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 Articles: Raymond Cottrell on Dr. Ford
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Exegesis of Daniel

by Raymond Cottrell

The Role of Ellen White in the Church

Every attempt to resolve the problems associated with the doctrine of the sanctuary has been aborted by the protest that Sister White had confirmed it. In his Glacier View treatise Dr. Ford explains his concept of her role in the church and the relationship of her writings to the Bible. He says that he "found Christ through the writings of Ellen G. White" and was influenced by her "more than any other writer since John the Apostle."109 She led him "to Christ and His Word as supreme in all things."110

He thanks God for the spiritual help he finds in her writings, and acknowledges her as one of God's greatest saints, specially raised up and endowed to lead the weak and needy remnant into areas of service allotted by the counsels of heaven.

"What type of people would we be if we followed the counsels of Ellen G. White?" Ford asks, and replies: "One word answers--saints."112 His conservative life style as a Seventh-day Adventist is a living demonstration of the pattern provided by the Bible and her writings.

Of Ellen White's role as God's special messenger to the church today Ford writes that she "was a special messenger to the remnant, entrusted with the gift of prophecy":113

Her inspiration should be defined in the terms she herself used as "for practical purposes," "imperfect," not reflecting God "in logic, rhetoric," etc., not infallible or inerrant, but reliable for the divine purposes.114

It is ignorance of the true nature of inspiration that has caused many problems for Seventh-day Adventists. Our leaders at the 1919 Bible conference recognized this fact.115

[At the 1919 Bible conference] our church leaders . . . while loyal to Ellen G. White, . . . stressed that a crisis would come if we did not inform our people on the true nature of her inspiration. That crisis now confronts us.116

Only a better understanding of the nature of inspiration can save this church from constant internal turmoil.

In 1942 M. L. Andreasen wrote to J. L. McElhaney, president of the General Conference, and W. H. Branson, a vice president: "The ever-present question of the position which Sister White should hold among us is a prolific cause of difficulty."117 Of the relationship of her writings to the Bible Ford comments:

Ellen G. White is not our authority [in doctrinal matters]. That position only Scripture can hold. To divert from "the Bible and the Bible only" as the "sole bond of unison" and our only "creed," would be to cease to be either Biblical or Protestant, and could only result in splitting this church down the middle.118

Ellen G. White certainly never claimed to be the final arbiter regarding the meaning of any passage of Scripture. . . . By and large the conclusions of the scholars of this church are that the writings of Ellen G. White are for the purposes listed in 1 Cor. 14:3 [upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation] rather than for the purpose of exegesis.119

Let us build our framework of truth solely on the Word, but use with gratitude the counsels from His Spirit conveyed through Ellen G. White in these latter days, prophetic counsel meant to be for "upbuilding and encouragement and consolation."120

"As for me," Ford concludes, "I must make Scripture the sole basis of doctrine."121 Ellen White "never claimed to occupy the position of a definitive commentary upon Scripture. . . . many of her applications were pastoral and homiletic rather than exegetical."122 He cites passages where her comments "are quite insupportable from the text itself, but appropriate for homiletic use. In many instances we find different applications of the same Scriptures."123 Ford

feels he honors her most if he accepts her own understanding of her inspiration and position, and therefore makes the Bible and the Bible only the source of his understanding of all doctrines binding upon the church.124

Our major error has been to make the writings of E. G. White have veto power over Scripture. . . . Repeatedly, her writingss have been misused to prevent progress in understanding Bible truth.115

Let us take the writings of Ellen G. White, confident that God has spoken through her in a way He has not spoken through us, and acknowledge them as light, though a lesser light when compared with Holy Writ.126

Ellen White's own statements on the relationship of her writings to the Bible clearly support Ford's position:

The Bible, and the Bible alone, is to be our creed, the sole bond of union; all who bow to this Holy Word will be in harmony. . . . Let us lift up the banner on which is inscribed, The Bible our rule of faith and discipline.127

The testimonies of Sister White should not be carried to the front. God's Word is the unerring standard. The Testimonies are not to take the place of the Word. . . . Let all prove their position from the Scriptures and substantiate every point they claim as truth from the revelaed Word of God. . . . Never do we want any soul to bring in the Testimonies ahead of the Bible.128

I request that my writings shall not be used as the leading argument to settle questions over which there is now so much controversy [the daily]. I entreat Elders H, I, and J, and others of our leading brethren, that they make no reference to my writings to sustain their views of "the daily." . . . I cannot consent that any of my writings shall be taken as settling this matter.

I now ask that my ministering brethren shall not make use of my writings in their arguments regarding this question; for I have no instruction on the point under discussion, and I see no need for the controversy. Regarding this matter under present conditions, silence 1s eloquence.129

I do not ask you to take my words. Lay Sister White to one side. Do not quote my words again as long as you live until you can obey the Bible... I exalt the precious Word before you today. Do not repeat what I have said, saying, "Sister White said this," and "Sister White said that." Find out what the Lord God of Israel says, and then do what He commands.130

In further support of his position on Ellen White's relation to the Bible Ford quotes A. G. Daniells, then president of the General Conference, at the 1919 Bible Conference:

It is not our position, and it is not right that the spirit of prophecy is the only safe interpreter of the Bible. That is a false doctrine, a false view. It will not stand. . . . It is a terrible position to take! That is false, it is error. It is positively dangerous! [To understand the Bible] only as we get the interpretation through the spirit of prophecy . . . is heathenish!131

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