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The Inspiration of Herman Who? Part I

Mark Howard

Hosting its seventh annual conference, GYC's 2008 theme this was "For This Purpose." How do we find this purpose? By listening to and studying God's Word. Featuring inspirational speakers such as Justin Kim, Randy Skeete, Radim Passer, Chelsy Jourdan, Alistair Huong, Doug Batchelor, and more, this conference leads us in studying how we can reflect Christ's character.


Mark Howard

Director, Emmanuel Institute of Evangelism



  • December 18, 2008
    2:30 PM
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Okay, my watch says it’s 2:30, so we’re going to go ahead and get started. This has been really interesting. How many of you were here this morning? Okay. It’s interesting doing a seminar where you have…I’ll ask another question; Doreen, I see you out there. How many of you knew who Mark Howard was before this morning? Yeah, I know, Chris. It’s funny when you have like Shawn Boonstra and Doug Batchelor And Ed Reid and all this, and so, I’ve got a lot of people coming in, and they’re like, “You know, I appreciated that presentation. I came down here because everything else was full, and this was the last room that was empty.” That’s why I’ve noticed when we start, we end up filling up over the course of time, of course, people getting back from lunch. But what we’re covering here is the Spirit of prophecy.


My name is Pastor Mark Howard. I’m a pastor in the Michigan Conference, and I’m going to be running the ARISE program in Michigan as the current directors of ARISE are going to be moving out to California here. In fact, some have already moved, and they’re going to run their school in Sonora, California. And I have taught the class, the Spirit of Prophecy class for them for the past several years, and it’s a class that I usually spend about 18 class hours on. And so, with six hours here, obviously we’re limited in the things that we are covering. You can go to the website. Now, I don’t have all the presentations up there yet, but if you want a more complete coverage of the topic, and you’re interested in this or you want to direct other people to it, you can go to www.arisemichigan.org and find some of those presentations there.


The topic for this afternoon, the first one is…The handout you have is “The Nature of Inspiration.” It’s going to be followed up with “The Inspiration of Herman Who?” Or it’s Hermeneutics on the handout. “The Inspiration of Herman Who?” is the title I’ve got for this and the next session just because when you say hermeneutics, most people are like “Herman who?” you know, “Herman what?” “What’s hermeneutics?” Hermeneutics is basically the study of how to read and interpret correctly, and it’s very important when we’re dealing with the writings of Ellen White. In fact, you’ll find that in these two topics, this session and next session, lie most of the difficulties with the Spirit of prophecy today, with people inside the church and outside the church. How do we deal with the writings of Ellen White or the writings in the Bible? How does inspiration work and what bearing does that have on our understanding of the gift of prophecy? That’s what we’re going to be talking about. We’re going to start with inspiration, and before we do that, I’m going to kneel and ask God’s blessing; if you’ll bow your heads with me, please.


Heavenly Father, Father we want to thank You that we are here, and we have the opportunity to learn of you and to study and to grow in our understanding. I pray, Father, that we would seek to grow, not only in our head knowledge of the subject of the gift of prophecy, but, Father, that we would grow spiritually by putting into practice the things that we learn. I pray that Your Spirit who inspired the prophets would bless us as we talk about inspiration this afternoon. And I ask and pray this in Jesus’ name and for His sake. Amen.


How many of you have the handout? Is there anybody who didn’t get it? Okay. Previous handouts, if you’re interested in getting them, you can talk to somebody in the back that you saw when you came in and got the other handouts from. Somebody asked me about that in the last session. And I had another announcement. I’m looking for where I put it. Here it is. The Ellen White estate, and they have a booth among the exhibits, is selling their CD-ROM of the published writings of Ellen White for half price here, which is a good deal, half price from the ABC. And you’ll get an additional five dollars off if you tell them you attended this seminar. And so, you can’t beat that. And that’s any variety. They have some with limited writings and then one that’s the complete published writings.


And something else that somebody had asked me during the break, and you’ll see some references in here. If you want a thorough resource on Ellen White and the gift of prophecy, I would recommend the book by Herbert Douglass called Messenger of the Lord. It’s actually used as a textbook in our schools and very well written and comprehensive. It’s a great resource. It’s not necessarily the book you’d sit down and read cover to cover. As I said, it’s a textbook but gives a lot of background on what we’ve talked about and more. If you buy the CD-ROM that has the complete published writings, that book is in electronic format on that CD as well as many other resource materials. So if you don’t own that CD-ROM of Ellen White’s writings, I would encourage that you take advantage of this opportunity, and I’m not a spokesperson, I mean, for White estate or anything, but I’m just telling you, as we talk about inspiration and hermeneutics, I’ll get into why that would be important to have.


Now, you can get online and get access to those things for free, but it’s nice to have it at your access, in your own computer. Question?


(Audience member: What was the name of that book again?)


The name of the book…The question is, what is the name of the book I mentioned? It’s Herbert Douglass, Messenger of the Lord. Okay?


Now, let’s start out into our handout here. We’re talking about inspiration. We need to understand biblical inspiration, and there are different schools of thought on this. Notice the introduction there on page one, subpoint A: Understanding How God Communicates with a Prophet is just as important as believing that God communicates with the prophet. Read on here with me, “A belief in the prophetic gift without a working understanding of the nature of inspiration will invariably lead to misunderstandings, misapplications of teachings, disillusionment, and possibly even apostasy from the faith.” That may sound like a strong statement, but you’ll understand what I mean as we continue on in the subject here.


There are different modes of Divine communication in the process of inspiration. I just want to touch on these briefly. This is point two. There is revelation, there’s inspiration, and there’s illumination. Revelation is what we call it when God discloses information. Revelation is the act of God revealing. Revelation is when God reveals His message.


