"We Discovered Ellen White Failed the Biblical Tests of a Prophet"

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Dale Ratzlaff

 


 

My strong Adventist background

I was a fourth generation, conservative Seventh-day Adventist. My grandfather was an Adventist pastor; my grandmother was a “Bible worker”—gave evangelistic Bible studies to many, many people. My grandmother’s brother was one of the vice presidents of the General Conference. Both my parents taught in the Adventist school system. When I was a young child my parents were self-supporting Adventist missionaries in Panama. My father died when I was ten and my mother continued to teach in Adventist grade schools until her retirement.

My Adventist education

I attended Adventist schools from first grade through Pacific Union College where I was graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Theology and a Minor in Biblical Languages. I then graduated from Andrews University with a Master of Divinity and later completed three fourths of the Doctor of Ministry program there. I pastored for 13 years in Adventism, seven of which were at Monterey Bay Academy where I taught Bible doctrines, served as associate pastor, developed their off-campus witnessing program where two to three buss loads of students went to surrounding Adventist churches and gave Bible studies no non-Adventists on a weekly basis. I was in charge of their “Seminar program” where groups of students would go to churches in the conference and present the worship service including sermon and special music. In our last assignment as Adventists my wife, Carolyn, was a Bible worker and I pastored the Watsonville, California SDA church.

My experience with the writings of Ellen White

Carolyn and I were both strong believers in Ellen White, her writings and position in the SDA church. We read them, memorized her “golden statements”—of which there are many—studied the historical context and tried to live by their counsel. After many months of careful, prayerful study and counsel with “experienced brethren” we came to the conclusion that Adventism’s sanctuary doctrine (The 1844 Investigative Judgment) was not only unbiblical but was contrary to the new covenant gospel of grace. I was forced to either promise to teach this unbiblical doctrine or resign. I resigned as NO ONE was able to show me how to support this doctrine from Scripture using sound principles of biblical interpretation.

Becoming a "Bible only" pastor

When I was an Adventist pastor and Bible teacher I always—with a few possible exceptions—consulted the writings of Ellen White in my study before preaching a sermon, teaching a Bible class or Sabbath School lesson. I left the Adventist church because I could no longer in clear conscience teach Adventism’s anti-gospel, 1844 sanctuary theology. After extensive study I knew Ellen White was wrong on this central doctrine, but I still valued her comments on other topics. When starting a new church I made a commitment that I would teach from the Bible and the Bible only. I made a promise to myself that I would not look at the writings of Ellen White for six months. I boxed up all her books—and I had most if not all her published writings—and put them in the garage. Many times in my study I wanted to refresh my mind on what Ellen White had to say on the topic at hand. However, I forced myself to stay with the Bible alone. An amazing thing happened as I started real contextual, inductive Bible study and teaching. I began to see a new harmony in Scripture. I began to realize that often my previous Bible study was clouded by interpreting “the greater light” through the foggy lens of the “lesser light”. At the end of the six months I was in love with the Bible as never before. I began to realize that not only was Adventist’s 1844 sanctuary theology in error, but contextual study through the New Testament did not support several of the unique teachings of Adventism.

Major discovery No. 1

Since leaving Adventism I have made two profound conclusions. Some readers may find these very offensive, but I believe they are nevertheless patently true and are of utmost importance, and that is why I share them here:
One cannot understand the Bible correctly when continuing to read the writings of Ellen White. While an Adventist I would have reacted passionately to this statement as some readers may now be doing! The concept is more easily acceptable, however, if applied to other religious groups. No Mormon will be able to understand the Bible correctly while continuing to read Joseph Smith’s The Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants. No member of the Christian Science Church will be able to understand the Bible correctly while continuing to read Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. No Jehovah’s Witness will understand the Bible correctly while continuing to read the Watchtower. All these groups would argue vehemently they were indeed interpreting the Bible correctly. In fact, they would say that their interpretation was the only correct interpretation and other churches were wrong. Why would this be? Because all these groups would be looking at the Scripture though the veil of their modern prophet, or the teachings of their organization. It is my settled conclusion that the same thing holds true in Adventism.

