By Colleen Tinker
This week we received an email from a reader who had read Christine Rogers’ story last week. Christine, a guest blogger, had written about having been a lesbian and a police officer who had finally cried out to God and had been convicted of her sin. She then explained how she had been lured into Adventism where she became aware of the underlying loyalty to Ellen White, and she stated that she had come to believe that Ellen White’s visiting angel was demonic.
This particular letter we received earlier this week was sincere, and the writer asked an honest question: “If we are going to reach Adventists, should we be saying they are demonic or participating with demons? Only God knows the heart. There is a difference between mental illness, greed, and actual demonic activity. We are in danger of getting knee deep in sensationalism going into discussing…demons. That is more for the National Enquirer and costs us legitimacy, really. Let’s use caution.”
The letter writer and I have had an interesting and respectful exchange of emails this week. In fact, the concern about calling Ellen White’s angelic visitor demonic is not new; over the years many people have reacted strongly against this suggestion.
Since so many people initially resist the idea that Ellen White’s visions were demonic, this blog will address some of the points I shared this week with the reader who took the time to ask the questions bothering her.
Why mention demons?
Christine Rogers’ story reflects her perspective. I would not want to edit out her conviction that Ellen White’s (EGW) visions involved demonic visits, especially since I believe she is correct. Similarly, I would not put those words into her voice if she did not believe them to be true. She is the one who wrote this evaluation, and I want to honor her own experience and understanding.
If we were were being sensational, mentioning demons as a speculation, such a suggestion would be a reprehensible cheap shot. If, however, Ellen White did have demons informing her, we would be remiss not to say so and to explain why we think so.
In fact, Ellen White wrote things that represent Jesus as a completely different Jesus from the one revealed in Scripture. Her Jesus could have sinned. He was exalted to be the Son instead of eternally BEING God the Son. Her Jesus was and is in competition with Lucifer; the biblical Jesus is not. Her Jesus is Michael the Archangel. The biblical Jesus is not.
If she were merely mentally ill, she could not have produced a completely systematic theology that holds together on every level, convincingly mimicking Christianity to those who don’t know it well, and consistently revealing Satan at the heart of Adventist soteriology. Her systematic theology also is based on an unbiblical understanding of the nature of man—a belief that defines the incarnate Jesus as well.
What about brain damage?
Only an evil but brilliant mind could have come up with such a pernicious system of belief. One cannot attribute her contradictory statements and biblical writings to mental illness or brain damage, either. Mentally ill people cannot create a systematic theology that holds together internally while deceptively and convincingly pretending to be Christian.
Moreover, neither mental illness nor brain damage keeps a person from knowing and loving Jesus. Ellen White, however, could not have known Jesus. If she had, she could not have written the confusing and diminishing things about Him that she wrote.
When my husband and I became believers and began attending a Christian church, we discovered a ministry there for the developmentally disabled. There was absolutely no question that those adults in the ministry who sat in church services loved the Lord. Watching them worship added a new layer to our realization that Adventism did not teach the gospel. In Adventism we learned that the developmentally disabled would be as if they had never existed after they died, because they did not have the mental capacity to understand the gospel.
Our experience with developmentally disabled people who love and worship the Lord has put to rest any suspicion that EGWs theological confusion stemmed from brain damage. Moreover, we now understand that Adventism’s teaching that humans do not have spirits that are separate from their bodies is the underlying reason it insists that the gospel acts in the cognitive brain.
In the Adventist worldview, everything occurs in the brain. In fact, General Conference president Ted Wilson said, in a conference in Geneva held two or three years ago, that it is important for people to eat healthfully in order to have healthy bodies and brains, because the Holy Spirit communicates to us in the neurons of our frontal lobes. The Adventist worldview does not accommodate the biblical teaching that we are born literally spiritually dead and must be brought to life by God who is Spirit. Intact neurons, however, are not necessary for the Holy Spirit to make Jesus known to us when we are brought to spiritual life.
Forgive EGW and move on
Mocking Ellen White and insulting her are counter-productive. I have no desire to carry on a hate campaign or to spend my energy focussing on her. I know that she is eternally in God’s hands, and He will deal with her. EGW owes me nothing, and I expect nothing from her or from the church she helped found. I only want those caught in the web of her deception to be set free and planted deeply in God’s word. I can leave her in God’s hands. I trust Him to be just.
