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The Inspiration of Herman Who? Part II

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.

Presenter

Mark Howard

Director, Emmanuel Institute of Evangelism

Conference

Recorded

  • December 18, 2008
    3:45 PM
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Heavenly Father, again I want to thank You for this opportunity we have to study Your Word and to discuss the nature of inspiration and, Father, how to rightly divide the word of truth. Please guide us in our time here this afternoon. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Okay, we’re talking about inspiration, and we’re talking about the discrepancies; I mentioned this. Again, my name is Pastor Mark Howard. White Out is the topic of our series here, and we’re discussing the gift of prophecy in the Adventist Church. We were talking about inspiration and how it works in our last session. We’re going to continue with that and then hermeneutics, how to understand and read and get to the bottom of some of these statements that Ellen White makes, how to make proper application and avoid improper application of those things.

 

We read a quote in the last class where Ellen White talked about errors, potential or probable errors in the copyists, etc., and the point that I was about to make before we switched is that some people today get very hung up on the issue of Bible translations, and I think that that statement of Ellen White speaks right to it. I’ve had people give me books. I’ve had Adventists give me some of the craziest books on why I should only use the King James Bible, and it will say things like…I’ve leafed through some of these books, and one of the things they say is, of course, a lot of things have been changed, and they try to leave God out of it, and one of the arguments in one of the books that this particular Adventist gave me – in fact, I’ve had two different Adventists give me the same book on different occasions. I got the first one, and I got rid of it, and then I got another one.

 

One of their arguments was that the new translations muddy up the clear teaching of the Bible on an eternally burning hell, and I said, “Praise the Lord Jesus.” So, you know, it muddies up; in other words, the King James is the only one that makes hell clear, and the other ones…Listen, the whole idea, when we read Scripture, and you’ll find the same thing is true with Spirit of prophecy, the best mode of interpretation is allowing Scripture to be its own expositor. If you let the Bible interpret itself, if you use a reliable translation, it’s not going to be an issue. I have a favorite translation; I like the King James; the New King James is what I generally preach from. The fact of the matter is, I use different Bibles. I steer away from paraphrases as a study Bible but the point is this: God has preserved the integrity of His Word, and when we start to get nitpicky about whether we can use the NIV, for example…The NIV is not one of my favorite translations; I think Dr. Pitman uses it all the time, but reality is, God has preserved the integrity of His Word. And when we get so worried about things like that, we start to lose confidence in the fact that God can keep the truth clear and pure. Do you understand what I’m saying?

 

We really become very humanistic in our way of looking at things. God has preserved the integrity of His Word in the Bible and in the Spirit of prophecy, so that some of these things we talked about the last session, we’re on The Nature of Inspiration handout, we’re on page six, and I told you we looked at some of the minor things in Scripture that were discrepancies. There are a couple major issues in Scripture, and for sake of time, I’m not going to go and read them all, but I’m going to follow the handout. On page six, number three: Major matters of substance. The other was minor matters that we were looking at. These are major matters of substance, okay, both in Scripture and the Spirit of prophecy.

 

In Scripture, one example is when Nathan the Prophet gave King David wrong information about the building of the temple. David talked about how he wanted to build a temple for God, and Nathan the Prophet said, “David, you go and do all that’s in your heart.” Well, he was a prophet of the Lord, and David took that as a prophetic utterance. And the Lord God came to Nathan the Prophet, and He said, “Nathan, you spoke out of turn. You need to go back and tell the king that you spoke wrong.” And that’s exactly what the Bible tells us, that Nathan went back to David and said, “David, I spoke out of turn. The counsel I gave you was not the counsel of God.” Okay?

 

Now, we’ve looked at some of these minor discrepancies in the Bible. For whatever reason, God did not see fit to go and correct those, but when Nathan spoke out of turn in this capacity, immediately God calls him to correct it. Why? Because that was a type of error that was going to affect the work of God, and in any case where a discrepancy would cause somebody to stumble, even one soul, [and lose] salvation, the evidence that we have in the Scripture is that God immediately dealt with it. Okay?

 

Now we have similar situations in Ellen White’s writing. I have shown you just a couple of things, and for sake of time, I mean, if we had more time, we’d spend more time on this, but I’ve gone over some of the minor details. You know, Ellen White getting the date wrong, Monday the eighth versus Monday the fifth, etc. But there are issues where Ellen White gave counsel that would have drastically affected the work. Letter B under number three on page six: In Ellen White’s writings, the first one there says “Time to begin the Sabbath.” In the early Adventist Church, the Adventists believed that, as they were trying to figure when evening would technically come, Joseph Bates, the sea captain, said, “Hey, evening at the equator is 6 o’clock. If we make 6 o’clock, 6 p.m., the time to start the Sabbath universally, that sounds like the best plan to me.” Well, Ellen White thought that was great.

 

But there was a disagreement. Some people thought that it should begin at sundown, and so they appointed J.N Andrews, one of our pioneers, to study it out. J.N. Andrews came back from his study, and his findings were that sundown was the proper time to begin the Sabbath. Everybody agreed. They came to General Conference session; in fact, Friday, November 16, 1855, Sabbath in the Adventist Church began at 6 p.m., but on Sabbath, November 17, 1855, Sabbath ended at sunset because that day, Sabbath, November 17, 1855, the General Conference decided that sunset-to-sunset was when they would keep Sabbath.

