Updated: May 5, 2020
Today's post is written with the Adventist community in mind. All of my readers are obviously welcome to read this content, but I felt it was important to state the angle I am writing from.
Perhaps the most important and influential book that Adventist author Ellen White has ever written is The Great Controversy. In the Adventist church, this book is widely referenced and quoted. The Great Controversy combines historic events with prophetic scripture to piece together what is believed to be an inspired and accurate account of what is instore for the end of the world. It is essentially a Bible commentary to read alongside and help decipher books such as Isaiah, Daniel, Habbakuk, and Revelation. The Great Controversy book is perhaps best known for its chapters which describe the rise of the Catholic Church and the methods the Vatican will utilize to eventually impose a Sunday law on the world- demanding that Sunday be kept as a holy sabbath and day of rest instead of Saturday. The book goes on to describe catastrophic natural events and the rise of an antichrist who will side with and support the Catholic Church's demands.
I'm not writing this to dwell on the well known aspects of this Adventist piece of literature. I believe those of us who were raised or who have come into this denomination are well aware of what is proclaimed in Ellen White's writings as far as Sabbath and the Catholic church are concerned. No, I'm much more interested in shedding light on an entirely different topic that is also discussed in this book.
This month, for the fifth time I found myself re-reading the chapters of this intriguing publication. I rarely re-read other Ellen White books, but the Great Controversy is one that I just haven't been able to fully grasp enough to move on from. Once again I was diving into the pages tonight and was inspired, perhaps even told, to write this post.
I believe that the majority of the Adventist community falls into one of three categories. In the first category are the people who have actually read Ellen White's books for themselves. In the second category are the people who know things about Ellen White and might even quote her fervently, but they fail to actually read in its entirety what she has written. The third and final group (possibly the majority of uprising SDA's) have never read any of Ellen White's books nor do they intend to quote or give her any credit what-so-ever. They've been bashed over the head with false portrayals of her and they've had enough.
I can honestly admit that I have found myself in each of those categories at one point or another.
The approach one takes to reading The Great Controversy is greatly influenced by whatever category the reader considers himself to be in. You might be reading as a "believer", "passively", or as a "skeptic". Yet regardless of the lens you choose to filter the book through I believe the majority of us have fallen victim to what I call the good guy vs. bad guy approach.
Because of the culture and traditions of our denomination, we often feel that we are "the good guys" of The Great Controversy. After all, Ellen White was one of the founders and pivotal figures of our denomination, so when she is speaking positively about believers we assume she must be referring to her cherished Adventist Church. We proudly label ourselves in this manner immediately shutting out any criticism Ellen White may have shared about "other" believers. We automatically determine that we will not be led astray, we will be the upholders of truth, and we also take on the victim role because obviously we as SDAs are pre-destined to be the poor persecuted Sabbath-keepers. This implies that all the things Ellen White mentions that people "do wrong" in the world and in Christianity don't apply to us. Our job is merely to promote our truth so we can save other peoples' lives- just like we have been saved.
I believe this view is entirely incorrect and addresses a fundamental flaw that may be the core of some of our church issues today. The assumption that we are always right- even superior to the rest of the world.
Perhaps I would be more understanding of this viewpoint if it wasn't for one very important yet very ignored chapter nestled within the latter half of the Great Controversy. This chapter is titled, "The Scriptures a Safeguard." I urge you, whoever you are, to read this chapter as diligently as you have read all of the other things Ellen White has to say. In this chapter, we find the very heart of Ellen White's ministry- a love and desire for people to read scripture.
The message in this section is the same message I personally feel incredibly burdened and instructed to share by God himself. I realize that is a big claim but I stand by it. The purpose of my blog above all is to encourage Bible reading. The purpose of Ellen White and the reason she had to write any books at all was because people were failing to read scripture. Look at what Ellen White states as we begin to read this forgotten chapter:
The People of God are directed to the Scriptures as their safeguard against the influences of false teachers and the delusive power of spirits of darkness. Satan employs every possible device to prevent men from obtaining a knowledge of the Bible; for its plain utterances reveal his deceptions. (The Great Controversy pg.398)
She goes on to point out that there are people who will be on the earth who will uphold scripture:
But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible and the Bible only as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms.
