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So Luke took the ideas of the Sermon on the Mount and used them evangelistically, some here and some there, as it served his purpose in dealing with his audience. The plenarist has no problem with this approach because he sees the ideas as being inspired.

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But the strict verbalist is here in a great deal of trouble. Was it a sermon or not? Many questions are raised, but few answers are forthcoming. Other illustrations could be cited, such as Matthew's listing of the order of Christ's miracles in a somewhat different order than Luke's Gospel. Problems such as these leave the strict verbalist in a real quandary. However, we shall leave him there for now, and proceed to examine the plenary theory of inspiration.

In contrast with the view of verbal inspiration, the plenary theory of inspiration suggests that thoughts--rather than words--are inspired. The plenary view is not forced to grapple with the problems of the verbalist. For the Seventh-day Adventist, this view has the added advantage of having been accepted and advocated by Ellen White. Let us examine in some detail the manner in which Mrs. White explicates her views. These views have been praised by a number of non- Seventh-day Adventist theologians as one of the most comprehensive and concise statements on the subject of plenary inspiration to be found anywhere in print.

The purpose of inspiration. Ellen White uses two interesting analogies to illustrate the purpose of inspiration. First she likens inspiration to a map--a guide or chartbook for the human family. The purpose of this map is to show weak, erring, mortal human beings the way to heaven, so that they need never lose their way. White remarks that no one need ever be lost for want of this most crucial information unless he is willfully blind. White recognized the existence of the human element. God committed the preparation of His Word to finite men, [76] thus, in a sense, making problems for Himself.

Because "everything that is human is imperfect. White amplified this thought: Since the Bible writers had to express their ideas in human idioms, the concepts could not be given in some grand superhuman language. In an apt analogy, John Calvin once suggested that God, through the prophets, talked "baby talk" to us humans, much as a cooing mother lisps to her little child in the universal language of love. The existence of discrepancies. Ellen White addressed the question of discrepancies, mistakes, or errors in a forthright manner.

She does not just suggest that these are possible; she says that they are "probable. These persons will "manufacture difficulties from the plainest revealed truth. Paul incisively pointed out that "We have this treasure in earthen vessels" 2 Corinthians 4: Two elements are thus introduced into the analogy: White develops these two elements by first commenting that, indeed, the Ten Commandments are verbally inspired, being of "divine and not human composition. Again, commenting that "In the work of God for man's redemption, divinity and humanity are combined," Mrs.

White elaborates along a somewhat similar vein:. Thus the truths conveyed by inspired writers are all inspired treasure. But the human element--the "language of men," is the earthen vessel--that is, the packaging. One theologian has suggested that the human aspect of the inspired writings, ancient and modern, is revealed in five ways:.

The writer expresses himself in his own style. The Bible has many major stylistic differences in its various books.

The writer expresses himself at his own level of literary ability. For example, the sentence structure of the book of Revelation is crude. John strings his ideas along with the connector and like a string of box cars in a freight train. Stylistically, this book is elementary, not elevated. Its author was a fisherman who was educated by Jesus for three years. John received his education in truth, rather than in rhetoric. In contrast to the book of Revelation, the book of Hebrews exhibits a most elevated stylistic form.

Indeed, because of its use of balanced phrases and clauses, some higher critics don't think that Paul wrote it. But Paul undoubtedly had the equivalent of a Ph. The writer reveals his own personality. The Gospel of John can be summed up in one four-letter word-- love. The concept permeates John's Gospel and all three of his epistles. John, more than any of the other apostles, imbibed this spirit, and yielded himself most fully to Christ's transforming love. The writer draws on his own personal background and experience. Luke was called the "beloved physician. Luke writes with the perception of a scientist.

For example, he is the only one of the four Gospel writers to mention that Jesus "sweat. Trained in the methodology and phraseology of philosophy, Paul wrote some things that to a fisherman like Peter were "hard to be understood" 2 Peter 3: Then, the divine aspect, the work of the Holy Spirit, is revealed in four ways, as suggested by T. He enlightens the memory: The prophet is thus enabled to recall events and ideas. He directs attention to matters to be recorded: This deals specifically with the selection of topic and content. White states directly that it is not the words of the Scriptures that are inspired, but rather the men who wrote them--the prophets were "God's penmen, not His pen.

The semantic problem here is recognized--a given word may convey different ideas to different people. Yet if a writer or speaker is intellectually honest, he can usually convey his meaning plainly. Basically, "inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. What the Bible is not. The Bible does not represent the words, the logic, or the rhetoric of God. But the Bible does point to God as its "Author. Ellen White took the Bible just as it stood--"I believe its utterances in an entire Bible.

The Lord miraculously preserved the Bible through the centuries in essentially its present form. Of course, the Bible was not given in "one unbroken line of utterance. The continuing hand of God is seen in the giving of the messages, in the recording of the messages, in the gathering of the books into the Canon, and in the preservation of the Bible through successive ages.

Ellen White draws an interesting distinction with regard to unity: While there is not always "apparent" unity, there is, however, a "spiritual unity. However, to trace out this unity requires the searcher to exercise patience, thought, and prayer. In the days when Britannia ruled the waves, and ships were propelled by wind rather than by steam or oil, the ships of His Majesty's royal navy all carried rope that had a crimson thread woven through its entire length.