Inspiration is the process by which God enables the prophet both to receive and communicate so that God is not only working in giving the message, revealing the message, God is also working in helping the prophet to understand it and communicate it. Okay? God works in both aspects, and we’re going to talk about that and to what degree.


Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit in enabling the non-inspired hearer or reader in comprehending the message. The Bible says that spiritual things are spiritually understood. Is that right? And so, if we want an understanding of spiritual things, this is why it’s so vital that we pray and ask God’s guidance when we’re dealing with spiritual things. I know people, and you probably know people that have read the Bible. I know people that have read the entire Bible, but they have no faith in the Bible. They’re not Christians. Knowing is not enough. A person can read spiritual things and not get the spiritual application if they’re not guided by Holy Spirit. And so, illumination is God working on the human being to help us to understand what is presented.


Now I want to jump to number three here on page one: Three views of inspiration. Now these are viewpoints. The Bible only presents one. In other words, the Bible tells us how it regards inspiration, but this is how people regard…these are the schools of thought. Some people believe that inspiration, that is, the way God gives the message to the prophet and helps them to understand it, they believe that inspiration is a verbal or mechanical inspiration. The idea with a verbal inspiration is that God…the verbal inspirationalists believe that when God gives the message, He dictates it word for word. In other words, in the event of a prophet, for example, writing something down, God would say to the prophet, “Thus,” and the prophet says, “Thus,” saith – saith, the – the, Lord – Lord, etc., etc. etc. Now, if a prophet says, “Thus saith the Lord,” in quotes, obviously you’ve got a quotation there, but the verbal mechanical view believes that when God speaks to the prophet, every word of the prophet is dictated by God, okay? That’s the verbal or mechanical view.


Now then, there’s the plenary or the thought view. A plenary is just a fancy word for the thought view. Now the thought view of inspiration says that God gives the understanding. God may give the vision to the prophet, but the prophet then employs his or her own words in communicating. Okay? So then it’s left up to the individual – let me rephrase that. God is still in the process, but God doesn’t dictate word-for-word. He gives the thought, and He allows the prophet who has received the message to put it into human words, okay? And we’ll flesh that out a little bit. That’s another view.


And subpoint A on that plenary thought view: This view does not deny that on occasion the prophets did indeed use the very words of God, but this was the exception, not the rule. Like, for example, the giving of the commandments on Mount Sinai. I mean, God spoke, and you have it there as the Word of the Lord being spoken to the people. Yeah, God spoke those words just like that. But there are times when the prophet will communicate some truth that they’ll use their own language in doing so. And, again, the plenary or thought view is really the scriptural view, which we’ll spend time on here in just a moment.


The next view is the existential or the neo-Orthodox or the encounter view, and I may add to that, at least in variation, the post-modern view. Incidentally, some of you may or may not be aware of this, but post-modernism is as old as the hills. It’s not a new thing. This idea of the post-modern that doesn’t accept absolute truth, let’s just go to Christ before Pilate. Christ says, “I have come into this world to bear witness to the truth,” not some truth, not a truth, the truth. And Pilate’s response, what was it, do you remember? Pilate responded to Jesus, and he said, “What is truth?” Okay, Pilate was a post-modern. And the idea here of the existential, the neo-Orthodox, over time there has been different names given to it, but it’s the same basic idea. There’s not an absolute truth. The existential or the neo-Orthodox view says that when God communicates a message to the prophet, that message is true, maybe true to the prophet, but it’s based more on experience than reality.


If you look at the top of page two, it describes it in these terms: There are no words spoken, no information communicated, no statements of truth of any kind. We may say that the prophet “feels” inspired as opposed to actually being inspired. The next point in this view: The thoughts and words conveyed by the prophet are merely his or her own, and in some cases may be entirely false as far as reality is concerned. Now, you may think this sounds nutty, but there are people who profess to be Christians who subscribe to this. An example is the idea of a literal six-day creation. Now, you may say, “How can a person who professes to be a Christian actually believe that creation took longer than the Bible says it took and still profess to be a Christian?” Well, simple. The neo-Orthodox view says this: When Moses wrote down the account of the six-day creation, it was six days to Moses. To Moses it was six days. Even though it may not have been six days, Moses thought it was six days, and that was what was important. Now for us, we know that that was Moses’ idea and it wasn’t necessarily reality, but it was reality to Moses.


Now, does that sound crazy? It should sound crazy. But that’s the neo-Orthodox view, and that view makes, if you look at number four there on the top of page two, it says: This view holds to three basic principles. Inspiration is inherently subjective rather than objective. In other words, truth is not an objective truth; it’s subjective. It’s how I feel about it; that’s what makes it real or not real.


Letter B: The Bible contains the Word of God but is not, is and of itself, the Word of God. Now this is a very popular Catholic phraseology. The Catholic Church claims to believe in the Bible. They believe the Bible contains the Word of God. Now that sounds really good; it sounds like they are almost believing in the Bible. The problem is, they say the Bible contains the Word of God, but what they’re saying is that some of the Bible is true, but implied is some of the Bible isn’t. And then if some of the Bible is true, and some of the Bible isn’t, then what has to happen? Well, we have to decide what is and what isn’t, and who does that? Well, the priests do that, and, etc., etc.


Now, they’re not the only ones that do it. If you’ve ever studied…Anybody studied with Mormons before? If you’ve ever studied with Mormons before, this is what Mormons say when you talk about the Bible. I said, “Do you believe in the Bible?” You see, if they’re not going to take the Bible as authority, then it doesn’t do any good to study with somebody who doesn’t receive the Bible as authority because then, if you show them something in the Bible that contradicts the way they think, they’re just not going to accept it. And so, you talk to the Mormons and you say, “How do you view the Bible?” “Well,” they say, “we believe in the Bible as far as it’s correctly interpreted.” That’s interesting. As far as it’s correctly interpreted, that means that the interpretation of it becomes subjective instead of objective. Parts of it may be true, the parts that were interpreted correctly, and who determines that? Well, Joseph Smith, in their case, determines that.