 

Interestingly enough, Ellen White and Joseph Bates were the only two that were in disagreement. Ellen White didn’t think they should start it at sunset, and she said so. Joseph Bates didn’t think they should start it at sunset. And then the Lord revealed in vision to Ellen White that the sunset position was the correct position. This is important because some people, some of the critics of Ellen White, will say, “Well, Ellen White conveniently had visions anytime she wanted to get her own way.” But what’s interesting is, it wasn’t her own way. Her own way was…They had voted sunset, and they were keeping sunset as the time to start the Sabbath, and Ellen White had chosen—her and Joseph Bates had said 6 p.m. Her vision corrected her view and subsequently the church’s view. Why? God made the point. God saw a potential there where her influence could be negative on the truth, and immediately He corrected it.

 

We have other instances, like the location of the Southern Publishing Association where they were going to sell the property. It was losing money, and Ellen White’s son was the one that was involved there. And she came before the council, and they said, “What are we going to do with the Southern Publishing Association?” And she said, “Listen, don’t worry about it being my son and hurting my feelings, etc. Go ahead and close it up. Close up the publishing work; we’re losing money down there.” God came to her in a vision and said, “You spoke out of turn. We can’t close the work down there. God’s going to prosper it.”

 

Well, there are instances like that where Ellen White, in the same way as the situation with Nathan the Prophet, when she spoke in a situation and gave faulty information that would have affected the work, God corrected it immediately. The point I’m making here is, in Scripture and in Spirit of prophecy, God has preserved the integrity of the message. Where you may find a discrepancy as to whether Jeremiah wrote something or Zechariah wrote something, you will not find a discrepancy that will lead anybody to an erroneous position that will lose their soul. And I mean, I don’t want to just make it so…That covers a lot of details. It’s not just like major Christian doctrine, but the fact of the matter is that there is no point of doctrine where the Bible gives erroneous information. You understand what I’m saying?

 

If you have a detail, maybe a detail that you find, whether it’s these copyists errors or others…How many of you have read into some of these little discrepancies like the footman and horseman that we talked about last time and some of these little variations in Scripture? How many of you heard arguments on that? I mean, the fact of the matter is, it’s something that I rarely dwell on except for in a class like this because they are incidental things. I mean, has anybody ever felt like, “Whoa! I can’t believe in the Bible because of that.” I mean, the fact of the matter is, maybe, like I said, maybe it was a copyist situation or whatever, but the point is, that wasn’t the point of what was written. The integrity of the Scripture is not compromised by that. You follow what I’m saying?

 

In other words, God used human beings, and those human beings sometimes had imperfect expressions. For whatever reason, those expressions were used. God has preserved the core His message, and we’re going to see that as we kind of unfold the hermeneutics a little bit.

 

Does somebody have a hand up?

 

[Audience member comments]

 

Yeah, they expect a verbal, they expect inspiration to be a verbal inspiration, which Ellen White has never claimed. The Bible doesn’t claim verbal inspiration. God gives us thought inspiration, and it’s important for us to understand how that inspiration works. I want you to notice the quote on the bottom of page six. It’s right beside the letter A there. It says: “W.H., Littlejohn, president of the Battle Creek College, was asked, ‘Do SDAs regard Ellen White as infallible?’ He replied, ‘No. Neither do they believe that Peter or Paul was infallible. They believe that the Holy Spirit, which inspired Peter and Paul, was infallible. They believe also that Mrs. White has from time to time received revelations from the Spirit of God, and that revelations made to her by the Spirit of God are just as reliable as revelations made by the same Spirit to other persons.’”

 

The prophet, and not the words, are inspired, and the thoughts are inspired; the prophet puts it in their words; God guides in the process. Now, you may have a question, which would be a good question, “How do we know how much of what Ellen White wrote was inspired?” People ask this one to me all the time. How do I know, like, did everything she say, was everything she said inspired? Were her grocery lists inspired? Were her notes to her friends inspired? We’re going to cover that tomorrow afternoon. It’s a big question. It’s an important question. Like, how do I know?

 

She’s very clear about it. There doesn’t need to be a lot of confusion on it, and we’re going to cover that tomorrow afternoon when we talk about Betrayed with a Kiss.

 

Now, what I want to do is I want to move on to our hermeneutic study. Just again, for sake of time…Hermeneutics, the word hermeneutics is derived from a Greek word meaning “to interpret.” You find that right at the top of the handout in the introduction. “To interpret,” and the issue, the chief concern of hermeneutics is to discover what the prophet meant by what the prophet said. What the prophet what? Meant by what the prophet said. And there are things that we read when Ellen White wrote, it’s important for us to understand certain rules of interpretation so that we don’t come up with the wrong interpretation.

 

Paul, in writing to Timothy, said in 2 Timothy 2, if you want to go there, 2 Timothy 2 and verse 15. You’re probably familiar with the passage. Second Timothy 2 and verse 15, the apostle tells Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be,” (what?), “ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Now, if you can rightly divide the word of truth, what else can you do? Wrongly divide the word of truth. We don’t want to wrongly divide it; we want to rightly divide it. Well, what does that mean? The Living Bible uses it in this paraphrase, subpoint A, “Know what His Word says and means.” Okay? This is what hermeneutics is, rightly dividing. How do we make sure that we interpret according to sound principles so that our conclusions are solid conclusions?

 

Are we interpreting what the prophet said in such as way as that we actually are following what the prophet said? Because there are many things that Ellen White ran into, many situations she runs into. In fact, look at the subpoint there, the quote from Ellen White that comes right after that on page one. She says, “Letters have come to me entreating an answer. I know that many men take the testimonies the Lord has given, and apply them as they suppose they should be applied, picking out a sentence here and there, taking it from its proper connection, and applying it according to their idea. Thus poor souls become bewildered, when could they read in order all that has been given, they would see the,” (what?), “true application, and would not become confused. Much…” Look at this next sentence; this is important. “Much that purports to be a message from Sister White, serves the purpose of misrepresenting Sister White, making her testify in favor of things that are not in accordance with her mind and judgment. This makes her work,” now, she’s speaking here in third person. “This makes her work very trying. Reports fly from one to another regarding what Sister White has said. Each time the report is repeated, it grows larger. If Sister White has anything to say, leave her to say it. No one is called upon to be a mouthpiece for Sister White.”