This thread served two purposes: It made identification easy in cases of suspected theft; and it also assured the sailors whose lives often depended upon the quality of the rope they handled that they had the very best. Applying this analogy to the Bible, the blood of Jesus is the crimson thread that runs throughout the whole Scripture. This unity is exhibited in at least five areas, according to Jemison:.

Coordination of the prophecies: Ellen White makes it clear that the Christian is not to assert that one part of the Scripture is inspired and that another is not, or that there are degrees of inspiration among the various books of the Bible. God has not qualified or inspired any man to do this kind of work. A third view of inspiration goes by a variety of labels: The three basic tenets or postulates will now be examined:. Inspiration is, by its very nature, inherently subjective rather than objective.

Although the verbalist and plenarist views are quite different and distinct, the former holding that inspiration resides in the exact word used, and the latter believing that the inspiration resides instead in the thought conveyed by the prophet, both are alike in one respect: They each hold that inspiration is essentially objective rather than subjective. Until the turn of the century, these were the two basic positions held by the Christian world.

Then along came philosopher-theologian Martin Buber, who helped to develop a new theory of inspiration. This theory holds, among other views, that inspiration is, by its very nature, inherently subjective rather than objective. What does this mean in practical terms? As "encounter" theology sees it, revelation or inspiration is an experience that takes place in an "I-Thou" encounter between the prophet and God. It is then, primarily, an experience, with no exchange of information taking place. Revelation, for the encounter theologian, is "the personal self-disclosure of God to man, not the impartation of truths about God,.

There is no communication of information in encounter theology. God does not utter a word. No statements of truth of any kind are made in this unique relationship. Truth is seen not as conceptual in an objective sense, but as experiential in a subjective sense. At this point the encounterist would argue that there is a content. But the content is not the impartation of some concept about God, but, rather, the imparting of some One --God Himself, addressing the individual Christian's soul and calling for a personal response in the transaction.

Revelation, ultimately, for the encounterist, is the full revelation of God to the full consciousness of the prophet. In this experience there is no communication of ideas, truths, concepts, or messages. As we noted earlier, the Bible writers convey emphatically that God speaks particularly and uniquely through inspired men.

There is simply no twisting such declarations as the one made in 2 Samuel The inquiry of Zedekiah the king to Jeremiah the prophet is central to a genuinely biblical view of inspiration: Nor is this merely an Old Testament view of inspiration. In three places in Acts Luke uses such expressions as "the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake" chap.

Chapter four of 1 Timothy opens with "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that. The encounterist holds that the prophet as a person is inspired which is true , but that the thoughts and the words the prophet conveys are his own ideas rather than God's ideas which is false. Further, the encounterist holds that the prophet is the interpreter of God's self-disclosure in terms relevant to his own day; and those ideas may contain error.

They may even be scientifically or historically inaccurate as, for example, Moses' idea of a seven solar-day literal creation ; yet the prophet nevertheless is held to be inspired, since, in this view, inspiration has nothing whatever to do with ideas! The encounterist lays great stress on context. His purpose is to demonstrate "historical conditioning"--the idea that the prophet is the helpless victim as well as the product of his environment, background, education, and climate of thought. Although the plenarist is also interested in context, he uses it to discover, by examination of the historical circumstances surrounding the giving of a particular message, whether the prophet's words constitute a principle -- an unchanging, unerring rule of human behavior or a policy the application of a principle to a particular situation, in which case the application may change as the situation changes.

Contains the word versus being the word. The encounterist says that the Bible contains the word of God, but it is not itself the word of God. In this view, the Bible is no longer revelation in the pre-twentieth century sense of the word. It is no longer God's revealed word, but rather a witness to the revelation experience. Regarding content, this view sees the Bible as merely the result of its writer's rational reflection upon God's individual and personal self-manifestation to them.

In other words, Moses did not receive the Ten Commandments directly from God, nor did he obtain specific instructions concerning the earthly tabernacle, its furnishings, or its ceremonies. Thus the encounterist does not believe that the concepts conveyed in Scripture are the word of God, as the plenarist believes.

The plenarist holds inspiration to be objective--that is, something apart from the individual by which he is daily judged. The encounterist sees the word of God as a personal, subjective experience--an inner experience that is remarkably powerful and compelling. Experience, as the encounterist sees it, constitutes the word of God--not ideas, thoughts, conceptions, or propositional truth.

As the prophet attempts to express his own ideas or thoughts in describing this "divine-human encounter" he thus attempts to convey the word of God as he feels it from within. This attempt could be compared to a person's relating in a prayer meeting testimony what God did for him that week. For the encounterist, the prophet is inspired in heart, rather than in head.

Thus the person who hears or reads the prophet's words also has a subjective experience. Truth is therefore defined as experiential. The experience becomes the word of God for the student, rather than the word of God being defined as the literal words, concepts, and propositions expressed by the prophet. The plenarist does not disparage the place of experience in the life of the Christian; indeed, in at least 13 locations Ellen White uses the expression experimental religion. But human experience never supersedes the objective word of God, which must itself determine the validity of all experience.

Finally, for the encounterist, everyone is inspired.

