Ellen G. White and Her Critics


Chapter 23—Did God Deceive the Advent Movement in 1843?

Charge: “Mrs. White taught that God was a party to—that His hand ‘hid’—the prophetic errors contained in self-deceived William Miller’s and his followers’ ‘1843 chart.’ (See ‘Early Writings of Mrs. White,’ p. 74.) The Bible declares that ‘no lie is of the truth’; that God ‘cannot lie’; and that deceitfulness, of any and every sort, is ‘an abomination unto Him.’ (See 1 John 2:21; Titus 1:2; Proverbs 6:16-19.)” EGWC 342.1

The statement to which the critic refers, reads thus: EGWC 342.2

“I have seen that the 1843 chart was directed by the hand of the Lord, and that it should not be altered; that the figures were as He wanted them; that His hand was over and hid a mistake in some of the figures, so that none could see it, until His hand was removed.”—Early Writings, 74. EGWC 342.3

Mrs. White is here referring to the error in calculation on the principal prophetic chart used by the Millerites in the early 1840’s, that led them to calculate that the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8:13, 14, would end in the year 1843, Jewish spring-to-spring reckoning, * whereas the correct reckoning was October 22, 1844. EGWC 342.4

When the two disciples walked the road to Emmaus the Sunday afternoon of the resurrection, Christ joined them. “But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” Luke 24:16. Thus they walked and talked, thinking that they were conversing with “a stranger in Jerusalem.” No accent of voice betrayed Him, no mannerism apparently gave a clue to His identity. Finally, as He sat at meat with them in their home at the end of the journey, and blessed the bread, “their eyes were opened, and they knew him.” Verse 31. EGWC 342.5

The simple meaning of these two passages from Luke’s Gospel is that Christ did not permit them, at first, to recognize Him, or, to borrow the language of Mrs. White, His “hand was over and hid” from them the truth that the “stranger” was none other than Christ. The consensus among commentators is that the phrase, “their eyes were holden,” means that in some supernatural way Christ concealed from them for a time the truth as to who their fellow traveler was. Whether that concealment is explained by His appearing in “another form” (see Mark 16:12) or simply by His temporarily preventing their eyes and ears from functioning with normal acuteness, we have no way of knowing. Nor is it important in this connection that we attempt to know. We are concerned only with the fact that “their eyes were holden” for a time. EGWC 342.6

We can imagine the Bible skeptic trying here to make out a case by first calling attention to the Biblical claim that God is above deception, and then pointing to this experience of the disciples en route to Emmaus. Could anything be conceived of as more important than that His own disciples should know their Lord? Yet for a time He concealed that fact from them. EGWC 343.1

But would a Christian be impressed by such an argument? No. We would reply that Christ’s concealment of His identity rises above the level of deception, and has no moral taint in it. EGWC 343.2

Thus, also, would all of us answer the Bible critics who like to focus on the Lord’s specific command to Abraham to offer up his son Isaac. The Lord allowed Abraham to travel the long journey to the mountaintop, even to going through the agonizing task of binding his only son on the altar. Then, and not till then, did the Lord stay Abraham’s hand and disclose to him that he was not to offer his son, but to offer a ram instead. No lover of the Bible sees in this strange drama, which owes its suspense and climax to God’s concealment of His plan, any reason for questioning His ways. EGWC 343.3

Then why question Mrs. White’s statement, when it suggests nothing more of concealment, of hiding for a time the truth of a matter, than the Biblical incidents here presented? EGWC 343.4

There is another reasonable explanation of Mrs. White’s words that can be found by comparing them with certain other statements of Scripture. Might not her words about God’s hiding a mistake from the eyes of the Adventists be an instance where she followed a Bible precedent of attributing to God that which finally must be explained in terms of men’s own actions? Take this most startling illustration from Holy Writ: EGWC 343.5

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before them.” Exodus 10:1. EGWC 344.1

This statement that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart is found repeatedly in the book of Exodus. But in the midst of these statements is found this: EGWC 344.2

“But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.” Exodus 8:15. EGWC 344.3

Certainly there is nothing more difficult to explain in Mrs. White’s words under consideration than in the words from Exodus, that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. We find there is nothing unduly difficult in explaining either if we keep in mind that Heaven’s prophets, living ever under an awesome sense of the sovereignty of God—who doeth all things according to His good pleasure—sometimes speak of Him as responsible for incidents in the lives of men which must ultimately be explained in terms of men’s own free will. EGWC 344.4

We would not dogmatize on how to interpret Mrs. White’s words about God’s hiding a mistake. We simply say that for those who know and believe the Bible, and who particularly remember the narrative of Abraham, the disciples en route to Emmaus, and Pharaoh, the words of Mrs. White will present no perplexing problem, no reason for doubting her inspiration. EGWC 344.5