 

What she’s saying in essence is, there are people who think that they’re rightly dividing the word of truth in the counsel given by Ellen White; they’re actually taking it and twisting it to fit their own mindset. We don’t want to do that, do we? Whether it be with the Scripture or with the writings of Ellen White. We want to make sure we are rightly dividing the word of truth; that’s what it means, to rightly divide, to make sure that we are interpreting correctly according to what was intended.

 

Do you believe God intended something when He wrote the Scripture? Do you believe He had something in mind that He wanted to get across? In other words, I may read a passage of Scripture, and I may be scratching my head, but do you think God’s scratching His head as to what it means? Do you think God had a point He was trying to get across? My point and your point in interpretation is to get the same point that God had in His head that He wanted to get across, not another point.

 

Now I may like to take a passage of Scripture and kind of twist it around to make my point, but my point may not necessarily be God’s point. You follow what I’m saying? So we want to make sure that when we’re trying to understand the Scripture and/or the Spirit of prophecy, we’re getting the point that God wanted us to get instead of trying to make our own point.

 

“Rightly dividing the word of truth.” I want you to go down to section number two, bottom of page one, and we’re going to look at the rules of interpretation. Now, there are internal rules and external rules of interpretation. Internal would be within the writings, within the text itself. Point number A: Recognize that the Bible and the writings of Ellen White are the product of thought inspiration. You’re going to find challenges if you come to the conclusion that the writings of Ellen White are verbal inspiration, because that’s not how she was inspired; that’s not how the Bible inspiration works. So that’s rule number one. Now we’ve talked about that one already.

 

Rule number two: Recognize the fact that word definitions change over time. Now we somewhat talked about this, this idea of imprecise expressions. A prophet may be inspired to write something when God gives them the message, and then over time, with the change of language, somebody may read what they wrote and get a different understanding.

 

First example there is the word “nice.” Now, we think of “nice,” and we think of friendly—nice, “He’s nice.” “She’s a very nice person.” But “nice” in the days of Ellen White had to do with “showing or requiring great precision or sensitive discernment.” Here’s an example. She wrote in Evangelism, page 347, “To deal with human minds is the nicest job that was ever committed to mortal man.” I remember the first time I read that, and I thought, “Well, that’s strange. A nice work to work with human minds?” But in her day, that expression meant it was a very difficult work, to work with human minds. There’s a lot involved there, okay? Now, a person who read it in her day would understand it in that context, but if you and I read it today, we may come up with a different meaning. So it’s important for us to understand that word definitions change over time.

 

For example, go to page two, top of page two, the word “intercourse,” this is something that I had a challenge with when I came into the church, and I was reading about, well, the statement there right below from the book Acts of the Apostles said, “The disciples prayed with intense earnestness for a fitness to meet men in their daily intercourse…” Well, today that word may not be used quite as…I mean, it can have connotations today that it may not have had in Ellen White’s day. A lot of people, when they think “intercourse” today and they hear that word, they’re thinking sexual intercourse. There’s a qualifier, but a lot of times that’s the idea that may come to somebody’s mind. The word has kind of gotten a different meaning. Like we would talk about a person’s daily associations or interactions. When’s the last time you talked about your daily intercourse with people at work? Exactly. And so, word meanings may change over time, and we need to understand that when we’re reading something, that we understand it in the way it was intended. “Dealings or communications between persons and groups,” is what that word means, but it’s come to mean something different.

 

Now the third one there, “gay,” that means quite a different thing today, doesn’t it? Look at the next quote, Child Guidance, page 420, “Gay or expensive apparel is not becoming to those who profess to believe that we are living in the last days.” “Don we now our gay apparel,” right? Gay apparel. Gay was something, as you look there, “showing or characterized by cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement, or merry.” Well, that really doesn’t quite mean that today as much, does it, when you use the word, “gay”?

 

So words can change over time. Now you can imagine if a person has the wrong understanding of what an expression may mean, like they read that word, and they want to put in…Ellen White meant one thing by it, but somebody may read it today, or some critic is going to read this and say, “Gay or expensive apparel? Well, Ellen White’s down on the homosexual community. She’s writing all these negative things.” Well, that wasn’t what she was talking about at all. But somebody could take it and twist it because they’re not allowing for the definition of the word as she used it in her day. You understand what I’m saying there? That has to be taken into account. Now, that’s an important rule of interpretation, that we allow the words to mean what they intended originally.

 

The next one there, “sanitarium,” or “sanitorium,” what do you think of when you think of a sanitarium? Now, maybe you’ve been Adventist long enough to think of what it really is, but what…If you’re not an Adventist, what do you think it is? That’s where crazy people go; a sanitarium is a mental hospital. And so, Ellen White talks about all these sanitariums. Look at the quote there from Counsel on Diet and Foods, “We wish to build a sanitarium where maladies may be cured by nature’s home provisions.” Well, that’s…The explanation’s right there in the phrase, but today we may use the word differently than she did. So the point again is, understand…recognize that word definitions change over time.

 

Letter C on page two: Understand the use of hyperbole. Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect as in, “I could sleep for a year,” or, “This book weighs a ton.” Does the book really weigh a ton? No, it’s an expression to say this book is very heavy, right? Ellen White employed expressions of hyperbole; they were exaggerations. Some people want to take them literally.