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The prophet simply has a more superlative degree of inspiration than the ordinary individual. The issue at this point is a difference in degree versus a difference in kind. The prophet has a more intense degree of inspiration, it is held, than that of average people. A prophet's, minister's, or politician's eloquence may lead people to do things they would not otherwise do. Because such a person lifts others up out of themselves, he is thus considered "inspired. There may certainly be some kind of secular, nonprophetic inspiration. We sometimes think of an artist, a sculptor, a musical composer or performer as being "inspired.

In Biblical inspiration, the prophet is taken off in vision. He or she may lose natural strength only to receive a supernatural endowment. For the prophet, God breathes--literally; for in the vision state the prophet does not breathe. And while in this state, the prophet receives infallible messages from the Lord. Ordinary individuals may be moved by the inspired words of the prophet; their lives may be fundamentally altered for the better.

But that experience is not the "inspiration" that the Bible writers and Ellen White possessed. When ordinary people are "inspired," it is some other kind of inspiration than the biblical variety. It is a difference in kind, not in degree. This idea of degrees of inspiration that is so prevalent in encounter theology has, historically, had a certain appeal with Adventism. Butler's series of ten articles in the Review and Herald posited this idea of degrees of inspiration. Ellen White wrote him a letter of rebuke [] in which she pointed out that God had not inspired this series on inspiration, nor had He approved of the teaching of these views at the sanitarium, college, or publishing house in Battle Creek!

At this point, the reader may, rather wearily, say, "What practical difference does it make which position I take? Let us note some of the significant implications that result from accepting the encounterist view:. The reader's subjective experience becomes normative --the standard of what he will accept or reject as binding on his life and experience.

However, if there is no objective revelation as criterion, then there is no way an individual can validate his experience, no way for him to determine whether this experience is from the Holy Spirit or from an unholy spirit. It is simply not enough to say that one's experience is "self-authenticating. The subjective view is a distortion. It distorts the proper, legitimate place of context. It also distorts the proper place of experience, by making it the criterion for authenticity.

The subjective view emphasizes "the autonomy of historical conditioning," and makes demythologizing of the prophet a necessity to contemporary understanding. Further, it distorts genuine prophetic inspiration by imposing the idea of degrees of inspiration upon it as a central category. Creation, as taught in Genesis, is neither literal nor scientific. Rather, evolution becomes the favored view, with Genesis being seen as merely recording the quaint ideas extant in the time of Moses.

With regard to the incarnation of Christ, Jesus was not really a divine-human being.

He was only a man. The encounter view rejects supernatural events such as the virgin birth and miracles, as we commonly define them. In demonology, the Bible, says the encounterist, merely reports the common ideas of a time when it was popularly but incorrectly believed that demons possessed the physical bodies of certain unfortunate human victims. Today, says the encounterist, we know that all mental illness and insanity are caused by external conditions such as chemical imbalances and unfavorable environment--but not by spirits.

Plenarists can certainly agree that some mental illness, perhaps much of it, is caused by external, nonsupernatural causes; but they cannot accept a view that declares that all mental illness is so caused. This author saw too much in his 12 years of mission service to believe otherwise! In the final analysis, then, the encounterist, subjective view of inspiration ultimately constitutes a denial of the "faith once delivered to the saints.

And those who accept this view risk losing eternal life. Leslie Hardinge, a veteran Seventh-day Adventist college and seminary Bible teacher, once made a very profound statement: The Apostle Paul repeatedly speaks of prophetic inspiration as the gift from the Holy Spirit--one of the so-called "spiritual gifts" Ephesians 4; 1 Corinthians A person may receive many kinds of gifts.

Some gifts are useless or even embarrassing. However, the most valuable gifts I have ever received were either utilitarian gifts that filled a particular need in my day-to-day existence such as a pen, an attache case, or a typewriter or gifts of love in which the sentiment that prompted the gift far transcended the inherent, immediate value of the gift. This sentiment bestowed upon the gift a value it would not otherwise have possessed. The gift of prophecy can be described in the same terms.

To some it is useless. To others it is a continual embarrassment and annoyance, for it cuts across their lifestyle repeatedly, dealing as it does with particulars of day-to-day existence. The purpose of this gift is to promote the work of the ministry of the body church of God--to strengthen and guide the church Ephesians 4: Notice in particular its four purposes in this connection:. The unification of the saints so that there will be no schism in the body of Christ. See 1 Corinthians The edification of the saints inspired writings provide doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.

See 2 Timothy 3: The stabilization of the saints that they may have an anchor to keep them from drifting about on every wave of doctrine. The Apostle Peter adds a second metaphor, actually borrowing it from one of David's psalms. He sees prophetic inspiration as resembling a light that shines in a darkened place for a practical and necessary purpose--to keep us from stumbling and falling 2 Peter 1: A millennium earlier David had likened the word of God to a "lamp" to the feet, a "light" to the path Psalm One of the main purposes of the prophetic writings although certainly not their only function is to reveal future events.

