Messenger of the Lord


The Great Controversy Theme

We will note how she used certain principles of investigation as she processed and conveyed truth. Her introduction to The Great Controversy is instructive: “The great events which have marked the progress of reform in past ages, are matters of history, well known and universally acknowledged by the Protestant world; they are facts which none can gainsay. This history I have presented briefly, in accordance with the scope of the book, and the brevity which must necessarily be observed, the facts having been condensed into as little space as seemed consistent with a proper understanding of their application. MOL xvi.3

“In some cases where a historian has so grouped together events as to afford, in brief, a comprehensive view of the subject, or has summarized details in a convenient manner, his words have been quoted; but in some instances no specific credit has been given, since the quotations are not given for the purpose of citing that writer as authority, but because his statement affords a ready and forcible presentation of the subject. In narrating the experience and views of those carrying forward the work of reform in our own time, similar use has been made of their published works.” MOL xvi.4

The organizing principle that gathered this material like a magnet into her synthesis is the Great Controversy Theme. Seeing the Bible as a whole and the relation of its parts, Ellen White clearly illuminated the basic issues regarding the character of God, the nature of man, the rise of sin, and how God plans ultimately to deal with this rebel planet. MOL xvi.5

Ellen White’s understanding of the Great Controversy Theme provided remarkable stability and harmony as the Adventist Church developed its theology and denominational structure. It established the thought center for her to provide personal comfort and theological correction at those junctures where other religious bodies usually have splintered. MOL xvi.6

Under Section 6, “How to Listen to the Messenger,” chapters 32 to 38 emphasize how men and women should “hear” the message of Ellen G. White. Any study of written documents, whether they be Shakespearean sonnets or Holy Scripture, involves “hermeneutics,” that is, using principles of interpretation that will assist the reader in understanding the author. We will examine rules of interpretation that help us determine what Ellen White meant to those who heard her, and what these same writings mean in modern times. For example, one rule is to consider time, place, and circumstances when we apply her counsel today. Principles remain, but the application of principle may be different as we follow this hermeneutical rule. MOL xvi.7

Fundamental to understanding Ellen White is our larger need to understand how God gives His messages through His messengers to His people. In past years, those who have believed that words themselves are inspired have been greatly troubled by what appear to be Biblical “errors” and “contradictions.” This same confusion between mechanical or dictation inspiration (each word being just the way God spoke it to the prophet) and thought inspiration (God inspired the prophets, not their words) has troubled many when reading the writings of Ellen White. We shall note how this misunderstanding of the revelation/inspiration process has created doubt and unwarranted criticism of Ellen White. MOL xvii.1

An equally important issue is the relationship between Ellen White’s writings and the Bible. We will seek to understand such terms as “levels of inspiration,” “progressive revelation,” “canonical authority,” and “lesser light, greater light.” MOL xvii.2

Chapters 39 and 40 will review how Ellen White wrote her books. We will note how she related to her editorial assistants, and their role in producing Steps to Christ, The Desire of Ages, and The Great Controversy. MOL xvii.3

In chapters 41 to 43 we will evaluate criticisms of Ellen White. Inevitably, prophets will be criticized by contemporaries, primarily because they are far out in front in God’s controversy with evil. No Biblical prophet had an easy time fulfilling his or her assignment. This sad fact has led to the observation that one generation kills its prophets, only to have the next build monuments in their honor. MOL xvii.4

Some criticism finds its source in the perennial reaction of those who object to truth that cuts across personal inclination or pride of opinion. Examples of such rejection are found in the criticism of Jesus, Jeremiah, Paul and Ellen White. MOL xvii.5

These chapters do not attempt to answer every allegation or criticism that has been leveled at Ellen White, but we will note several general types. After evaluating these criticisms, the reader will be able to differentiate between the humanness of the earthly container and the authority of the message carried by the container. (See 2 Corinthians 4:7.) MOL xvii.6

Chapter 44 is a case study of the “shut-door” issue, a major source of contention for more than a century. MOL xvii.7