 

For example, she uses the term “1 in 20”; you could add “1 in 100.” There’s one place she says, “Among our young people, not 1 in 20 are prepared to close their earthly existence.” They’re not ready for Heaven. Well, do you think the Lord counted out? Here she sees a group of people, and God says, “Okay, count, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine…, that 1 in this group of 20...” That’s not it. “One in twenty” was an expression that was used. You understand what I’m saying? It was an expression of hyperbole. Sometimes she used “1 in 100.” It doesn’t mean that God showed her 100 people and showed her 1 in the whole crowd that was faithful. She’s saying, “One in twenty, there’s not very many.” Very few are ready to end their earthly existence; they’re not ready for Heaven. That was the point of what was being made.

 

Now, if you read her writing that way, and you read that phrase that way, you’ll get the right meaning, but if you want to take it to its total…you push it to the literal limit, you’re going to come up with a different understanding than God intended when He inspired. Do you understand that? I mean that’s a case of interpretation. In other words, if we don’t interpret rightly, if we don’t rightly divide, we end up with a twisted understanding of what was being said, and then we become a means of misrepresenting Sister White instead of rightly representing. Okay?

 

Next point, letter D, this is on page two: Understand the meaning of a phrase. Ellen White uses this phrase, “Phrenology, psychology, and mesmerism.” How many of you know what phrenology is? What is it? Studying the personality based on head shape. Is there a lot of scientific merit to that? Not really. So here Ellen White uses this phrase. Now notice what she says in the phrase. Oh, the next on deals more with this. This one here, the second one there, “psychology and mesmerism,” let me ask you about psychology. Is psychology all good? [Audience: “No.”] Is it all bad? [Audience: “No.”] Is there a right use and a wrong use? Sure, there is. Now notice Ellen White’s statement here from Messages to Young People. She says, “The sciences of phrenology, psychology, and mesmerism have been the channel through which Satan has come more directly to this generation and wrought with that power, which was to characterize his work near the close of probation.” These are the types of things that a critic on the internet will bring up and say, “Ellen White is against all psychology.” Well, would that be a true statement? You might read this and think that. You might say, “Well, wait a minute. It says right here, ‘The sciences of phrenology, psychology, and mesmerism…used by the devil.’”

 

Now, incidentally, we can put it this way, “The TV has been used by the devil to corrupt people’s minds.” Does that categorically condemn television? No, but it’s been used by the devil. But if somebody wanted to take that…You have to understand that the phraseology she’s using deals with something broader than just psychology, and we’ll see it in letter E. Incidentally, the next statement says, “The true principles of psychology are found in the Holy Scripture,” so she admits in her own writings that there are true principles of psychology as well as false ones.

 

Letter E deals with a similar phrase. The last one says, “Understand the meaning of a phrase,” and we’re going to kind of understand the phrase when come to the next statement, “Recognize the possibility of imprecise expressions.” Subpoint one: A general statement may utilize commonly used terms and expressions, which usage has changed over the course of time, so that, just like words may change over time, phrases may do the same thing.

 

Notice the two statements: In 1861 Ellen White wrote, “Phrenology and mesmerism are very much exalted.” Mesmerism would be hypnotism, okay? “Studying the head and hypnotism are very much exalted; they are,” (what?), “good in their place.” Now, I read that, and I think, “Woman, you are nuts.” Studying the head and hypnosis is good in its place?! And that’s what happens. Now, I read it in the 21st century, and I’m looking back, but if you were in Ellen White’s day, that didn’t initially have that connotation. And evidently, by the year 1884, it had more of the connotation that we would read it with today, so she changed the statement.

 

Now, I want you to notice between the two. Look at the first one again. “Phrenology and mesmerism are very much exalted. They are good in their place, but they are seized upon by Satan as his most powerful agents to deceive and destroy souls.” Now look at the 1884 statement: “The sciences which treat of the human mind are very much exalted. They are good in their place, but they are seized upon by Satan as powerful agents…” You see, it’s the same statement, but in 1884, rather than using the phrase “phrenology and mesmerism,” she says “the sciences which treat of the human mind.”

 

Now what that basically tells us is, when she, in 1861, used the phrase “phrenology and mesmerism,” that was a phrase that was commonly understood to refer to brain science. People weren’t thinking when she said that, that we’re just talking about reading the bumps on the head. They’re thinking about the types of sciences where people worked with the mind. But when she got to the year 1884, evidently she said, “People are going to misunderstand this; it needs to be restated,” okay? Why? Because the phraseology had changed over time. In 1861, people knew what she was saying, but in 1884 they wouldn’t, and she changed the phrase.

 

You know, for the person who understands how this whole inspiration process and interpretation process works, this gives a key to understanding and making the right application that could be a wrong application if you didn’t allow for these phrases, the allowance of phrases and things, to change over time. Incidentally, again the verbal inspirationist has a real problem here because, if you’ve got to change the phrase later one, why didn’t God just give her the right phrase in the beginning since He dictated everything they said. You see, that’s the way they think. They think God dictated word-for-word. Well, if God dictated word-for-word, then the words would never need to be changed. But He didn’t dictate word-for-word; He gave the understanding and the thought. The prophet put it in words, and later on Ellen White made a revision.

 

And it wasn’t a contradiction. If you were to talk to Ellen White in regard to these things, she didn’t try to cover herself up or say, “Oh, well, I was hoping nobody would read that.” It was very clear to her readers that she had to adapt because of the changing times. Are you understanding what I’m saying?