Revelation thus helps us to make adequate preparation for coming events and enables us to relate constructively to these events when they occur. Mortals cannot predict what will happen even moments in advance; but God can tell centuries in advance what will transpire. This function of inspiration was the particular burden of Isaiah. Equally important is the function of revelation as light to protect the believer. Inspired writings provide a light that exposes Satan's goals and his proposed methodology for accomplishing his objective. Truly, "where there is no vision, the people perish" Proverbs Inspiration has been seen as a process in which God uniquely imparts eternally important truths through "his servants, the prophets," who "at sundry times and in divers manners" have spoken to their contemporaries and to those who would later follow to enable them to understand the divine mind and will of God for their lives.

Especially in these closing hours of earth's history, there is an overriding need to understand how this phenomena operates, so that one may not only have an intelligent understanding of what God is trying to say, but also to avoid the perils and pitfalls that arise from the holding of false views. Paul's admonition to the saints of the New Testament--"Quench not the Spirit [don't let the candle go out!

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" 1 Thessalonians 5: In the second presentation in this series we will consider the question of inerrancy and infallibility--Does the true prophet ever err? The experience of Ellen White will be examined in the light of the evidence of Bible prophets. The theological footballs of "infallibility" and "inerrancy" are agitating minds and hearts in evangelical Christendom today, especially as these issues relate to the question of prophetic inspiration.

Much of the discussion revolves around semantical considerations, [] and is rather closely associated with the verbal view of inspiration. Nevertheless, important questions need to be raised--and answered--such as: Does a true prophet ever err? Do all the predictions of a true prophet come to pass percent of the time?

Does a true prophet ever have to change anything he or she has written or said? Webster defines infallible as "1: The issue of prophetic infallibility is raised because the Scriptures claim to be more reliable than ordinary literacy productions of human authors. As was noted in part 1 of this series, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" 2 Timothy 3: It is not amenable to "private interpretation" because the message did not originate by private initiative or from private creativity. Instead, "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" 2 Peter 1: Therefore, said Peter, "take heed" to it vs.

In what may well have been the first book of the New Testament to be written, Paul, in the same spirit as the reference cited above from Peter, admonished the Thessalonian Christians: Peter responds, because we have a "more sure" word of prophetic writings 2 Peter 1: More recent translators have rendered the passage: The question, then, is not the uniqueness of the inspired writings in being "more sure" than uninspired writings; it is, rather, what is the essence of this "more sureness"? In what way are these writings "more sure"? Several possible analogical models may be found among evangelical Christians and among Seventh-day Adventists:.

This view holds that the control of the Holy Spirit over the prophet during the process of inspiration is so rigid, so tight, that the prophet is prevented from making any type of error. This position is well illustrated in the words of one Seventh-day Adventist evangelist in a sermon explaining Ellen White to non-Adventists:. And by the way, Ellen White's predictions up to this very minute have been right every time. The psychics like to talk about their batting average. They are proud if they are right seventy-five or eighty percent of the time. A prophet of God with a batting average?

A prophet of God is right one hundred percent of the time or he isn't right at all! I think you are beginning to see the difference between a prophet--a true prophet--and a psychic. Three postulates are thus suggested: This position borrows heavily from the basic philosophy of inspiration held by the author of a popular book aboutEllen White published a few years ago:.

A true prophet [italics in original] is not a psychic who performs with the aid of a mental or "spiritual" crutch, but is someone who has no degree of freedom either in tuning or in controlling the prophetic impulses or prophetic recall. These impulses are superimposed over the prophet's conscious mind by a supernatural personal being, having absolute knowledge of both past and future, making no allowance for error or human miscalculation. This position has serious problems and implications with regard to both the Bible and the writings of Ellen White, as will subsequently be noted.

This view holds that if in his humanity a prophet of God errs, and the nature of that error is sufficiently serious to materially affect a the direction of God's church, b the eternal destiny of one person, or c the purity of a doctrine, then and only then the Holy Spirit immediately moves the prophet to correct the error, so that no permanent damage is done. This position can be squared with the objective reality of Scripture and of the writings of Ellen White.

But before we apply the acid test of these two theories, we should pause to examine the nature and source of religious belief. Several penetrating questions are relevant here: Or do you have a third theory to which you subscribe? This second question may be even more important than the first. Is your belief based on source credibility --some favorite preacher, pastor, Bible teacher, or Biblical scholar whom you highly respect has taken this position, and because of your high regard for this person, you have accepted, uncritically, what you were told?

Or do you hold your belief because you have objectively validated the position? In Paul's day the Christian believers in Berea were said to have been "more noble" than their counterparts at Thessalonica for two reasons that have great relevance for us in this discussion:. Paul might have been forgiven somewhat had he told the Bereans, "I am not only an inspired prophet of the Lord, but I also have the highest spiritual gift--that of apostleship.

You don't need to check out what I have told you; you can take my word for it, for I have the highest authority from God on this earth. But he didn't tell them that. Instead, he praised them for not simply taking his word for things, but for going instead to the previously inspired writings to verify what he had said.

How should one validate truth? By counting heads and accepting the position that attracts the largest number of subscribers? What is the best way to determine the correct time of day? If someone is asked, "What time is it? Incidentally, if you ask several individuals for the time of day, you may get as many different answers as there are persons with watches. Furthermore, each person will probably assume that his is the only right time if others disagree.

