Ellen G. White and Her Critics


Should Remember Historical Context

We should remember that some of Mrs. White’s most specific and denunciatory declarations should be viewed in their historical context. True, she declares that apostasy increases with the years, but certain of her powerful statements concerning those who had turned from the truth of God, and brought upon themselves Heaven’s condemnation, can rightly be applied only as we think of the events of the 1840’s. We must remember in this connection the facts that came to light in our study of the shut-door charge, that some of Mrs. White’s declarations there discussed can be understood as applying, not to all professed Christians for all time to come, but rather to a class living at a particular time who had related themselves in a hostile way to truth. EGWC 304.2

There is nothing in Mrs. White’s later writings that warrants the conclusion that she views all the ministers and members of other churches as past hope, and beyond the pale of God’s love and grace. Rather, she considers them as potential subjects of God’s kingdom which is to be set up at Christ’s second coming. She views the Advent movement, not as another church, competing with already established churches for membership, but as God’s last call to all the world to rise to higher spiritual levels, to accept further light, in order to be ready for the great day of God. Take these words from her pen: EGWC 304.3

“It should ever be manifest that we are reformers, but not bigots. When our laborers enter a new field, they should seek to become acquainted with the pastors of the several churches in the place. Much has been lost by neglecting to do this. If our ministers show themselves friendly and sociable, and do not act as if they were ashamed of the message they bear, it will have an excellent effect, and may give these pastors and their congregations favorable impressions of the truth. At any rate, it is right to give them a chance to be kind and favorable if they will. EGWC 304.4

“Our laborers should be very careful not to give the impression that they are wolves stealing in to get the sheep, but should let the ministers understand Their position and the object of their mission,—to call the attention of the people to the truths of God’s Word. There are many of these which are dear to all Christians. Here is common ground, upon which we can meet people of other denominations.”—The Review and Herald, June 13, 1912, p. 3. EGWC 304.5

When we read this passage and like ones from Mrs. White, that speak of the great company of God’s faithful children to be found in all the churches, we are able to see what was her true attitude toward the membership of all churches. Any seeming lack of harmony between these statements and the ones which seem to teach a contrary view, can be removed by placing the latter in their historical context. * EGWC 305.1