 

And so, along with that statement in the first – that letter D one, the meaning of a phrase, “Phrenology, psychology and mesmerism,” “the sciences that treat the human mind,” that’s what those things dealt with. And there are times when we’re going to read something that’s 100 to 150 years old that we’re going to have to make some of those applications and say, “Well, what did this mean when it was written?”

 

Now, by and large, I’ve read much of Ellen White’s writings, and most of them read right on through very clearly, but there are going to be those cases where you run into things that are dated. They meant a different thing at a different time. You’ve got to allow for that. Same thing in the Scripture. You find the same types of things in the Scripture where you’ve got to allow for this. These are basic rules of interpretation of any inspired writings.

 

Top of page four, letter F: Look carefully at the immediate context; context is essential. Some of you are familiar with the phrase where Ellen White says from Christ’s Object Lessons, 155, “Never say or feel that you are saved.” Oh, the critics have had a heyday with this one. “Ellen White says a person can’t believe they’re saved.” Now, we’re going to talk more about this when we talk about the internet critics and the attacks, but if you read the context of Christ’s Object Lessons, what Ellen White is talking about there is when Peter denied Christ, and Christ said, “Peter, you’re going to deny Me three times,” and Peter says, “Lord, You may think I’m going to deny You, the rest of the disciples may deny You, but I’ll die for You.” So Jesus told Peter his condition, and Peter said in essence, “Lord, I know me better than You know me.” And Ellen White’s words here were not speaking to a person having a confidence of salvation, but the person who had the once-saved-always-saved mentality like Peter was exhibiting that said, “Because I have a saving relationship with the Lord, I’ll never mess up.”

 

If you read the context, it makes the statement clear, but if you take it out of context, what happens? Well, you’ve got all these people coming out and saying, “Well, Ellen White says, ‘You’re not supposed to feel like you’re saved.’” And I’ll tell you what, we’ve had a number of Adventists, a lot of Adventists, who’ve read it this way so that, as a pastor, I can visit with people that say, you know, if you were to die tonight, would you be saved? And they say, “I sure hope so.” They don’t feel right because they’ve read this statement, and they feel like they can’t say, “Yeah, I have confidence that I know in in whom I have believed.” They’ve read this from that standpoint, and people put the wrong spin on it.

 

That was never what Ellen White intended. If we read it in context, we’ll understand that, but when you take anything out of context…a text out of context is a pretext, they say. A pretext is something you use to prove your point, which may not necessarily be the point. And so we have to allow, obviously, for the immediate context of something the way that it is written.

 

Letter G: Recognize the context can change the meaning of a word. Now, I’m going to kind of skip through some of these here just for sake of time. I want to get into the next section, “The external rules of interpretation.” The context, obviously context can change. Ellen White may say something, and these two statements here, it looks like they’re contradictory, Desire of Ages, page 780 and 805. If you read the context, you’ll find she’s speaking to two different aspects of something. And you’ve got to allow for that.

 

I mean, think about it. If people judged you…The Bible talks about not making a man an offender for a word. Think about if people were to take what you said always out of context and say, “Well, you said this.” You’ve probably had people do that to you before. “Well, I just heard you say…” “Well, that’s not everything I said. You didn’t stay around for the whole conversation.” Have you ever had people do that kind of thing to you? Do you like it? No. Don’t do that to the prophet. Don’t do it to the Scripture. Take things as they’re written in their entire context.

 

Recognizing the challenge of semantics, I want you to see this quote there, still on page four, letter B, kind of in the middle of the page. Notice what Ellen White says here. It’s fascinating, this little statement. She says, “It seems impossible for me to be understood by those who have had the light but,” (what?), “not walked in it.” Boy, this is an excellent principle. Jesus Himself brings it up in John, chapter 7, “If any man wills to do His will,” He says, “he’ll know of the doctrine, whether it’s of God or whether I speak of My own accord.”

 

If we are not willing to put the truth in practice, it won’t be clear to us. In another place, Ellen White says, “Truth is only truth to those who practice it.” If you’re not willing to practice it, and you’re looking for a loophole, and you’re kind of standing on the outskirts, and you’re saying, “Well, I wonder if I should believe in that or not,” the devil will provide you enough doubt to never believe it. There’s always, always, always, and I mean I can’t get this across strongly enough, with all the defenses that you want of your faith, and God is a God of evidence, but let me tell you something, you’ll never have so much evidence, I guarantee you this, you will never have so much evidence that there’s not room for doubt, or you would not need faith. There’s always an area, and Ellen White makes that very clear, if a person wants a hook to hang their doubts on, they’re going to find it.

 

We as Christians go with the weight of evidence. God gives us plenty of evidence. We may not have the answer to all of the questions, but we have enough answers to make a decision. She says, “It seems impossible for me to be understood by those who have had the light but have not walked in it. What I might say in a private conversation would be so repeated as to make it mean exactly opposite to what it would have meant had the hearers been sanctified in mind and spirit. I’m afraid to speak, even to my friends, for afterwards I hear, ‘Sister White said this,’ or, ‘Sister White said that.’ My words are so wrested and misinterpreted that I am coming to the conclusion that the Lord desires me to keep out of large assemblies and refuse private interviews. What I say is reported in such a perverted light that it is new and strange to me.” Now, that’s quite a statement for Ellen White to make. She said, “Some people say, ‘Sister White said this,’ and, ‘Sister White.’” She says, “I hear it, and I think to myself, ‘When did I say anything like that? This is totally new to me.’”

