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A Dangerous Defense Arises

Part 2

The Last Deception Gains Momentum

It’s hard to put an exact starting point on the new, counterfeit "defense" of the Spirit of Prophecy. Like all errors, it began as a subtly-planted seed in the mind before it openly bore fruit. No doubt Walter Rea’s book attacking Ellen White caused some sincere Adventist folks to begin digging for defenses in light of what were, for some, new revelations. A hasty defense without prayerfully studying the matter can too often lead to a sloppy, erroneous defense. Such a defense could then, in turn, be easily answered by the critics with increased glee, adding fuel to their fire. Frustrated and ill-prepared to study the matter further, some no doubt began to look for ways that "true prophets" could also be wrong a large percentage of the time -- not just mistaken on descriptive details, but downright wrong on doctrine or counsel. Thus the seed of error finds an entrance. Clinging to opposing positions always leads to a confusing web of rationalization where one inevitably paints oneself into a theological corner from which there is no biblical or logically consistent escape. This mingling of inconsistent views (that Ellen White was both a true prophet and also a promoter of her own faulty opinions) was no doubt first utilized, not as a means self-justification for cherished sins, but rather to defend those portions of her writings with which critics had found fault. Like so many errors, the element of true sincerity in the proponent made the end seem to somehow justify the means. Once this mindset was adopted the natural next step was of course to ponder which other portions might also be "the uninspired words of sister White." It was the taking of this next step that brought the searcher into that error that was taking place even back in Ellen White’s day – the picking and choosing of "inspired portions" based upon one’s own cherished actions and/or beliefs.

The difference between that age-old rationale and what we are seeing today, however, is that it was then an individually chosen self-delusion whereas now it is becoming an openly promoted "defense," casting seeds of doubt from the highest levels and into the farthest corners of the theological spectrum of believers. And when packaged as a defense it automatically has the effect of causing its hearer to lower his guard.  After all, the proponent is going to "answer those critics" once and for all! As we will examine momentarily, what was once a monopolistic error among the so-called liberal fringes of the church has finally raised its ugly head even within the otherwise conservative camps and with the same devastating results.

Considering Ellen White's clear position on this matter, one might think that it would be a rare thing to find anyone (at least in any position of influence) actually promoting this pseudo-defense. Sadly this is not the case. Just as predicted, there are those within the church who are (whether intentionally or ignorantly) indeed planting seeds that "make of none effect" the writings of Ellen White. They place themselves in the position of deciding which portions are from God and which are "Sister White’s own opinion." As we can see from Ellen White’s statements addressing this, it is really nothing new; the effects will be just as deadly for the proponents of this methodology today as they were back then, only now on a much larger scale. The examples one could cite are numerous and perhaps the reader has already come across an article, book, sermon, or conversation with a fellow Adventist where this line of thinking has been promoted. For the purpose of illustration we will only give three examples, but suffice it to say there are others out there and more to come as we near the close of probation.

The obvious chicken-and-the-egg scenario that arises becomes clear. If Ellen White’s writings can be trusted, and her warnings heeded, then, according to her, picking and choosing causes one to invite demons to chose for them. On the other hand if they cannot be trusted, then her statements declaring that it is "doing the devil’s work" to pick and choose may very well be one of those statements where she is wrong, and thus it is quite acceptable to pick and choose. This opens up an entirely new can of theological worms, namely, would a prophet (even a partially inspired one, if there could be such a thing) lie to us like this? Or even on a more fundamental level, would a "good Christian woman" lie to us like this? The answer is of course, no. No honest person could conclude otherwise. And again, here is where her rejectors actually make more sense than her halfway supporters. At least the open critics (who of course agree with the halfway defenders that she did lie in such statements) reach the logical conclusion that no one who would lie like this can be trusted. They reject her based upon the clear, biblical fact that God has never operated in this fashion. Neither His character, nor His love of the church would allow such a thing. This makes one wonder why the halfway defenders continue to trust her in ANY area of counsel or doctrine. In fact, it makes one wonder why they would remain in the church that was steered quite often by the counsels of such a deceptive woman.

Let’s be frank; if we are connected to a church body that actually takes any counsel from a person who lied to us about anything from how to use her writings, to the Investigative Judgment, to "Victorian views" about morality, etc. then we are in one of the most dangerous cults on the planet and we should run from the church just as fast as we can. Her open critics, of course, have chosen to do just that and at least they should be commended for taking their argument to its logical conclusion and making a decision.


