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The Ellen G. White Writings

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    Chapter 1—Toward a Factual Concept of Inspiration 1This material was presented to university and college Bible teachers at Berrien Springs, Michigan, in June, 1966.

    Inspiration is a point of vital importance to Seventh-day Adventists in this day when there seems to be a waning of certainty concerning what have been understood to be God’s revelations to man. Ellen G. White’s statements concerning the Bible and her work indicate that the concept of verbal inspiration is without support in either the Bible writers’ or her own word. This position was also clearly set forth at the General Conference session of 1883:EGWW 13.1

    We believe the light given by God to His servants is by the enlightenment of the mind, thus imparting the thoughts, and not (except in rare cases) the very words in which the ideas should be expressed.—The Review and Herald, November 27, 1883.EGWW 13.2

    In spite of this, there are some among Seventh-day Adventists who still hold, perhaps subconsciously, the concept that the original autographs of the Bible writers must have been “infallible” and “inerrant.”EGWW 13.3

    On the other hand, there are some who take the position that the Bible, not being verbally inspired, and evidently not being infallible in all its details, has only relative or partial accuracy. The essential purpose of the Bible, they assert, is to make men “wise unto salvation,” and this guarantees absolute reliability only thus far and no further. Consequently, Bible statements in such realms as history, chronology, geography, anthropology, geology, astronomy, botany, and so on, are beyond this realm and are considered quite inconsequential. It is suggested by those who hold such views that in these realms the Bible may disappoint or even mislead. This viewpoint leaves the Scriptures serving as a dependable guide only in the field of spiritual matters, and to go beyond this would be to impose tests on inspiration stronger than are warranted by the claims of the prophets. Obviously, not both can be right.EGWW 13.4

    The position one takes on the inspiration of the Bible would most likely be the position he would hold toward the inspiration of the E. G. White writings. Indeed, we find that both views, in varying degrees, have been held through the years, and are held today, in regard to the Spirit of Prophecy writings.EGWW 14.1

    When we approach the question of inspiration we step on holy ground, and this behooves caution. We may well consider the words of Ellen White commenting on a presentation made in the Review and Herald and at Battle Creek College:EGWW 14.2

    In the college the subject of inspiration has been taught, and finite men have taken it upon themselves to say that some things in the Scriptures were inspired and some were not. I was shown that the Lord did not inspire the articles on inspiration published in the Review [January 15, 1884], neither did He approve their endorsement before our youth in the college.EGWW 14.3

    When men venture to criticize the Word of God, they venture on sacred, holy ground, and had better fear and tremble and hide their wisdom as foolishness. God sets no man to pronounce judgment on His Word, selecting some things as inspired and discrediting others as uninspired. The testimonies have been treated in the same way; but God is not in this.—Letter 22, 1889 (quoted in Selected Messages 1:23).EGWW 14.4

    These words should not preclude thoughtful, reverent study to understand how God communicates with man through His prophets, but they do alert us to the caution with which we should approach this topic. We believe that there is greater safety in arriving at conclusions based on facts than in depending on an approach largely theoretical and perhaps idealistic.EGWW 15.1

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