Many communities have a telephone number one may dial to get the exact time of day. Some radio and television networks have a "blip" signal that may be heard exactly on the hour, superimposed over the voice of the announcer giving the call letters of the station. Validating the time of day for most of us may not be crucial. Whether we are one or two minutes off may not be too important. But validating spiritual truth may be eternally important. And how does one validate truth? Louis was a great lover of the theater, and often had command performances in his court.

Bossuet, on the other hand, was widely known to oppose the theater as being inimical to the development of Christian character and as being an instrument of evil. One day, as the story goes, during a lull in the proceedings of court, Louis looked around and, seeing Bossuet on the periphery, called loudly in his direction, "My bishop, what do you think of the theater?

Courtiers gasped, for they knew the views of both men. They also knew the peril of rendering a verdict contrary to the royal opinion. At the very least, the offender might be banished from court a fate, for these sycophants, almost worse than death ; at the very worst, he might be sent to his death. Everyone waited breathlessly for Bossuet's response, wondering whether he would take the expedient way out of the dilemma on the theory that it is better to be a live coward than a dead hero , or whether he would risk all to speak the conviction of his heart.

Bossuet gravely made his way into the immediate presence of the Sun King, genuflected, and said with great dignity, "Sire, you have asked what I think of the theater. I will tell you, Sire, what I think. There are some great persons in favor of it. It might equally be said of the "strait-jacket" theory of "more sureness. Validation is potentially a painful process, for facts sometimes force us to change long-held highly cherished opinions.

But validation is an intellectual necessity to anyone who holds truth to be as important as life itself. In part 1 of this series we noted Paul's declaration that "we have this treasure in earthen vessels" 2 Corinthians 4: The "treasure" consists of truths revealed and inspired by God; the "earthen vessel"--the human packaging--is the words of men, chosen by them to communicate divine truth. The "treasure"--the God-given truth or message--is not only "an infallible revelation of His will" but is also "authoritative" [] --normative and binding upon the Christian.

Commenting upon the question of infallibility, Ellen White wrote, "God alone is infallible. Concerning the "earthen vessel," the human side of the equation, Mrs. White added, "Everything that is human is imperfect"; [] and "no man is infallible. Some have stumbled over the fact that there are imperfections in the writings of Ellen White.

Examples cited by the critics include her incorrect numbering of Abraham's allies; her early statement that God commanded Adam and Eve not to touch the forbidden fruit, later changed to state that these were Eve's words; her assertion that only eight souls received Noah's message, contradicted in another place by her statement that there were others who believed and who helped build the ark; and her account of the daily ministration in the ancient tabernacle, [] which does not entirely square with the account given in the Pentateuch.

Some critics have gone on to ask if these imperfections, these inaccuracies, this demonstrated untrustworthiness, are not sufficient reason for not basing any doctrine upon her writings. There is no charge that can be leveled against Ellen White, in her professional role as a prophet, that could not and has not first been leveled against the writers of the Bible by the so-called "higher critics," whether such accusations allege misstatements of fact, copying uninspired writers a charge examined in detail in part 1 of this series , unfulfilled prophecies, or having to retract statements made at an earlier time.

Let us not claim more for Mrs. White than we would for the Bible writers; but let us not claim less, either for reasons that will be discussed in some detail in part 3 of this series. Coming back to Peter's forthright claim, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy," let us examine, successively, the lives of the prophets, and then the declarations of the prophets, to see if we are able to determine how this "more sureness" operates--or does not operate. The evidence of history and Scripture testify that the control of the Holy Spirit over the lives of the prophets did not preclude their freedom to sin.

If "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3: To verify this, one need but examine their lives individually, as recorded in sacred writ, to discover the nature and extent of their sins of omission and commission. One of the earliest prophets mentioned in Scripture is Abraham Genesis Repeatedly the canonical writers of both Old and New Testaments call him the father of the faithful, and indeed, both Jews through Isaac and Arabs through Ishmael consider him their lineal ancestor as well.

Abraham was not only made the progenitor of peoples too numerous to count, not only given the special relationship with God signified by the role and office of a prophet, but he was also given the title--by Jehovah Himself--"Abraham my friend. Islamic philologists state that the word in Arabic--a language noted for its nuances and fine distinctions of meaning--should not be rendered merely "friend" but rather " a very special friend. What kind of man was the "very special friend" of God? In Genesis 12 we find Abraham and his wife Sarah in Egypt.

Because Sarah is a very beautiful woman, Abraham fears that Pharaoh will want to add her to the royal harem, and will kill Abraham to pave the way for this conquest. So Abraham prevails upon Sarah to declare that she is Abraham's sister instead of his wife. Now Sarah was indeed Abraham's half -sister, so what she said was half true; but she was also his whole wife. And what is half-truth is whole-lie, because the intent is to deceive. God stepped into the situation in a remarkable manner to protect the life of His friend; and Abraham and Sarah were allowed to leave Egypt unmolested, with all of their possessions intact.

But eight chapters later, in Genesis 20, we find the same story being repeated--with the same results. God bore long with His very special friend--even as He bears long with us. But one somehow tends to expect a little higher standard of behavior of prophets! Surely Abraham should have learned a lesson the first time. But he did not, as we often do not. Abraham was not only a "royal liar" twice over, but he also sinned in acquiescing to Sarah's proposal that he take Hagar as a secondary wife in order to "help" God's plan to make Abraham's progeny as numerous as the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky.