 

What she’s saying is that people can take what she says, and we’ve all heard it. “Oh, well, don’t you know what Ellen White says?” You better check up on that. It’s interesting, I have a lot of people quote to me things that Ellen White says that she never said. And here’s the thing you need to ask them, “Could you give me a reference for that?” No, no, no, no, no, I mean, not just a reference because a lot of times they’ll have it. “Oh, yeah, that’s from Review and Herald, August 23, 1875.” “Great. Could I see that?” Just ask for it. I’ve had a lot of people quote a lot of things, and, of course, I have the Ellen White writings, so I can search it myself, but I just ask them to produce it. It doesn’t come because it doesn’t exist. So, not that none of them do, but it’s just important to understand things in their proper setting and context.

 

Now, we’re going to page six, and we’re going to look at the external rules of interpretation, and I understand we’re kind of running through this, but we need to get through the points that I want to make here. These are the external rules of interpretation. The other things we looked at were inherent in the writing itself. These are other things we have to consider when reading inspired writings. This goes for the Scripture or the Spirit of prophecy.

 

Rule number one: Include what? All that the prophet has said on the subject. Luke 24, that’s on the Road to Emmaus where, you remember Jesus is walking with these two disciples. They’re bewildered, and He asked them what’s going on, and they say, “What are you, a stranger around here? Don’t you know what just happened?” And they tell Him that, “This Jesus of Nazareth, a Man mighty in word and in deed, He came and He preached, and,” blah-blah-blah-blah, “and then He was crucified. Our religious leaders crucified Him, and it’s been the third day since these things happened. And we thought He was going to be the one to deliver Israel.”

 

And Jesus responded by telling them, “You fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoke.” Very important rule of interpretation: Believe all. If you take just one statement on something that somebody says, how do you know you’re getting a full picture? For example, what’s your name? Lidell? Lidell, now you and I can have a conversation. You can come up and ask me for some advice on something, and I could give you that advice, okay, that applies to your situation. But if everybody took exactly what I said to you and try to apply it to everybody in here, is it going to fit the same? It’s impossible because I’m speaking to a specific situation.

And so, sometimes people read things that Ellen White wrote to one person, where, if they would read everything she wrote, they would have a better understanding. Here’s a good for instance. Incidentally, subpoint number 1A, for instance, is point 2, but subpoint 1A: Ellen White said that the testimonies themselves will be the key that will explain the messages given as Scripture is explained by Scripture. So she said, just as we compare Scripture with Scripture to gain a good understanding, so, if you want a good understanding of Ellen White’s writings and something is unclear, compare it with other places where she’s talked about the same thing. Here’s our case in point.

 

Number two: An isolated statement may lead to very wrong conclusions. In 2 Testimonies, 399, Ellen White says, “Eggs should not be placed upon your table.” That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? I mean, that’s just very definitive – boom! “Eggs should not be placed on your table.” Yet, when we come to Counsels on Diet and Foods, page 204, here’s another piece of counsel she gave. She says, “While warnings have been given against the use of these articles of diet in families where the children were addicted to, yes, steeped in, habits of self-abuse; yet we should not consider it a denial of principle to,” (what?), “use eggs of hens which were cared for and suitably fed.” Now you may read this, some people read this and say, “Whoa! I mean, she denied it. She contradicts herself. One place she says, ‘Eggs should not appear on your table.’ One place she says, ‘It’s not a denial of principle to use eggs.’ Ooh, and wait for the next one.” Look at the next statement.

 

In the next statement, also from Counsels on Diet and Foods, page 204, she says, “Put into your diet something you have left out. It is your,” (what?), “It is your duty to do this. Get eggs of healthy fowl; use these eggs, cooked or raw; do not for a moment suppose that it would not be right to do this.” Wow. Now, three different statements, very different, each one of them, aren’t they? If I were to just take one of those statements, any one of them…So, brother, you take one of the statements, you take another, Lidell, and you take another, and we’re going to have three totally different positions, and we’re all going to say, “I stand on the position I do because of the gift of prophecy.” You see a problem with that? This is why it’s important that we read all that the prophet has spoken and understand it.

 

Now, for a way of explanation, I’ll just tell that in Testimonies 2, that first statement, “Eggs should not be placed on your table,” she was speaking to a specific person about a specific case. In their situation, she was very clear that they didn’t need eggs on their table. In the second statement, she’s speaking more generally, and she says, “It’s not a denial of principle to use eggs, but make sure they come from healthy hens.” In the third statement, she was speaking to a doctor by the name of Daniel Cress who was in Australia, and Dr. Cress, when he was in Australia was suffering from a B12 deficiency. He was going to die from a B12 deficiency. Ellen White was shown this in vision, wrote to Dr. Cress, and said, “Dr. Cress, you need to make a change in your diet, and you need to start eating eggs.” So each one spoke to a different person in a different situation at a different time. They are not contradictory at all, but on the surface they may appear contradictory to the person who doesn’t read all that the prophet has spoken.

 

If you don’t consider all on the subject, you’re going to come up with wrong conclusions. You follow that? And we run into a lot of challenges in these types of things where people want to take one statement, isolate it from other statements and try to build the whole doctrine on it without considering all that the prophet has spoken. That’s a no-no when you’re reading and interpreting and trying to rightly divide the word of truth. Do you follow that?

 

The next point: Every statement must be understood within its historical context. Ellen White says, regarding the testimonies, “Nothing is ignored, nothing is cast aside, but,” (what?), “time and place must be considered.” Time changes things. We talked about that with meaning of words. Time and place. We talked about Israel’s failure at Kadesh Barnea, right? One time God says, “Go forward and conquer the land,” and yet it wasn’t long after that God says, “Don’t go conquer the land,” why? Because the situation had changed, and the change of situations changes the counsel. The counsel that may be applicable at one time is not at another time.