Incidentally, somebody asked me during the break about Joseph Smith, and I don’t know how familiar you are with Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church, but sometimes we meet this as Adventists. People say, “Well,”…And somebody during the break had asked me after last session, “I’ve got a friend who tells me we’re just like the Mormons because the Mormons have a prophet, and we have a prophet.” But the difference is, their prophet Joseph Smith supersedes the Scripture. Ellen White never claimed that for herself, never claimed to be above the Scripture. You see, in the event of the Bible being correctly interpreted, the Mormons say, if there’s something that they feel is incorrectly interpreted, that they don’t agree with, they just say, “Well, Joseph Smith said thus and so, and that negates what the Bible says.” You see, Joseph Smith will define what’s been correctly interpreted. Those are variations of this neo-Orthodox view.


Again, number four, subpoint C: The inspiration is quantitative rather than qualitative. In other words, there’s a quantity of information given. It may not be accurate information, but it’s accurate in the mind of the prophet who received it. Well, that tears out any authority that you would expect to have in the prophetic gift. And I don’t mean just Ellen White, but in the Scripture as well.


So these are some of the key views of inspiration. The verbal view, verbal inspiration, the thought inspiration, and then this neo-Orthodox or existential view of inspiration. What we want to look at is the Bible view, okay? I have it on the handout as the “SDA view of inspiration.” I crossed it out on mine, and I put “The Bible view,” because that’s what it is. We’re not subscribing to a creative Seventh-day Adventist when we say, “Well, we’re Seventh-day Adventists, and we believe the SDA view.” The reality is, what we believe as Adventists, we believe because we believe they’re biblical. Amen? And even when I, as a pastor, am studying with somebody for baptism, I always make it clear to them because I know they’re going to encounter Seventh-day Adventists who don’t live up to the standards of the Bible. They’re going to come into the church, and they’re going to see this person and that person, and I say, “Listen, you’re going to even come into the church, you’re going to find people who aren’t living by the Word of God. I want you to understand that you’re not being baptized into a church. Primarily you’re being baptized into the Word of God and your commitment to the Word of God.” Okay?


And if the church, God forbid, would go some different direction, your commitment is to God and His Word primarily. We can say that as Seventh-day Adventists and not have to worry about anything. Early on in my experience, I went out and did some Bible work, and I just love doing Bible work because I didn’t have to hide anything. Everything that we teach, we teach from the Bible, including the Spirit of prophecy, by the way.


So, in the Bible view, what does the Bible claim for itself? Second Timothy 3:16, I’m sure that you’re familiar with this passage. Let’s look at it. Second Timothy 3:16, what does the Bible claim about inspiration and how the inspiration works? Second Timothy 3:16, the Bible says, “All Scripture is given by,” (what?), “inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be,” (what?), “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Now the key point to get here is that the Bible says that it’s given by inspiration of God, and if you look at your handout on page two, under “The SDA’s Bible view of inspiration”: All Scripture is given by inspiration. And that word inspiration comes from the Greek word theopneustos, which means “God-breathed.” Simple point being, the Bible in the Greek language that the New Testament was written in says this is God-breathed.


Now, if something is God-breathed, is it of human origin? No. No. In other words, how many of you have done Bible work or Bible studies with people before. Okay. How many of you have had people say things to you like, “Well, the Bible is just a book written by a bunch of men”? They denied the Divine origin of it, okay? And without getting into rebutting that right now, the point that I want to get clear here is the Bible itself makes the claim that, though men wrote the Bible, and the Bible is clear that men wrote the Bible, it was God-breathed. That means there is not any…For a person who claims to believe the Bible, we can’t say the Bible was of human origin. Yes, God employed men in writing it, but just because men received the communications from God, just because men wrote down what God gave them, the Bible still…God still calls it “God-breathed.” It was of Divine origin. It is of Divine origin. That’s the Scripture.


Turn with me from there to 1 Thessalonians 2, 1 Thessalonians, and we’re going to chapter 2 and verse 13. Now notice what the apostle says. First Thessalonians 2:13, he says, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the,” (what?), “word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the,” (what?), “word of men.” Now, where did they receive it? From men, right? In other words, Paul says, “You received it from us,” but he’s commending this church. He says, “The Word of God you received from us, “you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth,” (what?), “the word of God.”


The point Paul’s making here is, he says, “I acknowledge that it was us, human beings, who conveyed to you the truth, and you know as well as I know,” Paul is telling this crowd, “that you heard this from us, human beings, but you acknowledged it, not as a human thing, that even though human beings gave you the message, you acknowledged it as it is in truth the Word of God.” Okay, these are the claims the Bible makes about inspiration. Even though men were employed in writing it, yet, what kind of work is it? It’s a Divine work. God’s hand is in the process of inspiration.


Now, the process of inspiration, incidentally, works across the board the same way. If God inspires a last-day prophet, there’s nothing in the Bible that would denote that one person is less inspired than another person. Right? You’re not going to, “Oh, well, Ellen White came after the Bible, so she’s less inspired.” Like, how does that work? The Holy Spirit’s like, “Okay, hold back and just…” No. God inspires a person; that person is inspired of God, and that message and that understanding is of a Divine origin just as it as always been. And even though there’s a human being used in the process, and we tend to have our mind and our eyes drawn to the human, God would draw our minds to the Divine and say, even though it’s a human being, just like Paul says, he commends his church, and he says, “Look, you understood our message for what it was. Even though it was men preaching it, you have received it as the Word of God.”


This is the Bible claim of inspiration, that inspiration is something that God does in conveying His message to and through human beings. It’s a union of the Divine and human. Now it touches on that on the bottom of page two.