Sarah was beyond normal child-bearing years Genesis But in taking Hagar, one of Sarah's servants, as his wife, Abraham demonstrated a serious lapse of faith. God intended Isaac to be a "miracle" child--for he was in several ways to be a type of Christ. And even if Abraham and Sarah's conduct was acceptable by the cultural standards of the day, it was contrary to God's plan.

Paul uses this illustration in Galatians, chapter 4, to allegorize Hagar as salvation by works, with Sarah representing salvation by faith. The seriousness of Abraham's lack of faith at this point is underscored by a more recent prophet. Because he did not trust God to produce a miracle child, but instead took Hagar as his wife, Abraham was called upon, a few years later, to offer Isaac as a human sacrifice on Mount Moriah.

Wrote Ellen White, "If he had endured the first test and had patiently waited for the promise to be fulfilled in Sarah. Abraham's grandson, Jacob, a prophet, was also a sinner. In fact, his very name had to be changed to Israel after his conversion because the old name meant deceiver or supplanter; and God couldn't have a prophet going around with that kind of name in a day when the giving of a name had a significance far transcending the same event in modern times.

Then there was David. Twice in Scripture, once in the Old Testament and once in the New, David is given the title "a man after his [God's] own heart" 1 Samuel And what kind of man was he? Well, among other things, he was first an adulterer with Bathsheba, and then a murderer of her husband Uriah in a cover-up effort 2 Samuel 1.

Is that any way for a prophet to behave--especially one so close to the heart of God? Incidentally, the experiences of Abraham and David have been used in recent times by lapsed Christians to condone polygamy, among other sins. However, the question persists, was Abraham the friend of God and was David a man after God's own heart because of their sins, or rather in spite of them?

Although the prophets were all sinners--and some of them rather lurid ones at that--their sins did not invalidate their prophetic gift! Jeremiah complained, charging God wrongfully chaps. And then there was Peter. Peter denied his Lord three times with foul fishermen's oaths that had not stained his lips for three years. Jesus forgave him, and restored him to the gospel ministry, and even gave him the gift of prophetic inspiration.

And did Peter than live a morally impeccable, upright life forever after? Peter was subsequently guilty of gross hypocrisy. While with the Gentile Christians he was the epitome of friendship; but on occasions when Jews were present, Peter catered to their narrow chauvinistic prejudices by not according the Gentiles the same warmth of Christian fellowship as he would have in private. In fact, this was such a serious moral issue that the apostle Paul was obliged to rebuke Peter in a rather forthright and public manner Galatians 2: And Peter was a prophet.

What about Ellen White? She once wrote, "God and heaven alone are infallible. In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible. A recent critic reportedly found Ellen White guilty of three sins if not crimes: Now, for a moment, let us assume that the critics' worst charges about Ellen White are absolutely true. Although these charges have been answered in substantial detail, [] for the sake of the argument let us momentarily assume the worst.

If Ellen White were guilty, as charged, would that invalidate her prophetic gift? And the answer comes quickly, No--not unless you are willing to invalidate Peter's prophetic gift, Jonah's prophetic gift, Elijah's prophetic gift, Jeremiah's prophetic gift, David's prophetic gift, and Abraham's prophetic gift, among others. We must be consistent; we must treat Ellen White exactly as we would any prophet of biblical times.

If we don't tear out of our Bible the Psalms written by David, the prophecies of Jeremiah and Jonah and the two epistles of Peter, then we have no right to throw out the writings of Ellen White. History and the Scripture testify that the control of the Holy Spirit over the lives of the prophets did not preclude their freedom to sin; and yet, their sinful acts did not invalidate their prophetic gift! At this point someone is likely to assert that Peter did not say we have a more sure prophetic life; but rather that we have a more sure prophetic word. What about the words of the prophet?

Three categories of "problems" appear when we examine the utterances of the prophets, biblical and modern, in which significant questions have been raised: Let us examine each successively, in detail. Some time ago I was holding a series of class lectures and public meetings at one of our educational institutions on the Atlantic seaboard.

At the close of the Thursday evening presentation a denominational worker at this school asked if he might speak with me privately. I invited him to my guest room where we conversed for more than an hour. As soon as he was seated, he began, "I really want to believe in Ellen White as a legitimate, authentic prophet of the Lord.

Without answering my question directly, he went on, "Isn't the fulfillment of predictions one of the Bible's tests of a true prophet? Then he went on, "Well, what do we do, then, with Ellen White's predictions that never came to pass? For example, I understand that in she said she was shown a group of our church members at a meeting somewhere.

She said that some of them would be 'food for worms,' some would be subjects of the seven last plagues, and some would be alive and translated at the second coming of Christ. Are any of the persons who attended that meeting still alive? His name was William C. White, and he was a babe in arms at the time his mother, Ellen White, made the prediction. Well, how do you handle it--in the light of this Biblical test of a prophet--that his prediction must come to pass, and if it doesn't this is evidence that the Lord has not spoken through him? But my policy, when people raise questions about Ellen White's prophetic role, is to go first to the Bible, to see how the situation is resolved there, before I examine Ellen White.

