Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ellen Harmon White

An interesting review of a book about an interesting person. Because Seventh-day Adventists are a much larger seventh-day Sabbath observing denomination than Seventh Day Baptists and because we are often mistaken for them, Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet, undoubtedly the most important personality in Adventist history, will be interesting to some of us. One of the things that surprised me is that, according to the review, there are more Seventh-day Adventists in the world than there are Mormons. From the review:
With a foreword by Duke University historian Grant Wacker, the book has 18 chapters and 20 authors—"Adventists, ex-Adventists, and non-Adventists"—all of them scholars and most of them university professors. Often such an erudite lineup results in a densely unreadable or, at best, uneven book. Not here. The editorial team has gathered and shaped a group of clear, interesting writers who avoid academic jargon while looking at White under different aspects. ....

If White had stuck to preaching and writing, evangelicals might have accepted Adventists as eccentric fellow travelers. But White claimed to have visions directly from God. This seems odder today than it did in her era. .... The challenge for White and her followers was to distinguish her experiences from those of other seers.... White did not deal with "false prophets" gently....

...[V]isions helped to set directions the SDA church would take. Ronald Numbers and Rennie B. Schoepflin describe White's 1863 vision about health: "God showed the thirty-five-year-old prophetess the evils of medicinal drugs, alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, meat, spices, fashionable dress, and sex and the benefits of a twice-a-day vegetarian diet, internal and external use of water, fresh air, exercise, and a generally abstemious life style." Health reform, medical missionary work, hospital building, and education for the health professions all have become hallmarks of SDA practice. .... [more]