"New Testament Prophets" less authoritative and accurate?

Example 1

Now let us look at three examples of this new trend. One resource that listed the anti- and pro-Ellen White sites, included the following website in their "pro" category.  It is a website that deals with the weekly Sabbath School lesson and we find one Seventh-day Adventist (we will refer to him by his initials, "B.C." – email us for references) referring us to a book by Wayne Grudem, a Baptist minister. The book is entitled The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today and BC’s first comment about the book pretty much sums up the foundation of the "new defense" trend that is arising in the church. I will place his words and his quotes from the book in italics.  He writes:

Grudem’s book powerfully argues that there are substantial differences between "Old Testament" and "New Testament" prophets.

Having a hard time agreeing with all that EGW has to say, but not willing to reject her as a false prophet, many are latching onto this concept that the New Testament prophets are somehow less accurate and less authoritative than the Old Testament prophets, and thus we can simply classify EGW as one having the same gift as the NT prophets. Of course the halfway defenders are correct in one sense: Ellen White DOES have the same gift that New Testament prophets had. The problem is that they relegate not only Ellen White, but all NT prophets to a substandard category so that one can freely disregard portions of those counsels. He continues:

"[Grudem] concludes in his book that these texts mean that statements of "New Testament" prophets are tested and weighed by the listener against the writings of the Bible. The good is to be sorted out and retained, the not-so-good discarded."

Of course the first part is true; we do test the writings against the previous writers, in this case, the Bible. But just because the Bible says NT prophets were tested by Scripture it does not indicate that some portions were rejected and others accepted. Often EGW is quoted telling us to place the Bible above her, and to test her by the Word. This is used by some to imply that she knew some portions would contradict the Word. But she made these statement knowing that her writings were in harmony with the Bible, in exactly the same fashion that the Bible’s different authors were in harmony with each other, despite minor discrepancies about historical details or chronology. And as we have seen with the "Ellen White Contradicts the Bible" list, charges that she was sometimes out of harmony with Scripture are baseless. BC continues:

If Grudem is correct in his distinction between "Old Testament" and "New Testament" prophets, then clearly the Old Testament prophet test of Deuteronomy 22 would not apply to Ellen White. In no way would it diminish her gift as a New Testament prophet to be wrong once, twice or, for that matter, be confused on one specific issue over a five year period. Copying the writings of others and passing them off as her own (or worse, as God’s), while not laudatory, is hardly fatal to the gift. New Testament prophets are not expected to be perfect, nor are they expected to be right all the time. What is expected of them is that they believe they are sharing God’s views"

Here we see a twofold problem, one being the concept that "New Testament Prophets" can "be wrong once, twice, or for that matter, be confused on one specific issue over a five year period." In the context of the article, one quickly sees that he is not talking about being wrong on issues like how many rooms are in a building or whether or not to plant a garden this spring, but wrong on theological matters of counsel and instruction. In other words, what if something I really like is condemned by her? Could she be wrong? Could I keep doing it? Yes. Of course. Why? Because she is a "New Testament Prophet," and since the Bible may not specifically address my particular issue in detail as she does, she must be wrong. The second problem is the defined expectations of a NT prophet: that they "believe they are sharing God’s views." Not only does the first half rob authority from a true prophet, but the second half actually gives it to those who might be false prophets. David Koresh, might very well have thought he was "sharing God’s views." He also might very well have preached SOME truth as he mixed it with his many errors. In fact, reader, the odds are you feel that you are sharing God's views when you spread the gospel.  Does this make you a prophet?  More from BC:

What is expected of us is to "test" the views of "New Testament" prophets against Scripture. Consider 1 John 4:1-3:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (NIV)

Did you catch this important point? The test for "New Testament" prophets is whether they acknowledge Jesus is God. Very clearly, Ellen White does that! 100% accuracy is no longer the test.

So if 100 accuracy is no longer the test, then there are portions of Ellen White’s writings to the church that are "sister White’s own opinion" (it can be nothing less, any way you look at it), and if we come to this conclusion, then we are sliding directly into the condition that this same prophet said would of course lead to satanic agencies influencing our thought process. Many arguments may be laid forth to circumvent this, but the counsel on this particular matter is too plain to miss. Each must make up his or her own mind, however, and we might encourage each to do so with much soul searching and prayer.