You see, I want to see her in the light of the Bible, not the other way around. And so we began a most interesting study of unfulfilled prophecies by authentic, acknowledged prophets in the Bible. Probably the best known example is Jonah. After finishing his celebrated "submarine" ride in the belly of the great fish, Jonah went to Nineveh to do the Lord's bidding. Nineveh was a large city; it would take Jonah three days to cover it entirely. His message was as simple as it was stark: No hope was offered, no compromise, no conditional element. After delivering the message, Jonah went out of town and found a vantage place where he could witness and relish the massacre of his nation's most hated enemies.

Jonah despised these people with a passion, for the Assyrians were the most warlike and fearsome of Israel's pagan foes. When they captured Jewish prisoners of war, they flayed them--skinned them alive--to extract every ounce of trauma in torture that they could before they killed the victim. In such instances death, when it came, was a welcome, merciful release.

The Jews quite understandably had no love for the Ninevites. Although there was no hope explicit in the message of Jonah, the Ninevites who may have had some prior knowledge about Jehovah from hearing other Jewish prophets, or from reading Jewish prophetic writings decided to mend their ways. They expressed their repentance in the cultural manifestation appropriate to the times--they put on sackcloth and covered themselves with ashes. God beheld it all, and in love and mercy granted them a stay of execution. Meanwhile, the prophet was becoming more angry by the moment.

One suspects that the real cause of this growing irritation was not merely his narrow chauvinistic Jewish loyalty, but rather a fear that word of this new development might get back to Jerusalem before he did. Jonah may have been more concerned about his professional reputation as a prophet than about the fate of his , "converts.

Perhaps he was afraid that when he got back to Jerusalem the little children playing in the street would chant after him, "Jonah's a false prophet; Jonah's a false prophet. Because his prediction didn't come to pass. Interestingly, in a footnote to history, we learn that several centuries after this event the Ninevites "repented" of their former repentance see 2 Corinthians 7: God then "repented" of His reprieve, and sent the threatened destruction that Jonah had originally foretold. But was Jonah proved a "true" prophet years ex post facto?

No, not at all. If the Ninevites had never subsequently been destroyed, Jonah would still have been deemed a true prophet, even though his prediction did not come to pass. By the conditional element that exists in some prophecies, either explicitly or implicitly. A clue to this is found as early as B. More to the point, however, is the interesting and significant fact, that in both of the biblical books where the test of fulfillment is mandated, this conditional element is also explicitly stated.

Ten chapters before giving the test of fulfillment, Jeremiah mentions this conditional element:. Moses also mentions the conditional element repeatedly in Deuteronomy. Some have felt that this was a face-saving means of maintaining a prophet's professional reputation in the face of adverse evidence such as nonfulfillment of predictions, [] but it is not.

It is a biblical principle. One does not need an advanced degree in theology to be able to figure out what kind of prophecies are amendable to the conditional element and which are not. One could cite other biblical examples of unfulfilled prophecies given by authentic, legitimate prophets. The category that comes most quickly to mind is that of a host of predictions made by a half-dozen Old Testament prophets about Israel's national honor and glory--predictions about the worldwide mission of Israel and the ingathering of the Gentiles, eternal rest in Canaan, and deliverance from political enemies.

A few of these predictions were fulfilled, secondarily, through "spiritual Israel" the Christian church ; and some may be fulfilled to Christians ultimately, after sin and sinners are destroyed following the last judgment. Despite these exceptions, the majority of these prophecies were not fulfilled in Bible times, are not being fulfilled today, and never will be fulfilled.

Then do we say that the prophets who made these predictions--notably Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Zephaniah, and Zechariah--were false prophets? Nor do we say, as do the Secret Rapture theorists, that these prophecies will be fulfilled in our own time. Indeed, these latter expositors have built a whole theology on the misunderstanding of the conditional element in prophecy, and they posit a last-day fulfillment in order that these Old Testament writers may be proved to be reliable, authentic prophets of the Lord!

Let us now come back to Ellen White and the "Food for Worms" vision, to discover the facts in that case. During the latter part of May , a conference in Battle Creek was attended by members and denominational workers of a church which was still four years away from assuming a corporate name. Attendees came to the conference from various parts of the eastern and midwestern parts of the United States and from Canada.

The conference opened on Friday afternoon, May 23, and closed on Monday, May On Sabbath the attendance was so large that it was necessary to leave the modest chapel that then served the Adventists and go across the street to a large tent pitched to accommodate the crowd. On Tuesday morning, May 27, another meeting was held, this time back in the chapel, attended largely by workers who were still in Battle Creek.

It was at this service that Mrs. White was taken off in vision, and was shown some of those attending the May conference. The report of this vision is found in Testimonies for the Church, volume 1, pages , and is still published by the church, although some critics claim that the church tries to hide Mrs. Incidentally, carefully drawn lists of the names of those in attendance at that conference were compiled by a number of interested parties.

