Ellen G. White's Understanding
How God Speaks
White's Understanding of How God Speaks
Exhibit One. From The Great Controversy, pages v-vii.
Before the entrance of sin, Adam enjoyed open communion with his Maker; but
since man separated himself from God by transgression, the human race has
been cut off from this high privilege. By the plan of redemption, however, a
way has been opened whereby the inhabitants of the earth may still have
connection with heaven. God has communicated with men by His Spirit, and
divine light has been imparted to the world by revelations to His chosen
servants. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy
Ghost." 2 Peter 1:21.
During the first twenty-five hundred years of human history, there was no
written revelation. Those who had been taught of God, communicated their
knowledge to others, and it was handed down from father to son, through
successive generations. The preparation of the written word began in the time
of Moses. Inspired revelations were then embodied in an inspired book. This
work continued during the long period of sixteen hundred years--from Moses,
the historian of creation and the law, to John, the recorder of the most
sublime truths of the gospel.
The Bible points to God as its author; yet it was written by human hands; and
in the varied style of its different books it presents the characteristics of
the several writers. The truths revealed are all "given by inspiration
of God" (2 Timothy 3:16); yet they are expressed in the words of men.
The Infinite One by His Holy Spirit has shed light into the minds and hearts
of His servants. He has given dreams and visions, symbols and figures; and
those to whom the truth was thus revealed have themselves embodied the
thought in human language.
The Ten Commandments were spoken by God Himself, and were written by His own
hand. They are of divine, and not of human composition. But the Bible, with
its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of
the divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was
the Son of God and the Son of man. Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of
Christ, that "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." John
Written in different ages, by men who differed widely in rank and occupation,
and in mental and spiritual endowments, the books of the Bible present a wide
contrast in style, as well as a diversity in the
nature of the subjects unfolded. Different forms of expression are employed
by different writers; often the same truth is more strikingly presented by
one than by another. And as several writers present a subject under varied
aspects and relations, there may appear, to the superficial, careless, or
prejudiced reader, to be discrepancy or contradiction, where the thoughtful,
reverent student, with clearer insight, discerns the underlying harmony.
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; 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. And the truths thus revealed unite
to form a perfect whole, adapted to meet the wants of men in 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 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.
In His Word, God has committed to men the knowledge necessary for salvation.
The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible
revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience.
"Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness; that the
man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16, 17, R.V.
Exhibit Two. From Selected Messages, book 1, pages 19-22.
OBJECTIONS TO THE BIBLE
The writers of the Bible had to express their ideas in human language. It was
written by human men. These men were inspired of the Holy Spirit. Because of
the imperfections of human understanding of language, or the perversity of
the human mind, ingenious in evading truth, many read and understand the
Bible to please themselves. It is not that the
difficulty is in the Bible. Opposing politicians argue points of law in the
statute book, and take opposite views in their application and in these laws.
The Scriptures were given to men, not in a continuous chain of unbroken
utterances, but piece by piece through successive generations, as God in His
providence saw a fitting opportunity to impress man at sundry times and [p.
20] divers places. Men wrote as they were moved upon
by the Holy Ghost. There is "first the bud, then the blossom, and next
the fruit," "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full
corn in the ear." This is exactly what the Bible utterances are to us.
There is not always perfect order or apparent unity in the Scriptures. The
miracles of Christ are not given in exact order, but are given just as the
circumstances occurred, which called for this divine revealing of the power
of Christ. The truths of the Bible are as pearls hidden. They must be
searched, dug out by painstaking effort. Those who take only a surface view
of the Scriptures will, with their superficial knowledge, which they think is
very deep, talk of the contradictions of the Bible, and question the
authority of the Scriptures. But those whose hearts are in harmony with truth
and duty will search the Scriptures with a heart prepared to receive divine
impressions. The illuminated soul sees a spiritual unity, one grand golden
thread running through the whole, but it requires patience, thought, and
prayer to trace out the precious golden thread. Sharp contentions over the
Bible have led to investigation and revealed the precious jewels of truth.
Many tears have been shed, many prayers offered, that the Lord would open the
understanding to His Word.
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 imperfect. Different meanings are
expressed by the same word; there is not one word for each distinct idea. The
Bible was given for practical purposes.
The stamps of minds are different. All do not understand expressions and
statements alike. Some understand the statements of the Scriptures to suit
their own particular minds and cases. Prepossessions, prejudices, and
passions have a strong influence to darken the understanding and confuse the
mind even in reading the words of Holy Writ.
The disciples traveling to Emmaus needed to be disentangled in their
interpretation of the Scriptures. Jesus [p. 21] walked with them disguised,
and as a man He talked with them. Beginning at Moses and the prophets He
taught them in all things concerning Himself, that His life, His mission, His
sufferings, His death were just as the Word of God had foretold. He opened
their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures. How quickly He
straightened out the tangled ends and showed the unity and divine verity of
the Scriptures. How much men in these times need their understanding opened.
The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God's mode of thought and
expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men
will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put
Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers
of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen. 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, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with
thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The
divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human
mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God.
(Manuscript 24, 1886; written in Europe in 1886.)
UNITY IN DIVERSITY
There is variety in a tree, there are scarcely two leaves just alike. Yet
this variety adds to the perfection of the tree as a whole.
In our Bible, we might ask, Why need Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the
Gospels, why need the Acts of the Apostles, and the variety of writers in the
Epistles, go over the same thing?
The Lord gave His Word in just the way He wanted it to come. He gave it
through different writers, each having his own individuality, though going
over the same history. Their testimonies are brought together in one Book,
and [p. 22] are like the testimonies in a social meeting. They do not
represent things in just the same style. Each has an experience of his own,
and this diversity broadens and deepens the knowledge that is brought out to
meet the necessities of varied minds. The thoughts expressed have not a set
uniformity, as if cast in an iron mold, making the
very hearing monotonous. In such uniformity there would be a loss of grace
and distinctive beauty. . . .
The Creator of all ideas may impress different minds with the same thought,
but each may express it in a different way, yet without contradiction. The
fact that this difference exists should not perplex or confuse us. It is
seldom that two persons will view and express truth in the very same way.
Each dwells on particular points which his constitution and education have
fitted him to appreciate. The sunlight falling upon the different objects
gives those objects a different hue.
Through the inspiration of His Spirit the Lord gave His apostles truth, to be
expressed according to the development of their minds by the Holy Spirit. But
the mind is not cramped, as if forced into a certain mold.
(Letter 53, 1900.)
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