We’re jumping to page three in the handout. And if you’ve just come in, and you did not get a handout, please go to the back door. They have plenty of them because we’ll be referring to this quite a bit. We’re talking about the nature of inspiration. We’re just kind of doing a quick rundown. Some of you have been through this before, but we’re just kind of doing a quick rundown on inspiration and how it works, so that we can make application to the Spirit of prophecy because if you don’t understand how inspiration works, you’re not going to be able to understand how it works in the prophet that God sent. If you don’t understand how it works in the Scripture, inspiration works the same way, you’re going to run into issues.


Let me give you a for instance, and we’ll see this played out in this handout. There are some people that believe in the verbal inspiration view, that God dictates every word of the prophet. Now, here’s what happens. When they find things that are evidently not verbally inspired, then they begin to have doubts and questions as to whether something’s inspired at all. People have run into issues with Ellen White with a verbal inspiration viewpoint, and I can’t even begin to get into all of the problems it’s caused in the church with people viewing Ellen White as a verbal inspirationist. God inspired her and told her to write.


I’ll give you a for-instance. It’s going to come up later, anyway. There’s a man by the name of E.S. Ballenger. Now, the Ballenger brothers, A.F. Ballenger and E.S. Ballenger, really turned on Ellen White and the Spirit of prophecy, the sanctuary message back in the early 1900s. E.S. Ballenger ran into a big issue because Ellen White, in writing about the Paradise Valley Sanitarium in the San Diego area, just commenting, she was giving some direction about what the Lord’s plan was, and she stated that this building had 40 rooms in it. E.S. Ballenger counted them. There were 38, and he lost his faith because he said, “How could God inspire Ellen White, and she say 40, and there were only 38?” Because he thought that God dictated to her every word she used. And Ellen White in responding to Ballenger said, “Look, that wasn’t the point of what I was saying. God gave me a message about what we were to do, and in commenting on the Sanitarium, I just basically shared what I’d heard how many rooms it had.”


The person who’s the verbal inspirationist gets totally tripped up on that, and we have had major fallouts in the Adventist church where people who have gotten confused on the idea of inspiration. You will not find a model of verbal inspiration in the Scripture or in the Spirit of prophecy. It’s not the way the Bible works. Ellen White clarifies that in some of what she wrote, and we’re going to be looking at that.


Let me give you a for instance here. You’ve got the different views of inspiration, and I can say, “Well, there’s the thought view of inspiration, there’s the verbal view of inspiration, and there’s the neo-Orthodox, and there may be other views of inspiration. How do we know which one the Bible used? How do we know which one the Bible employed? One very clear example for us to define that the Bible used a mode of thought inspiration is the four Gospels. If God gave verbal inspiration, that is, He told the prophet what to write word-for-word-for-word-for-word-for-word, why do we have four men telling the same story, and it all comes out different? That’s evidence to us that God uses inspiration in the sense of thought inspiration. God inspires the thoughts of the writers, and He allows them to put it in their own word with their own experience, so that, for example, when Mark writes his Gospel, he writes it from his perspective. When Matthew writes his Gospel, he writes it from his perspective. They read differently. They give different aspects of the Gospel story, yet both are telling the same story, and both are accurate. You following that?


Okay, if they were verbally inspired, you would expect it to read exactly the same. That’s one of the best evidences that we have, and, therefore, you have the experience and the background of those individuals brought into their testimonies. And that’s what they were; they were testimonies.


Incidentally, in the book Desire of Ages, Ellen White says that every one of us has a testimony to share, and that each one of us can reach people that nobody else can reach. Did you know that? We, each one here, has a distinct experience. And I talked on this this morning. We tend to look to the human agent far too much. Like, I remember when I first became a Christian, I had a friend of mine that studied the Bible with me. I knew next to nothing. And when people would ask me questions, I would want to go and get my friends. “Hold on, let me get my friend. He’ll tell you about the Lord,” because I couldn’t say anything. You see, that was my mindset. I can’t say anything for the Lord. Always looking to some human being. You know, we tend to do that now, “I’ve got a tape by David Asscherick on that; let me give that to you.”


How many of you believe in the Holy Spirit? Amen. Can the Holy Spirit inspire us? Can He give us the right words to say in witnessing for the Lord Jesus? Sure He can. Sure He can. Now, I’m not telling you not to share a tape by David Asscherick or somebody else, but you understand what I’m saying.


God would use His people to communicate His truth and have us trust in Him. He uses a human experience, and Ellen White says that our own personal experience is like none other. And I may think that I can give this tape of David Asscherick or Doug Batchelor or whoever to somebody, not realizing that maybe God has brought somebody into my pathway because He knows that my background and their background are similar, and my personal testimony may have more influence over that person than anybody’s.


And Ellen White says that very thing in the book Desire of Ages. That’s why the Gospels, you have four Gospels. That’s why God used such a variety of Bible writers, so that we have the varied circumstances. I mean, if God was going to use verbal dictation, why didn’t He have one person write the whole New Testament? Why all the different people? Because God inspires men’s thoughts.


And this is what Ellen White says on that. If you look on page 3 and notice, this is an introduction to the Great Controversy, and if you’ve never read that, this is Ellen White’s explanation of inspiration. Page three, right there at the top, subpoint two, subpoint A, underneath that: “As presented through different individuals, the truth is brought out in its varied aspects. One writer is more strongly impressed with one phase of the subject; he grasps those points that harmonize with his experience or with his power of perception and appreciation. Another seizes upon a different phase.” So, Luke catches one aspect of Jesus’ ministry, Mark catches another one, and this is what they share. “And each, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly impressed upon his own mind—a different aspect of the truth in each, but a perfect harmony through all. All the truths thus revealed unite to form a perfect whole, adapted to meet the wants of men in,” (what?), “all the circumstances and experiences of life.


