpret the Writings of Ellen White, Part 11

How to Interpret the Writings of Ellen White, Part 11

 
This week, I continue with some key points in interpreting the writings of Ellen White.
 
6.    Take Time and Place into Consideration
 Ellen White is purported to have said, “our girls should shorten their skirts nine inches today.” However, it is necessary that time and place should be taken into consideration when we deal with fashions. For to shorten the skirt or dress today would lead to indecent exposure, in many instances, as dresses and skirts are worn at knee high or there about. Nevertheless, if she said those words, the time and place would need to be considered. In her day, it was the norm to wear long dresses and skirts that touched the ground.
Another example is noted regarding the education of our girls: “And if girls, in turn, could learn to harness and drive a horse, and to use the saw and the hammer, as well as the rake and the hoe, they would be better fitted to meet the emergencies of life” (Education, P. 216, 1903). Today, her counsel would be “that no girl should graduate from our institutions if they don’t know how to drive a car,” according to George Knight.
“Regarding the Testimonies, nothing is ignored; nothing is cast aside; but time and place must be considered. Nothing must be done untimely. . . ”  (1MS: 57)
 
7.    Study Each Statement in Its Literary Context
In the book, Ministry of Healing, p. 299, it states,It is not well to eat fruit and vegetables at the same meal.Some, taking this statement out of  its  literary context, have made it into a rule applicable to all, contends George Knight. However,  when we read the immediate context, in the same page, we find: “If the digestion is feeble, the use of both will often cause distress and inability to put forth mental effort” (Ministry of Healing, p. 302).
 
8.    Recognize Ellen White’s Understanding of the Ideal and the Real
In her book Fundamentals of Christian Education, she wrote: “Never can the proper education be given to the youth in this country, or any other country, unless they are separated a wide distance of the cities” (3MS: 312). But she wrote later: “So far as possible, schools should be established outside the cities"  (9T: 201).
 Consider another example regarding the age our children should go to school. “Parents should be the only teachers of their children until they have reached eight or ten years of age" (3T: 137, 1872). Nevertheless, in 1902 she encouraged the SDA parents to send their children to the SDA kindergarten at Saint Helena. The ideal here, explains George Knight, is: “If the mothers are both capable and willing.... The children should not go to school until they are eight or ten years of age.”
 
9.    The Use of Our Common Sense
In 1894, seven missionaries arrived at our missionary station in Solusi, Zimbawee.  That year there was an outbreak of malaria as never seen before.  Of the seven who came, four died from malaria because they did not want to take quinine. This substance was the drug of choice for survival.  But since they had read that Ellen White condemns the use of drugs, they did not follow the counsel of their doctors and four of them died.  Two of the other three had to be hospitalized in Cape Town.
One of the seven was unfaithful to the inspired counsel and used quinine and survived. He used common sense.
It is of interest that Ellen White was at one time approached by a South  Pacific missionary who had lost his oldest son to malaria because he had refused to give him quinine  based on her counsel on quinine and other drugs.  Would I have sinned to give the boy quinine? In reply she said: “ No! We are expected to do the best we can " (2MS: 282). Ellen White’s counsel on this is: “God wants us all to have common sense, and he wants us to reason from common sense. Some circumstances alter conditions. Circumstances change the relations of things” (3MS: 217).
 
10.    Discover the Underlying Principle
In July 1894, Ellen White sent a letter to the denomination’s headquarters in Battle Creek, condemning the purchase and riding of bicycles. She explained, “A bewitching and satanic influence seemed to be passing as a wave over our people. . .
Satan works with intensity of purpose to induce our people to invest their time and money in gratifying supposed wants. This is a species of idolatry” (8T: 51).
George Knight clarifies, “Everybody wanted to own a bike. Each bicycle cost about 150 US dollars. One family of five members had to invest almost one thousand dollars. Seventh-day Adventists were ready to pay the price.” Nowadays, owning a bicycle is so common that almost everybody can have one. Its price is not as prohibitive as it was in 1894. Today, there may be other things that keep us from giving generous offerings.  For example, we may have to make payments on the object that today takes the place of the bicycle in the nineteenth century.