Near his conclusion: 

Instead of the extreme position of the critics that Ellen White is a tool of Satan and she should be completely ignored, or the other extreme position that she is an inerrant "Old Testament" prophet, her gift as a New Testament prophet should be recognized for what it is and only for what it is.

As you can see, it is now being taught that if you believe Ellen White, Paul, and the other New Testament writers were on par with Moses and Isaiah, and Daniel you are taking an "extreme position." We simply ask: Where in the Bible can one find such a distinction? BC concludes:

This means her writings are to be tested by the Bible, the inerrant Word of God. Her writings are authoritative to the extent they are consistent with the Bible."

It seems quite interesting and at the same time a bit confusing that Ellen White’s writings are to be tested by the "inerrant Word of God" which of course contains "New Testament Prophets" who are not required to be "100% accurate" and who can be "wrong once, twice or even confused about an issue over a five year period." One might ponder which portions of Paul’s writings are free from such a five year period. And which one or two things might Paul or John or Peter gotten wrong?

You see, there will always be just a tiny enough thread of logic to get around clear statements warning against the very actions or beliefs that are condemned in the writings. Ellen White called this "pegs on which to hang doubts."

Example 2

The following is an email received from a pastor who co-hosts Desmond Ford’s website. It is in response to one who asked a question about Ford’s position regarding the role of Ellen White. Remember, although Ford ultimately repudiated the Investigative Judgment, he has always maintained (and does to this day) that Ellen White did have the genuine gift of prophecy. We all make various typos in emails, so please overlook any that appeared in this gentleman’s reply:

Dear Friend, I cannot speak for Frod, but position re EGW is this: She was not a prophet in the tradition of the 'greats' of the Old Testament such as Elijah, Mosesand Isaiah. However, in the New Testament community, there were church memebers who were deemed to to be in possession of the 'prophetic' gift (one of the many gifts of the Spirit mentioned by Paul see 1 Cor 12). Clearly these were not in the same league as Moses and Elijah either. They were not incapable of error and their prophesyings were not take as God's infalliable last word. See the following Scriptures: ACts 21:9; ACts 13:1; Acts 15:32; Acts 22:10-15; 1 Cor. 14. If the prophets of the early church could be disagreed with, overruled or ignored, then those who want to say that EGW was a prophet may do so only if they are claiming no more for here than can honestly be claimed for the prophets in ACts and in in Corinth. [emphasis supplied]

Again note that New Testament prophets can be "disagreed with, overruled or ignored," as can Ellen White, according to this gentleman, and still be a true prophet. Also their "prophesyings were not taken as God’s infallible last word." So where did such "prophesyings" come from? Did they make them up and pass them off as of divine origin? Did evil spirits work through them periodically? Were these people self-deluded some of the time and inspired by God at other times? These are serious charges and no matter how we look at it, we see individuals who were self-deluded at best, liars or demonic at worst. Would God really work through such unstable characters after being so careful in the Old Testament? It is hard to believe that anyone could possibly reach this conclusion about those precious few whom God decides to bless with the gift of prophecy. Ellen White warned us about the road one would find oneself on once the pick-and-choose view is adopted. Such disconnected logic seems to be the fruit of that condition.

A New Book "Defends" Ellen White

More Than A Prophet (but what is meant by "More"?)

The newest and boldest example of this "defense" angle is a new book that has come out entitled More than a Prophet. Its self-promotion includes the line "This book defends the true nature of Ellen White's ministry."  By "defends" they mean "changes the concept of," or more specifically "lowers the authority and reliability of." Here is how this book is being promoted on one website:

Response to the Mounting Criticism of Ellen White
A new book answers the mounting criticism of Ellen White. On the web one can find over 40,000 pages, mostly by former Adventists, attacking the inspiration and integrity of Ellen White. Part of the problem has been the failure of our Adventist church to help our members better understand the limitations of prophets in general and of Ellen White in particular. Providentially, this issue has been addressed in a masterful way by Prof. Graeme Bradford

(It continues further down regarding certain "misconceptions" about Ellen White’s prophetic role):

Fortunately, this misconception is slowly being corrected today, as numerous studies produced during the past 25 years, have shown the human aspects of Ellen White's life and writings. Adventism is gradually returning a full circle by coming back to a more biblical understanding of her gift, that recognizes her human limitations. This intriguing story is revealed in Bradford's More than a Prophet

Notice the angle is that the critics will finally be silenced by this book’s great defense. And notice that the foundation of that defense is not so much examining the critics’ attacks but rather, according to this promo, examining Ellen White’s limitations. This, of course, would be good news to those who have portions of her writings that cut across their lifestyle. We should note here that there indeed are some who have erroneously made ridiculous claims for Ellen White, for example, word inspiration. She never claimed this, nor has any prophet had this.  Professor Bradford's motives may have been good and he might be as sincere as any other Adventist; we are not to judge.  Our job, as Christians, is to examine the evidence and prayerfully reach a conclusion.    