“God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do this work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was entrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, nonetheless, from Heaven. The testimony is conveyed through the,” (what?), “imperfect expression of human language, yet it is the testimony of God; and the obedient, believing child of God beholds in it the glory of a divine power, full of grace and truth.”


So there she just explains that God used different men. He imbued their thoughts. We see the same thing in the next statement right after that. Ellen White writes this, this classic statement, “The writers of the Bible were God’s penmen, not His pen.” She says, “Look at the different writers. It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words or his expressions but on the man himself.” Now, why would she say that? Unless the point is being conveyed that the expressions may be imperfect. If she says that these men were God’s penmen but not His pen, that God worked on the people but not the expressions and the words, what she’s saying is the expressions and the words weren’t from God, but the thoughts were from God.


That doesn’t mean God didn’t guide in the expressions and the words, but you may have thought this…I remember my younger brother, John, came to me once, and we had been Christians for probably a couple of years, and we ran into this issue. He was running into this issue with a Bible study with “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” “The Rich Man and Lazarus,” and he was in torment, and he was crying out to God in torment, right? And my brother John said, “Man, why did God have to put that in the Bible that way, so these people can always bring it up to us about this ever-burning hell because it’s clear from “The Rich Man and Lazarus”? Why did He word it that way? Why didn’t He word it differently?


Have you ever thought something like that? Like, “Why didn’t He word it more clearly?” Now, there are a couple of reasons for that. Number one: This is what it means by imprecise or imperfect expressions. The words were human. That doesn’t mean they were wrong, it doesn’t mean the story was wrong, but maybe better words could have been used. But God didn’t give the exact words to use. He allowed the prophet to put it in their words. Now that’s one reason.


Number two: The devil has had 2,000 years to pervert our understanding when we read those words. So, there are a lot of people today that read stuff in the Bible, and they’re like, “Well, it’s pretty plain to me that hell burns for ever and ever.” That’s because they’ve been conditioned for 2,000 years with 2,000 years of error, okay? And so, maybe initially it made more sense. But the point is that God inspires His prophets’ thoughts, and then it’s conveyed in human words, okay? And that’s what the Bible tells us about inspiration.


Now, I want you to go to page 4, and I want to talk a little about inerrancy and infallibility, okay? Top of page 4: Inerrancy and infallibility. Letter A: The Scripture is the inspired Word of God, all of it. That’s what the Bible says. As such, the question is asked, can it contain any error? The initial response would be, “Impossible!” Yet it must be remembered and maintained that, though God is inerrant and infallible, yet the human channels used in communicating His message were not, as we just touched on. And we’re going to look at something again.


The Bible tells us there in subpoint one, 2 Peter 1:21, “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” It was men that spoke. God gave the message, but it came through a human channel. I want you to note the subpoint there from the pen of Ellen White. She says, “The Bible is not given to us in grand superhuman language. Jesus, in order to reach man where he is, took humanity. The Bible must be given in the language of men. Everything that is human is,” (what?), “imperfect. Different meanings are expressed by the same word.” So, man may employ a word that may not have been as clear as another word he could have used. Does that detract from the truth of what’s written? No. Does that detract from the authority of the Scripture? No. Or the inerrancy. But she makes this point that there is potential for error. And we’re going to look at that more specifically here in just a moment. And the next one, Ellen White says in regard to infallibility, “I never claimed it,” doesn’t claim it for herself. She says that everything human is imperfect.


Now, when it comes to the Scripture…I’m looking at this next statement and wondering here if I should share it. You’ll have to look through some of these later. I want to take some time and look at some of these. Bottom of page 4, letter B: Categories of errors, mistakes, discrepancies, call them what you will. There are issues in the Bible, whether you want to call them errors, whether you want to call them discrepancies, mistakes. Are they copyist, are they translator errors? There has been a lot of debate about this, but the bottom line is that they’re there, and they’re there because God employed human channels.


Now, some people have the idea, well, initially when the Bible was written there were no erroneous statements, but they came through copyists. Now here is the simple question I have: If God can keep the initial writings free from error, why couldn’t He keep the copyists free from error? The issue isn’t whether the error was in the originals or in the copies; it’s irrelevant. The issue is, are the errors in the Bible, the discrepancies, or whatever you want to call them in the Bible, of such degree that they would destroy what we would call the inerrancy of Scripture? Okay?


I want you to go back to page three, and at the bottom of the page, I want you to notice this statement from Ellen White. It’s found in the book Selected Messages, volume 1. Bottom of page 3, this is Ellen White’s comment on potential errors in Scripture. She says, “Some look to us gravely and say,” that’s very seriously, “and say, ‘Don’t you think that there might have been some mistake in the copyists or in the translators?’” Now notice her response, “This is all,” (what? it’s what?), “probable.” Now, there’s a difference between the word probable and the word possible, right? Ellen White says, “Probably so.” Don’t you think there might have been some mistakes here with the copyists and translators? She says, “This is all probable, and the mind that is so narrow that it will hesitate and stumble over this possibility or probability would be just as ready to stumble over the mysteries of the Inspired Word, because their feeble minds cannot see through the purposes of God…All the,” what? All the what? “All the mistakes,” she calls them, “will not cause trouble to one soul, or cause any feet to stumble, that would not manufacture difficulties from the plainest revealed truth.


“God committed the preparation of His divinely inspired Word to finite man. This Word, arranged into books, the Old and New Testaments, is the guidebook to the inhabitants of a fallen world, bequeathed to them that, by studying and obeying the directions, not one soul would lose its way to heaven.”


Now, here’s in essence what she’s says. Are there potential errors? Yeah, there are probable errors in the Scripture, she says, but they’re minute enough that they’re not going to cause trouble to one soul reaching Heaven. You follow that? Okay. And again, some people, I’ve shared this before, and I’ve had students say…Well, let’s look at some of them, and then I’ll comment on that.