 

You have statements beneath there where Ellen White (letter B) says, “When the judgment of the General Conference, which is the highest authority that God has upon the earth, is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be maintained but surrendered.” That was written in 1875, yet in 1896, Ellen White says, “The voice from Battle Creek, which has been regarded as authority in counseling how the work should be done is no longer the voice of God.” Well, what happened? Simple. The men at the head of the work began to get more centralized in their power to where there were just a handful of people trying to run everything, and Ellen White said they were narrow-minded, and they were crippling the work, and she called for reorganization. And incidentally, in 1901 the General Conference did reorganize, they got more people to share the burden at the head of the work, and then once again Ellen White returned a statement that said, “Times have changed, and God is again speaking through the General Conference.” Time can change the application of something, can’t it? We need to keep that in mind. And we’re going to see that in some other statements as well.

 

I want you to go to the top of page seven. Here were going to deal with the place. I use here an example for Revelation’s churches, the seven churches. Sometimes the place where a counsel is given is different from another place. Let’s say, for example, like in Revelation you have the church of Laodicea, and you have the church of Philadelphia. Laodicea, God spoke to about being lukewarm, right? But Philadelphia God commended for being faithful. So let’s say that the Lord sends a letter to Philadelphia and to Laodicea, but the letters get crossed.

 

And so He rebukes the church in Laodicea, He commends the church in Philadelphia, but they get crossed, and instead of receiving the commendation, the church in Philadelphia gets a letter, and it rebukes them for their lukewarmness. That rebuke may take this faithful church and push them over the top and make them an extreme church because they’re thinking, “Wow, if we’re Laodicean now, I guess we just need to be more zealous,” and then they go over the mark a little bit. You understand what I’m saying? And that’s kind of what you see in the illustration there. If you take the Laodicean church, and they get the letter to Philadelphia, so God writes to Philadelphia, and He commends them, and He says, “You guys are faithful,” but the [letter] ends up in Laodicea. And Laodicea opens it up, this lukewarm church, and they read it, and they say, “Hey, wow, look. The Lord says we’re a faithful church.” Are the letters going to have their desired effect? No.

 

The place affects the message and the counsel. The message that may apply in one place does not necessarily apply in another place. You following that? That was one thing Dr. Cress ran into, by the way. Dr. Cress was following the counsel of Ellen White where she said we should get away from animal products. The problem is in Australia where he was, he was not able to have a healthy, well-balanced diet and supply the lack of the B12 by eating a total, plant-based diet. The place did not permit it in the mission field where maybe in America he could have done it; he wasn’t able to do it in Australia.

 

So place changes things. Time and place have to be considered in the counsel. A lot of the testimonies given are not “one size fits all.” Now some may be, but some are not. You follow that? Does that make sense?

 

Then there are circumstances that change, too. Now, I bring up circumstances also a little bit later here, so I’m going to jump over that, and we’re going to go to letter C. Letter C deals with policy and principle. Policy and principle, these are very important things to understand. Basically, a policy is a rule, and a principle is the reason behind the rule.

 

When I was in Ohio, I grew up in Ohio, and before I became a Christian, I used to go with my brother to the bowling alley, and they had an area for playing pool there. At the bowling alley you could shoot pool over here, and you had the bowling alley over here, and there was like this half wall. I mean, it was like this high that went around the pool room. You could sit there; you could watch people play pool, but you couldn’t go in there unless you were 18 years old. And I got curious about it one day, and I was there, and I had turned 18. But I asked the lady there at the table, I said, “How come you can’t play pool until you’re 18? I mean, like, you can come here, and you can look at it and everything else, but you can’t go from here to here until you’re 18.”

 

And she said, “Well,” she said, “It’s just on the policy books.” I said, “You’re kidding me.” She said, “It’s a long policy book.” She said, “There are a lot of laws like that, that we still have on the books. They’re just not enforced. I said, “Like what?” She said, “Well, we still have a policy on the books that says you have to have a horse watering trough every block.” I said, “Really?!” She said, “Yeah, a horse watering trough.”

 

Now think about this for a minute. Policy and principle. A policy is the rule; the principle is the reason behind the rule, okay? The horse watering trough is the rule. Why would there be a rule like having a horse watering trough every block? Okay, a lot of horses, and? What were the horses doing? You’re in a city, and you’ve got horse watering troughs every block. Why? Yeah, you were riding them, and they get thirsty, right? So you’ve got to water them. Okay?

 

Now, you come to our day and age, and you’re thinking, “A horse watering trough every block?” The policy doesn’t sound like it’s a good policy for our day, but was the principle a good principle? Sure, it was. The horses get thirsty. It’s a good reason. So, if we were to take the principle behind the policy and reapply it to today, what might we find every block? Or somewhere thereabouts. Gas stations, right? Understanding policy and principle is so crucial in Christianity. I think I’m going to have to delve into this in tomorrow’s class a little bit because this is probably one of the most important things you’ll understand in reading Scripture and Spirit of prophecy is the difference between these two things.

 

The Bible is primarily a book of principle. A book of what? Principle. Now, there are policies in the Bible. The Bible will say, “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not.” The Ten Commandments contained policies. There are policies where God states something specifically and how and what we are to do. But the Bible is primarily a book of principle. This is why you have people…People who don’t understand this are the type of people that say, “Well, the Bible doesn’t say anything about not being able to smoke.” No, it says, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and him who defiles this temple…him who destroys this temple, God will destroy.” If we take those principle texts and apply them, does that apply to smoking? Well, sure it does. And the Bible doesn’t say anything about not smoking crack cocaine or doing heroin either, does it? But is that saying the Bible is not against it? No. There are principles in the Bible that are against it.