The Ellen White Estate Responds

Here is what the Ellen White Estate says about the book (taken from their website ):

"Dr. Graeme Bradford, retired professor from the Theology Department of Avondale College, recently authored a privately-published book entitled, More Than a Prophet: How We Lost and Found Again the Real Ellen White. The Foreword and advertising incorrectly state that the manuscript was evaluated favorably by officers of the Ellen G. White Estate. In actuality, while recognizing elements of the book on which we can agree, the White Estate staff has strong concerns regarding several of the viewpoints expressed in the book.

Included among these concerns are the following:

The book expresses the view that prophets in the New Testament and beyond generally carry less authority than Old Testament prophets, and that the individual and/or congregation must separate the wheat from the chaff in the messages even of genuine prophets. Such a view confirms people in the human tendency to accept what they like in inspired writings and to reject as "chaff" the things with which they disagree.

The book suggests that because Ellen White used sources in her writings relating to history, prophecy, health, or theology, the views she expressed may have originated more from her contemporaries than divine inspiration. Her depiction of end-time events, for example, as found in The Great Controversy, is portrayed as deriving primarily from the expectations of 19th century North American Adventists, having little application to today’s global society.

While the White Estate staff recognizes that Ellen White was fallible and subject to human frailties—not unlike the biblical prophets—we maintain that certain positions taken in the book do not fairly reflect the understanding of Ellen White and her associates regarding her prophetic ministry, and fail to represent fully Ellen White’s prophetic contributions to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

A review of More Than a Prophet will be offered at this site in the future. For a well-balanced discussion of God’s system of communication with human beings, we recommend The Voice of the Spirit, by the former director of the White Estate, Dr. Juan Carlos Viera, and Messenger of the Lord, by Dr. Herbert E. Douglass."


(We concur that the above two books would be far more valuable to a soul seeking the truth and we highly recommend the reader follow the above links and read the material for themselves.)

If Ellen White is right in her prediction, then we will see more and more of this type of so-called "defense" of her writings as we near the close of probation.

4 Points

Let’s review what we have discovered:

1) God warned us through Ellen White that the last deception of Satan would be to "make of none effect" her writings.

2) Her definition of "make of none effect" was not the actions of her open critics, but rather of those who believe in the gift, but take a pick-and-choose approach to the authority of her writings, accepting some portions as from the Lord and other portions as merely the opinion of Sister White.

3) She warned that those who take this approach are (even if ignorantly) helping the enemy of souls and are setting themselves up to let satanic agencies make decisions for them.

4) The new "defense" of Ellen White involves a lessening of the authority of both her writings and that of "New Testament prophets" allowing the aforementioned "pick and choose" approach and thus fulfilling point #2 to the letter.

In light of her crystal clear warnings against this, one would think that laymen, scholars, and leaders alike would avoid (both practicing and especially teaching) such an approach like leprosy, but we are seeing that this is not the case. Rather than constantly debate the issue, however, we should be praying for these individuals and trying to lovingly warn them of the path they are on and down which they are leading others. No doubt some who see their peril will turn back and reconsider their position.

One thing bears repeating regarding the "mixing of inspiration and human opinion" theory. That is that no such prophet ever existed. While there no doubt is a class that are simply ignorant of this and are accepting what they are taught, true scholars know this and are without excuse when they promote it. Let us pray for them and ourselves that God may help free us from the grip of this forbidden, dangerous practice.

Carl Martin is the author of the book Heaven, Think On These Things.  He has previously worked for the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and has spoken at various churches on both coasts of United States. In the summer of 2000 he traveled to Nicaragua with a Maranatha mission team where he held a two-week evangelistic campaign.   He is currently working on his second book (a sharing book on the Three Angels' Messages) as well as the re-release of the Heaven book.  You email him at writecarl (at) (email address dissected to avert spam harvesters) or visit his website,




Coming Soon, Part 3: Where Are We Going: A Time to Make a Decision