Let’s go to the bottom of page 4 and look at some of these things, and I have to say that a lot of these alleged errors are really more errors in the way people have read it than errors in the way it was written. Okay? But still, people will get hung up on these things. And a lot of it just comes from the fact that it was expressed in the human terms that it was.


Bottom of page four, bottom of page four: Categories of errors, mistakes, discrepancies, call them what you will. First and foremost, you have unfulfilled prophecies. Some people call something in error because, for example, Jonah’s a classic example. The prophecy of Jonah is one where, if you read the story of Jonah, did Jonah, when he gave his prophecy, give any qualifier? Like, for example, did he go to Nineveh and he say, “Now, listen. I came to preach this message to you from the Lord, and if you repent, then God’s going to save you. But if you don’t repent, there’s going to be fire and destruction.” If you read the message of Jonah, the message of Jonah was this: Forty days, and then it will be overthrown. Period. There’s no “if.” There’s no qualifier, and yet, when you read the story of Jonah, it’s very clear that there was a condition even though God did not state the condition.


In other words, God said, “Jonah, you go tell Nineveh, 40 days and the city is going to be destroyed.” So, he preached. In fact, the reason he didn’t preach initially when he ran to Tarshish was because he knew that God may pardon the Ninevites, and then they would call him a false prophet. And so, the long and short of the story of Jonah, when it’s all said and done, Jonah preaches to Nineveh, Nineveh repents, God changes what He was going to do. Why? Because the prophecy of Jonah was conditional, even though God did not state it conditionally. The reason I say that is that there are prophecies that you read from the pen of Ellen White that were also conditional.


There are other conditional prophecies in the Bible. You see them listed there. Letter B: Prophecies regarding Israel’s glory. There are a lot of Evangelicals today that are looking to the nation of Israel and waiting for Israel to come into its own land and waiting for Israel to do this and Israel to do that because they’re reading these conditional prophecies that God made to Israel on the basis that they would be faithful to Him. And they say, “Well, God promised, and so God can’t change,” but Paul, in the New Testament, book of Romans says, “Has God gone back on His promises? Have the promises of God become of no effect?” He says, “No. God forbid.” He says, “Not all are Israel who are of Israel,” is how he puts it.


In other words, the promises of God have not failed. It’s simply that the promises of God to Israel were only to spiritual Israel. Now, Paul clarifies that in the New Testament. There were conditions to some of those promises, but God does not always state them in conditional terms. Sometimes the reader has to discern whether something’s conditional or not.


Let’s talk about the entrance into Canaan, and I believe that’s at the top of…It’s not at the top of page five, but I’ll share it with you. The entrance to Canaan. You remember God told Israel after Kadesh Barnea He sent the spies to spy out the land for 40 days, and then He told them do what? I know it’s after lunch. I know this is a hard time. You’re getting sleepy, right? He sent spies in, and then what? He said, “Go, conquer the land,” right? But the spies came back, and they’re like, “Oh, well, it’s a beautiful land. It’s everything God said it was going to be, but we can’t go in there. The giants are in the land,” right?


And so, then Caleb and Joshua come back; they give the faithful report, and they say, “Look, it’s not our battle. It’s God’s battle, and God can give us the victory.” They go to stone Caleb and Joshua to death, and then God interposes, and God says, “Listen, because of your unbelief, you’re going to wander in the wilderness for 40 years,” right?


Now, right after that, they thought about it, and they said, “Well, let’s see, 40 years in the wilderness. We don’t like that idea. Hey, I know, we’ll go in the land now. God promised, and we’re going to go in on His promise, and we’re going to take the land.” Well, what happened? They got wiped out. Why? Because God’s promise to them was conditional on their obedience, and once they changed their position, the promise no longer applied. Are you following that? Even though God didn’t state it in a conditional term.


So there are things in the Bible that people will say are erroneous that were not errors. It was just that they were conditional. That’s the reason that they didn’t come to pass. You will find the same thing in Ellen White’s writings. If you go to the top of page five, here’s an example. You will find this on almost every website that is anti-Adventist, you find it, you hear among some Seventh-day Adventists. Ellen White had a vision. She says in Testimonies 1, page 131, (top of page five), “I was shown the company present at the Conference. Said the angel,” quote, now she quotes the words of an angel, “Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.” Well, the people present took note of everybody that was there, and they followed those individuals, and they said, “Wow. Some of these are going to be translated when Jesus comes. That means Jesus is going to come before the last person here dies,” and you notice the subpoint there: Received on Tuesday, May 27, 1856. The youngest person in the crowd was Willie White, a babe in his mother’s arms, Willie died in 1937 at the age of 83. People thought, okay, as long as Willie’s alive, Willie’s it. He’s the last one. Jesus will come back because Ellen White said. The angel said, “Some will be food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive when Jesus comes.”


And there are internet critics that get all bent out, “Well, Ellen White is obviously a false prophet.” She would be if this were not a conditional prophecy. And you will find a multitude of statements in the writings of Ellen White where she makes it very clear that the Lord would have come long before now if His people had come into working order. And sometimes, and we’re going to talk more about this as we, you know, go from the inspiration into the hermeneutics of how to read some of what Ellen White has written, that you’ve got to take what a Bible prophet or the Bible or what Ellen White speaks on a subject – don’t pick some little piece and go running with it. Read the general tenor of the subject. Read more statements.


Let’s see. So, here’s the food for worms. Jesus is going to come back very soon, before all these people pass to their rest. Well, let’s look at what else she wrote. And if you went and looked at other statements, you’d find out, well, Ellen White makes several statements about how the Lord would have come sooner, but He was delayed. Well, that kind of negates this one, doesn’t it? In other words, yeah, some of these people could have been ready when Jesus came, but it was conditional. The Bible makes the coming of Christ conditional, did you know that?