 

And a person who doesn’t know how to apply principle, generally will find loopholes for a lot of behavior that is non-Christian. And they have problems understanding how to read and rightly divide the word of truth. A policy is the rule; the principle is the reason behind the rule, and when you have a good policy, and times change, you don’t throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water and say, “Well, times change; get rid of the policy and the principle.” You take the principle, and you reapply it.

 

I’ll finish up with this example of the bicycle. The bicycle craze, look at it. Page eight: The bicycle craze. Right under letter C, several subpoints there. Ellen White says, “The exhibitions in the bicycle craze are an offense to God. His wrath is kindled against those who do such things.” Hoo-boy! You read that on the internet, and you get on these websites, and they’re like, “Ellen White says that the wrath of God is against everybody who owns a bicycle.” I still hear this on a regular basis. People are like, “Is it okay to own a bike?” Okay? We’re going to talk policy and principle here. We’ll finish up with this point today.

 

Look at the next statement. Ellen White says, “Instead of investing,” (what?), “100 dollars in a bicycle, you would consider the matter well, lest it might be at the price of souls for whom Christ has died and for whom He has made you responsible.” Again, the bicycle, a hundred dollars for a bicycle. You know what a hundred dollars was back in Ellen White’s day? I went online today, and I looked at the Consumer Price Index, and the Consumer Price Index said that it would be the equivalent of 3,729 dollars. Now, if you went with the Unskilled Wage Index, that’s 18,579 dollars, or the nominal gross domestic product per capita would be 33,404 dollars. Bottom line is this: Bicycles cost a lot more in Ellen White’s day. There were people that were taking these bicycles. They were not providing for their families because they wanted to have the latest and the greatest fad. And so, they wanted to keep up with all the people that were getting these brand-new bicycles. This brand-new bicycle fad, they wanted to keep up with it, and they were neglecting responsibilities in their life. Now, is that good for a Christian to do? No, especially not a Christian who claims to be waiting for Jesus to come and wanting to contribute to the work of saving souls in view of that coming, right?

 

So we could say the principle behind this bicycle thing was what? What kind of principle? What’s the reason behind what her counsel was? What’s that? Okay, before we apply it…Stewardship, right? Financial integrity. What else? Temperance. Pride? Yeah, wanting to keep up with…She says she speaking against the desire to follow the latest fads, right? To be popular in the eyes of the world. So, all of those. Are those good principles? They’re excellent principles, aren’t they? We don’t want to get rid of the principle, but do you think Ellen White’s counsel would apply to the bicycles today? Why not? Yeah, they’re far less expensive today, and it means…In fact, how many of you have seen John Harvey Kellogg on his bicycle? You’ve seen the pictures of that.

 

You have a question?

 

[Audience member: It could apply to bicycles.]

 

It could apply, and it depends on how much you’re spending on a bike and this kind of thing. So, the principle is good for the person who wants to be a faithful Christian. You’re not going to just throw out the counsel. What you do is you take the principle and reapply the principle. I’ll give you a real practical example. I think it was last Christmas, if I’m not mistaken, maybe it was the Christmas before. You know, every Christmas there’s some new game that everybody has to have, and these parents want to get it for their kids, and they want to make sure that their kid has it even if nobody else has it. And they had this Xbox 360. Now, I don’t play the things, so I don’t know when it came out. I thought it was last year; maybe it was the year before.

 

But when the Xbox came out, I don’t know what it was costing, but it was Christmastime, and people were like, “I’ve got to buy this for my kid.” And I read where some guy laid down 10,000 dollars for an Xbox 360. You know what they sell for today? The most expensive model may be 600, 200 to 400 dollars.   Ten thousand dollars he paid. Okay? This is what was happening with the bicycle craze. Why? Because he had to have it for his kid under the tree.

 

So, if we take the principle of the bicycle craze, it makes perfect sense. We listen to that, and we think, “This is sound counsel God’s given His people to guide us and help us to not be extravagant in things, right? But if we don’t rightly interpret, we’re going to come away with this idea like, “Well, God doesn’t want any of His people to own bicycles,” and we’ve missed the whole point. Do you understand that? So rightly dividing the word of truth is essential.

 

Now I want to deal more with this in the morning on “Policy and Principle,” and we have more applications that I really want to cover in this handout, and then moving on to some of the…This kind of leads into the whole internet, some of the attacks on the internet are the same type of reasoning is why we get some of the attacks from the internet that we do. So I’d like to finish up with a word of prayer today.

 

Has this been helpful to you? Some of these things? Tomorrow we’re getting more into the practical as we go on after we laid some of the foundation earlier today, and I think you’ll really appreciate some of the stuff when we’re dealing with the internet. How many of you have had to deal with friends or family members on this Ellen White internet stuff where it’s like, “Oh, false prophet…I read all this stuff on the internet, and she’s like a kook”? Okay, we’re going to deal with that tomorrow.

 

[Audience comment]

 

Yeah, in the church, you’re right. We deal with it in the church, too. So, why don’t we bow our heads together. Thank you for your patience in moving the room and everything like that. It’s all great. Let’s bow our heads.

 

Heavenly Father, Father I just want to pray that Your Spirit would go with us this evening. Father, there are more things for us. There’s time for us to fellowship and more messages tonight. I just pray our hearts would be open and receptive to what You have to say to us. And bless us, Father, as we seek to be faithful to You in all things. Help us, Father, always to rightly divide the word of truth and apply it to our hearts and live it out so others can see Jesus in us. This is our prayer in His name. Amen.

 

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