Aha! You might exclaim, "That means the Adventist Church!" Yet such a mindset puts us right back into the headspace of the "good guys". Check the box. Lay back and relax.
Not so fast.
While it is very likely that the majority of people within the Adventist denomination absolutely maintain the Bible, we must not be so confident in ourselves that we miss the point. Notice the key phrase, "a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible and the Bible only." This is very important. We must read on:
Satan is constantly endeavoring to attract attention to men in the place of God. He leads the people to look to bishops, to pastors, to professors of theology as their guides instead of searching the scriptures to learn their duty for themselves.
Again we are quick to read this and immediately think of other denominations and other people in the world "falling victim" to this- the bad guys (ie. anyone outside of our organization). The thing is, we are equally at risk of this. Look at the "men" of our faith. I immediately think of Doug Batchelor, Mark Finley, even Ted Wilson himself. Wonderful, talented preachers and teachers yet they are still only men. They are not scripture. They cannot take precedence in our faith walks.
So many people in our congregation rely more heavily on the words and teachings of these great leaders than on anything else. Why? Because we feel like Doug Batchelor has more Bible insight than us. We think Mark Finley can show us something in the Bible we would never find on our own. At the very least we figure it is just easier to listen to their thoughts and insights rather than to read the Bible for ourselves. After all, Mark Finley penned the Sabbath School lessons!
Is the Holy Spirit not greater than any man on earth? Is it not the Holy Spirit investing in those individuals and revealing to them such messages? Why do we settle for man's deciphering of the Bible when the Holy Spirit can reveal the same truths to us directly! Is our faith so small that we do not believe God can give us wisdom in our quiet alone time with him?
It is not the first time people who were in God's favor have done this. The Jews clung to Moses, Elijah, Abraham- and in the process, they missed the actual Messiah who was among them. The Holy Spirit is in our lives and we don't even utilize him. In the process of doing this, we place our trust in the policy and the leadership of the church rather than God himself. What a brilliant plan, what a fantastic act of the devil! He did it to the Jews and he will do it to us. He will blind the very people, the only worldwide Christian denomination that has total Bible truth at its roots, with our own leaders and fundamentals! Not only are we blinded by our current agendas, but by Ellen White herself- the Elijah of our time! The very words she spoke to protect and warn us from this mastermind deception are being used to lead us right into it!
We are not safe. We are not "good to go"as an Adventist denomination and we will not be on the right path until we pour into scripture like we are instructed:
It is the first and highest duty of every rational being to learn from the Scriptures what is truth and then to walk in the light and encourage others to follow his example.
Every rational being. Not just theology students.
People often ask me what I feel the solution to the problems of the Adventist church might be. I am criticized at times for pointing out the issues and providing no proper remedy. For quite some time I too have wondered what the right call to action is. Yet it is very plain for any reader of Ellen White to see. The solution is a return to sincere Bible study.
We should exert all the powers of the mind in the study of Scriptures and should task the understanding to comprehend as far as mortals can, the deep things of God.
The whole reason our denomination was formed was to escape the hypocrisy, false teaching, and legalism of other churches. The world needed a united body of people who embraced the entire truth of the Bible. The beauty and uniqueness of the Adventist Church is its ability to look beyond policy and procedure and provide people with what really matters. We must protect that. We must not stand for these ridiculous issues that are consuming the focus and the vision of our organization (ie. Woman's Ordination just to name one...). If we as Adventist members were taking the time to study the Bible and allow God to infiltrate our lives, we would find our voices. We would be gifted discernment to navigate these hot topics and hurting people. We would encourage our leaders both locally and on high levels to do the right thing- because we would know what the right thing was.
Until we commit whole-heartedly to daily scripture studying, Jesus cannot come back to earth. We aren't there yet, but we can get there. The gospel to all the world in this generation depends upon us as messengers knowing what the gospel actually says.
What can you do after reading this? Start reading your Bible daily. Pray. God will show you the next steps.
Access all of Ellen White's books free: https://whiteestate.org/