Now, ultimately Jesus is going to come, and, God, I believe, knows the time that that’s going to happen, but the Apostle Peter says that we can hasten the day of Christ’s coming. Are you aware of that? We can hasten the day of Christ’s coming. If we can hasten it, then what else can we do? We can prolong it. We can prolong it.


So some things aren’t viewed as errors. We have prolonged it, incidentally. And so, some of the things written, some of the alleged discrepancies in the Bible, those types of things that may have been conditional, we find the same things in Ellen White. Why? Inspiration works the same. It’s going to work the same in both cases.


Let’s go to the next point on page five, number two: Some of the other types of things we find in the Scripture. Small matters of minor detail. Subpoint one: In Scripture, it says…Subpoint one, “Was the toll in David’s battle against the Syrian army 40,000 footmen, as it says in 1 Chronicles 19:18, or horsemen as it says in 2 Samuel 10:18? Same situation, one person says footmen, one person says horsemen. Now there are different explanations for these things. Sometimes people say, “Well, the language of the Hebrew that was used, it could have been translated footmen in both places,” etc., etc. That’s not the point that I’m covering. The simple point is to say these are the alleged discrepancies that people will get hung up on, potentially because, whether it was the original author or a copyist, somebody wrote down something wrong. And God permitted it.


And we have to understand that if God is going to permit such a thing, then God is going to be able to carry us through such a thing. If God permits somebody, whether it be the original author or whether it be a copyist to write down the wrong thing, God’s bigger than that. And what you’re going to see is those incidents are so minute that they have very little effect on anything. Whether it was footmen or horsemen was not the point of the story. You understand what I’m saying? And I could ask, and you could ask, “Well, why would God allow it, whether it was the author or the copyist, why did He allow it?” Maybe because He was trying to convey to us that simple point that holy men of God spoke. God used a [fallible] person to convey Divine truth. Okay?


We see similar things here in the next few points, and you’ve looked at some of these. Number two: Was Christ confronted at Gergesa by one demoniac, as it says in Mark and Luke, or by two as Matthew says? Well, I think probably the clearest explanation of something like this…I mean, you know, you read that, and you’re like, “Wow, two of the Gospel writers say that there was one demoniac, and one of the Gospel writers says there were two demoniacs. How many were there?” Well, it was likely, just as Ellen White wrote in that introduction to the Great Controversy, that from that author’s perspective, one of those demoniacs probably stood out more prominently, and that’s what they remembered. And what that’s telling us is a human being was there, and as they’re giving eye witness testimony…Let me maybe use this illustration.


If you have an accident…Anybody here ever witness an accident, and you’ve got to stick around for something like that. You get three different people that witness and accident, and what are those testimonies going to sound like? Different. Now if they’re all eye witnesses, will they all be true? Sure, they’ll be true. Even in the event that we have something here in Mark and Matthew and Luke, two said there was one demoniac; one said there were two demoniacs; they were all right. Mark and Luke were not saying there wasn’t more than one. Evidently, what stood out to them prominently – now I don’t know positively, but that’s what I would say is the case there. But the simple point is God allowed for the differences to be there in the Scripture. That’s why Ellen White says, “For the person who’s going to allow themselves to be tripped up by that, they’ll manufacture doubt because they’re not able to grasp the nature of inspiration.


Number three: Was blind Bartimaeus healed by Jesus as He approached Jericho or as He left Jericho? One says as He was approaching; one says as He was leaving. Here’s the simple question I would ask: Is the important part of this story whether He was approaching or leaving? Or is the important part of the story that He healed blind Bartimaeus? It was the healing. And some people will get tripped up on these details. God permits them for whatever reason that He does.


Number four: Who wrote the prophecy for telling the betrayal of Christ for 30 pieces of silver, Jeremiah, as Matthew says, or Zechariah? Matthew actually quotes Zechariah, and then he says Jeremiah was the one that wrote it. Now, I’m a preacher, and that makes real sense to me because I’ve been in places where I’ve been preaching, maybe I’m preaching about David, and suddenly the name Daniel comes out, and I keep on preaching. I’m preaching about Daniel and Goliath, and Daniel fought the giant, and things like that just come out. Have you ever sat in a sermon and heard something like that, where the preacher said…? And they don’t even catch it. You know what they’re talking about. You’re not going to go hang the guy afterwards and say, “Man, you said Daniel instead of David.”


But this is what happens, like with Matthew, and the thing is, and again, I can only speculate, but Jeremiah and Zechariah both talked about the potter, and Zechariah talks about the 30 pieces of silver used to buy a potter’s field. Seems to me that Matthew was thinking potter, and he picked up the text from Jeremiah. We knew what he was talking about.


They’re not issues that…You know, Pastor Louis Torres tells the story of a meeting that he was preaching, and he came to the end to his appeal, and then he said to everybody, “Okay, now as every head is closed and every eye is bowed. As heads are closed and eyes are bowed.” He said he had his team on the front row, and he’s telling the story, and his team began to kind of snicker a little bit, and he’s wondering what they’re snickering at. And then he said it again, “With heads closed and eyes bowed.” And then they just started busting up laughing, and they had to walk out. And then he said he did it again, “With heads closed and eyes bowed,” three times in a row, just never caught what he was saying. But he knew what he was saying, and the audience evidently knew what he was saying, because he got decisions.


Now God allows for that in the human element, and some people have the feeling of discomfort when we say that potential thing happened in the Scripture. Well, we see them in the Scripture, however you want to describe them, whether they’re copyist or original author’s, those discrepancies are there. And for the person who wants to maintain that they’re not there, here’s where you’re going to come into real problems. When you come to Ellen White’s writings, we do have the original autographs. We have them all in her own handwriting, and there are discrepancies there, just exactly like the ones we’re looking at in Scripture, same type of stuff, but when we understand how inspiration works. God impresses the thought, gives the idea, and they put it in human words. And there’s a margin of discrepancy, wherever it came from, that God saw fit not to correct, then it’s totally within the realm of possibility that He would work with Ellen White in the same way He did with the Bible prophets.


