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The Development of the Seventh-day Adventist Understanding of Ellen G. White’s Prophetic Gift, 1844-1889

Series:

Theodore N. Levterov

Ellen G. White was a major figure of nineteenth-century American Christianity although she has not been widely studied or researched. Shortly after the second coming of Jesus predicted by the Millerites did not materialize on October 22, 1844, White became one of the principal leaders of a small remnant group of disappointed believers. She also began claiming visionary manifestations. The Sabbatarians, who later came to be known as the Seventh-day Adventists, gradually accepted White as having the genuine gift of prophecy and her gift became one of their distinctive doctrines. How did the early Sabbath-keeping Adventists become convinced of her prophetic claims?
This volume is a historical examination of the process through which early Seventh-day Adventists justified and accepted White’s prophetic claims between 1844 and 1889. It evaluates and analyzes the development of their understanding of the doctrine of the gift of prophesy in general, and White’s gift in particular. In 1844, she claimed to have received her first vision, and by 1889, the essential arguments for and against her prophetic gift were in place.
Ellen White’s gift of prophecy has remained a controversial subject within and outside the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. This analysis provides an important historical context that illuminates the prophetic claims of Ellen White and the attempts of her denomination to find a more balanced and informed approach toward such a complex topic.
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4. A Further Refinement of the Adventist Understanding of Ellen G. White’s Prophetic Gift, 1882–1889

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CHAPTER FOUR

A Further Refinement of the Adventist Understanding of Ellen G. White’s Prophetic Gift, 1882–1889



The period from 1882 to 1889 marked a further refinement of the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of the gift of prophecy of Ellen White. By 1882 Seventh-day Adventists had responded to internal and external critics who questioned their understanding and belief in Ellen White’s prophetic gift. The denomination had not only affirmed but also started to promote publicly Ellen White’s works and ministry. As a result, the doctrine of spiritual gifts and the gift of prophecy in particular became an integral part of the Seventh-day Adventist theological package. And while the major issues and nuances related to Ellen White’s prophetic gift had been discussed and examined by the beginning of the 1880s, the issue of Ellen White’s inspiration needed further clarification. The new specific objections, which the critics raised against Ellen White’s prophetic gift in the period from 1882 to 1889, dealt primarily with “suppression” of her earlier writings and accusations of “plagiarism.” Since some of her earlier writings were modified and edited when they were republished in the early 1880s, and Ellen White borrowed materials from other authors when writing, the critics questioned her claim of divine inspiration.

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