At the same time, helping people know the truth about her is important, because people need to understand why she cannot be trusted even a tiny bit. If she is a false prophet (and she is), nothing she says can be excused or venerated. Her commitment to deception includes even the good things she said laced between the horrific things.
In fact, it was Ellen herself who declared that one had either to believe everything she said was from God, or none of it was. Since we KNOW that much of what she said was anti-gospel and anti-Christ, then, by her own standard of judgment, we must dismiss ALL of what she said as from the devil. Here are a couple of her quotes:
If you are thoroughly convinced that God has not spoken by us, why not act in accordance with your faith and have no more to do with a people who are under so great a deception as this people are? If you have been moving according to the dictates of the Spirit of God you are right and we are wrong. God is either teaching His church, reproving their wrongs and strengthening their faith, or He is not. This work is of God, or it is not. God does nothing in partnership with Satan. My work for the past thirty years bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy. There is no halfway work in the matter. The Testimonies are of the Spirit of God, or of the devil. In arraying yourself against the servants of God you are doing a work either for God or for the devil. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” What stamp does your work bear? It will pay to look critically at the result of your course (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 229, par. 2).
The visions are either of God or the devil. There is no half-way position to be taken in the matter. God does not work in partnership with Satan. Those who occupy this position cannot stand there long. They go a step farther and account the instrument God has used a deceiver and the woman Jezebel. If after they had taken the first step it should be told them what position they would soon occupy in regard to the visions, they would have resented it as a thing impossible. But Satan leads them on blindfolded in a perfect deception in regard to the true state of their feelings until he takes them in his snare (Letter 8, 1860, pp. 16, 17, to Brother John Andrews, June 11, 1860. 1MR 307.1).
When we begin to realize that Adventism contradicts biblical truth, we face a crisis. It’s really hard to begin to see that our actual identity (Adventist) was an idol, something which we wore with a certain pride because we believed we knew God’s truth which Sunday Christians didn’t know. Even our love-hate relationship with Ellen White is an attachment we have to give up, and that severance is painful as well.
Give it up
As we were exiting Adventism, I realized that for years I had nurtured the thought that just maybe Ellen White’s descriptions of heaven were accurate. The loveliness, the houses, the crowns—maybe they were right. I hadn’t been certain I could believe what she said for many years, but I had continued to think that maybe she had been right about some things. I clearly remember the day when I realized I had to give up my clinging to the “maybe”. I had to give up my mental pictures and ideas about things such as heaven because the source of those mental pictures was a false prophet. I could not hold onto anything she said as possibly true! I could not believe, on the one hand, that she was a false prophet who wrote untrue things about Jesus and salvation, and on the other hand think, “Maybe she was right about….”
I finally realized that if I were really to “honor” Ellen White as having any truthfulness at all, I had to believe what she wrote about her own revelations. Either they are from God, or they are from Satan. They cannot be partially from God and partially from Satan. I could not excuse her with the statement, “She wrote some very good things,” or “she was confused because she was mentally ill.”
Yes, I believe she likely WAS mentally ill; she very possibly had brain damage from that rock hitting her head in childhood. She may have suffered mercury poisoning from helping her father with his hat-making business, and she also very likely suffered some severe trauma and religious abuse. All of those things could yield mental instability. Yet I cannot dismiss her anti-gospel and anti-Christ writings by saying she was “merely” mentally ill.
I cannot excuse her. Mental illness does not make a person an enemy of the gospel. Developmental disability does not make a person unable to understand Jesus’ salvation. Clearly Ellen White herself understood that her followers could not take a halfway-position regarding her writings.
I understand the internal conflict of sorting out all these things. The ways our particular Adventist congregations and families used and manipulated both Ellen White and the Bible to create guilt and highly-controlling environments leaves us uncertain what to believe.
Ultimately I have come to the place of understanding that I can depend on one thing: the Lord Jesus as revealed in His word. He is faithful; His word cannot fail.
Ellen White is not His word, and I can let her go without fear. I can utterly reject, both on her personal testimony and on the authority of God’s word, this woman’s writings which taught unbiblical doctrines. I can credit her anti-Christ doctrines to their true source: the father of lies.
I can stake my eternal future on our Triune God and on His declaration that the Son is His final word to us:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Heb. 1:1–2).