And we’re going to look at that. Letter B, we’re going to look at a couple here, page 5, letter B. In Ellen White’s writings, we looked at a few of the types of things that you find in Scripture. This is in Ellen White’s writings, letter B. Notice what she says here in the Review and Herald of August 18, 1874, “Satan flattered our first parents that eating of the fruit of the,” (what?), “tree of life of which God had,” (what?), “forbidden them would bring to them great good, and would insure them against death, the very opposite of the truth which God had declared to them. ‘But of the tree of,’” (what?), “‘the knowledge of good and evil,’” what did she just call it? She called it the Tree of Life in the beginning of that. Well, she understands which tree it was because when she quotes it, she quotes “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” but for whatever reason, when she was writing it down, she wrote “Tree of Life” instead. Now, is she a false prophet? Does that make her a false prophet because she wrote down…? But she’s got it right later on, but for the person who subscribes to verbal inspiration, it’s impossible. If God dictated those words, there is no possibility that you could have any problem with it. You following what I’m saying?


And this creates huge problems for the person trying to read Ellen White when they run into stuff like this. Or the Scripture. And Ellen White herself said that people who lose their confidence in her writings are not going to stop there. Soon it’s going to be problems with the Scripture because you’re going to find the same things going on. Are you following?


Let’s go to number three on that page: When Ellen White joined her husband at Walling Mills, Colorado, she dated the event as Monday, August 8, 1878. However, Monday fell on the fifth of that week, not on the eighth. Now for some people, listen, “If God dictated it to her, He knows what day the fifth was. He knows what day the eighth was.” And so some people say, “False prophet.” False prophet. How could Ellen White be a prophet of God and say that Monday was the eighth and not the fifth?


Now some of you may think that’s ludicrous, and some of you may be thinking, “I’m having a real hard time with this,” because there are a number of Seventh-day Adventists who have a hard time understanding the nature of inspiration. Verbal inspiration is more comfortable to us, but it’s not biblical, and it certainly wasn’t employed with Ellen White’s writings.


So we find these types of things, and there are different explanations. Again, the sanitarium that I mentioned to you at Paradise Valley, 40 rooms versus 38 rooms. “Well, how could Ellen White say there were 40 rooms when there were only 38?” Simple, God didn’t say in the vision, He didn’t point out how many rooms were in there. That was not the point of it. And some people have a hard time understanding that God, when He conveyed the truth to the prophet…and this happens in situations, whether they be historical…this happened with historical things. Ellen White would see a vision of what had taken place. One of her resources, for example, was D’Aubigne’s book on the Reformation, where D’Aubigne’s and his sixteenth century, well, his whole series, and she would take the vision that she received from the Lord and what had taken place in what she saw in that vision…for example, a vision about Reformation times, the Waldenses, or what happened during Luther’s work in Germany, etc., and she would go to those books and fill in historical data from D’Aubigne or somebody else because God didn’t give her the historical data. He gave her the message, and then she told it by using these resources.


Now some people feel that God should have dictated everything to her, and this has tripped up a lot of people. There will be some historical discrepancy because they’ll say later on some historian says, “Well, it didn’t happen this way; it happened this way.” That wasn’t the point. That wasn’t the point of the vision. The fact that she dated the letter wrong has nothing to do with the testimony in the letter. The rooms at the sanitarium in Paradise Valley, God gave her a vision about a condition of things at Paradise Valley, not the rooms. And as she is trying to describe the situation, she tells about the rooms from what she had heard from other people, and then some people say, “Well, if the Lord told her that, she’s wrong.” Yeah, I suppose if the Lord would have told her that, she would be wrong. But the point is, God didn’t tell her how many rooms.


The prophet receives the vision from God and puts it in their own words, okay? God guides in that process. The danger we have when we understand thought inspiration is playing fast and loose with it and starting to say, “Well, you know, who knows what she said is true,” you know and trying to allow for loopholes here and there.


And what I want to do, we’re going to take a break here. I told you, we’re kind of covering two things in this class and the next one as we get into hermeneutics. What I want to do is kind of flesh this out a little bit more as to how to know the difference as we’re reading these things, and I want to show you how, if the error is ever, and we’ll see it in Scripture and Spirit of prophecy, if the errors ever became such as would cause somebody to stumble in their faith, the Lord corrected it. And I’ll show you examples in Scripture. Now what that will tell us is this, if God ever, and I mean ever, whether in the ministry of Ellen White or in the ministry of Bible prophets, if God ever saw fit to correct something, it tells us that He could have in every case, and He didn’t. So there are certain times that God would go back and say…it shows He allowed for certain erroneous things to happen and take place. And sometimes, in some cases, He would go back and correct it. Those were those situations where God knew it would hurt the work, it would hurt even one individual in regard to salvation, God would correct it. But there are other minor details He let go by, like the Jeremiah/Zechariah thing.


So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to visit that when we come back. We’re going to take a break for the next class, and I know some of you are just kind of hitting and missing, and you’re going to go to different things. So, I guess you can see AudioVerse to get the rest of the presentation. But let’s break with a word of prayer, if you’ll bow your heads with me.


Father in Heaven, I want to thank You again for the gift of prophecy among us, and as we’re seeking to understand, Lord, how we can best apply this gift and understand this gift, I just pray You will continue to help us to gather, not just from this seminar, Lord, but from everything that’s going on here at GYC. Father, help us to glean everything positive that we can that will strengthen us spiritually for the times that we live in, that we would be faithful to You in all things. We ask and pray it in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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