Some of these lists still survive in the archives of the Ellen G. White Estate in the General Conference office. The lists were actively circulated among Adventists in earlier days, and J. Loughborough tells, in a letter written in , about two ministers, a "Brother Nelson" and George Amadon, who took such a roster to Ellen White in to see if she could add any names that they had overlooked. White is reported to have said, "What are you doing? White asked what use would be made of the list. Brother Nelson responded, "I am going to have copies of it printed and sent out to all of our people.

White's instant rejoinder was, "Then you stop right where you are. If they get that list, instead of working to push the Message, they will be watching the Review each week to see who is dead. Was the conditional element explicit in the angel's testimony to Ellen White in the vision? But then, neither was the conditional element explicit in the testimony of Jonah as he trudged for three days throughout the "exceeding great" city of Nineveh.

In both cases, however, the conditional element was implicit. From as early as to as late as , [] Ellen White's writings repeatedly suggest that if the Seventh-day Adventist church had done its job, "the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this. The conditional element in some prophecy is exhibited both in the Bible and in the writings of Ellen G. To accept it in one, but discard it in the other, is inconsistent and irrational.

True, there are some unfulfilled prophecies by authentic, legitimate Bible prophets, but the existence of such prophecies does not necessarily discredit the prophet who made them. There are also unfulfilled prophecies in the writings of Ellen White, and the church has never denied nor tried to hide this fact from the public. Those studying the prophetic writings should not ask more of Mrs.

White than they would of the Biblical prophets. In inspired writings, ancient and modern, there are inconsequential errors of minor, insignificant detail. This is true of the Bible, as well as the writings of Ellen White. I have found that pattern to be a good way to learn from the scriptures. There are some practical principles that enhance revelation.

First, yielding to emotions such as anger or hurt or defensiveness will drive away the Holy Ghost. Those emotions must be eliminated, or our chance for receiving revelation is slight. Another principle is to be cautious with humor. Loud, inappropriate laughter will offend the Spirit.

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A good sense of humor helps revelation; loud laughter does not. A sense of humor is an escape valve for the pressures of life. Another enemy to revelation comes from exaggeration or loudness in what is stated. Careful, quiet speech will favor the receipt of revelation. On the other hand, spiritual communication can be enhanced by good health practices.

Exercise, reasonable amounts of sleep, and good eating habits increase our capacity to receive and understand revelation. We will live for our appointed life span. However, we can improve both the quality of our service and our well-being by making careful, appropriate choices. It is important that our daily activities do not distract us from listening to the Spirit. Revelation can also be given in a dream when there is an almost imperceptible transition from sleep to wakefulness. If you strive to capture the content immediately, you can record great detail, but otherwise it fades rapidly.

Inspired communication in the night is generally accompanied by a sacred feeling for the entire experience. The Lord uses individuals for whom we have great respect to teach us truths in a dream because we trust them and will listen to their counsel. It is the Lord doing the teaching through the Holy Ghost. However, He may in a dream make it both easier to understand and more likely to touch our hearts by teaching us through someone we love and respect.

That should not weaken our determination to record impressions of the Spirit. Inspiration carefully recorded shows God that His communications are sacred to us. Recording will also enhance our ability to recall revelation. Such recording of direction of the Spirit should be protected from loss or intrusion by others. The scriptures give eloquent confirmation of how truth, consistently lived, opens the door to inspiration to know what to do and, where needed, to have personal capacities enhanced by divine power.

As you ponder such examples, there will come a quiet confirmation through the Holy Spirit that their experiences are true. You will come to know that similar help is available to you. I have seen individuals encountering challenges who knew what to do when it was beyond their own experience because they trusted in the Lord and knew that He would guide them to solutions that were urgently required. The Lord has declared: Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken.

One must be ever mentally and physically clean and have purity of intent so that the Lord can inspire. One who is obedient to His commandments is trusted of the Lord. That individual has access to His inspiration to know what to do and, as needed, the divine power to do it.


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For spirituality to grow stronger and more available, it must be planted in a righteous environment. Haughtiness, pride, and conceit are like stony ground that will never produce spiritual fruit. Humility is a fertile soil where spirituality grows and produces the fruit of inspiration to know what to do. It gives access to divine power to accomplish what must be done. An individual motivated by a desire for praise or recognition will not qualify to be taught by the Spirit. An individual who is arrogant or who lets his or her emotions influence decisions will not be powerfully led by the Spirit.

When we are acting as instruments in behalf of others, we are more easily inspired than when we think only of ourselves. In the process of helping others, the Lord can piggyback directions for our own benefit. Our Heavenly Father did not put us on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously. It may seem paradoxical, but that is why recognizing answers to prayer can sometimes be very difficult. Sometimes we unwisely try to face life by depending on our own experience and capacity.

It is much wiser for us to seek through prayer and divine inspiration to know what to do. Our obedience assures that when required, we can qualify for divine power to accomplish an inspired objective. Like many of us, Oliver Cowdery did not recognize the evidence of answers to prayers already given by the Lord. To open his and our eyes, this revelation was given through Joseph Smith:.

If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time. If you feel that God has not answered your prayers, ponder these scriptures—then carefully look for evidence in your own life that He may have already answered you. Two indicators that a feeling or prompting comes from God are that it produces peace in your heart and a quiet, warm feeling.

As you follow the principles I have discussed, you will be prepared to recognize revelation at critical times in your own life.