Major discovery No. 2

The second weighty conclusion I reached is this: Where the Bible is clear we can and should be certain. Where the Bible is unclear or honestly open to several interpretations we must be tentative. The recipe for cultic teaching is to find some obscure passage, define what that passage means, and then make that interpretation normative for others. For example, Mormons find in 1 Cor. 15:29 an elaborate theology of baptism for the dead. They go to great lengths in tracing their genealogies back as far as possible and then make sure they get baptized for their ancestors. However, other Bible scholars do not find this theology in this passage. Why can only the Mormons find it there? It is because Mormons read into the Bible the theology of their modern prophet. The same could be said for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Using some of the same prophecies early Adventists used, they, after several failed predictions and later reinterpretations, come up with an invisible second coming of Christ in 1914. Herein lies what I have concluded to be the fundamental error of Adventism. Early Adventist theology was built on obscure, apocalyptic, passages, and frequently even these were taken out of context. Ellen White said that Daniel 8:14 is the “central pillar of the Advent faith.” This text is one of the most obscure texts in the Bible. Like it or not, this is the foundation-stone of Adventist teaching. Adventism’s 1844 Sanctuary theology is like an octopus with tentacles around and under nearly every unique teaching of Adventism1as admitted by Adventist scholars.2 This tendency to find doctrinal “truth” in obscure apocalyptic passages continues to this day as seen in Adventism’s many “Revelation Seminars”, “Amazing Facts Seminars”, etc.

Most former SDA pastors have discovered the same thing

Most former Adventist pastors—at least the ones I know—have found that once they took the Bible as their only source of truth, they found a number of the unique teachings of Adventism fell away because they could not be supported in contextual Bible study. In other words we believe that historic Adventism stands or falls with the acceptance of the writings of Ellen White. It is my personal conclusion this is so, and that is the reason why the Adventist church is now promoting her writings with such vigor. Without her writings the church will unravel because it's theology is not truly Bible based.

Hold and defend a few clearly taught, Christ-centered truths

My study leads me to hold and defend a few foundational, Christ-centered truths that spring from clear, contextual, inductive study from the Gospels and Epistles. Then I leave room for private interpretation on peripheral issues.3 It is my settled conclusion that the gospel truth I teach today must be the same gospel truth taught by the Apostles of Christ as recorded in the New Testament4. To add or subtract from the New Testament Gospel is to move away from the truth as it was once and for all delivered to the saints.5

Truth can stand the test of investigation

It is my sincere belief that truth can stand the test of investigation. The Bible says, “do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” 1 Thess. 5:20, 21. Ellen White on several occasions invited people to test her works. Therefore, I invite you to spend several days—yes days—researching this web site. About 300,000 Seventh-day Adventists leave the Adventist church every year. There is good reason for this huge exodus. With the information on this web site and several others, the Adventist church is no longer able to keep people from finding out the truth regarding Ellen White and her many, many: (1) self-contradictions; (2) contradictions with Scripture; (3) anti-gospel statements; (4) historical errors; (5) massive plagiarism; (6) statements contrary to scientific findings and (7) foolish statements.

Ellen White's writings: a mixture of truth and error

True, Ellen White ’s books have many beautiful and true statements. However, mixed with her wonderful statements is error. Sometimes the error is very subtle; at other times it is patently evident, sometimes even blatant. It is my prayer that you will study to show yourself approved, a workman that needs not to be ashamed. God’s word, which cannot lie, states that the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth. Yes, Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life. If you are willing you will know the truth and the truth will set you free!

Want more details?

Some readers of this page may want more details on the information and events that caused me to leave Adventism. If so, may I suggest that you get my latest book, Adventist to Christ with is on four audio CDs. For the sake of history I include the names of people I studied with, the places I went in search of answers and the events that I prayerfully considered before leaving a promising future in Adventism.

May God guide us each as we seek to follow our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In His joy,
Dale Ratzlaff

1. See Cultic Doctrine, p. 263–272
2. From a tape of Angel Rodriquez in a meeting for Adventist pastors held in Washington state several years ago to discuss how to stop the influence of Cultic Doctrine.
3. See Rom. 14.
4. 1 Cor. 15:1-5.
5. Jude 1:3.


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