The theme of Ellen White’s educational model is imago Dei, restoration in humanity of the holistic image of God. 1Ellen G. White, Education, 15, 16 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1903, 1952). The challenge to the accomplishment of that anthropological center of purpose is found in her larger framework: the conflict between Christ and Satan. Central to this framework is the authority of Scripture, which declares (1) Christ as Creator of all, (2) the Sabbath as the culminating commemoration of the six literal day Creation event, (3) the complete restoration of Eden in the second dominion, including unveiled God/humanity communication, absence of death and predation, and (4) the continuance of 7 th day Sabbath memorials to God’s creation initiative. In White’s great controversy framework, Satan continues with increasing intensity his diabolical efforts to thwart those purposes.
Because this model is central to all of Ellen G. White’s writings, it is impossible to remove one segment of the structure without seriously compromising the integrity of all her writings. Ellen G. White’s theological authority hinges on maintaining the framework of her primary purpose. Even as Skinner’s philosophy crumbles with the removal of behaviorism and Descartes’ theories capsize without the paradigm of doubt, Ellen White cannot be correct in her salvific doctrines if she does not correctly define the nature of the Creator and the Creation account. As Christ is either the incarnate God, as He claimed, or He is a liar, Ellen White cannot be merely a pious writer of platitudes on education and devotional life. Her entire ministry hangs or falls on the acceptance or rejection of her central model.
Ellen White’s biblically predicated great controversy model, then, is authoritative in determining the continuing veracity of such pivotal doctrines as salvation, the Sabbath, the mystery of death, the parousia, and the sanctuary. Thus, questions of the origins and primary purpose of the Sabbath (whether, for instance, a memorial of a six-day literal creation or a memorial of deliverance from Egypt) become more significant in terms of Ellen G. White’s authority than do discussions of areas of less significance, such as two earth creations, precise earth age, or the source of volcanoes. However, with paradigms in geology and radio-metric dating in continual flux and change, time and discovery may even bring vindication to some of these controverted concepts.
Although Ellen White uses the phrase “unity in diversity,” 1Francis D. Nichol, SDA Bible Commentary, 7 vols. plus supplement. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1970), 6:1083. and stated “Instructors in our schools should never be bound about by being told that they are to teach only what has been taught hitherto,” 2Ellen G. White, Manuscript 8a, 1888, Ellen G. White Estate, Silver Spring, MD. she maintained that the landmarks and pillars of Adventist truth were to remain. Concepts that impact the science of geology which she “was shown” to be identified as permanent include six literal, empirical, historical 24-hour days of creation, culminating with a literal 24-hour Sabbath day of rest, and human life on earth non-existent before the literal creation week described in Genesis. 3Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, 4 vols. (Battle Creek, MI: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association 1858, 1860, 1864) 3:90-93. Recognizing that all truth in a fallen world is vulnerable to distortion, Ellen White continually repeated her clarion call to elevate Scripture over humanity’s ideas of science. 4Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1913, 1943), 425. True science, in her view, must always be brought to the test of the unerring standard of Scripture. 5Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1903, 1952), 128-134.
Ellen White was aware of ideas similar to the uniformitarianism of James Hutton. She was also aware of the scholarly scorn leveled against the notion of a recent historical creation week, similar to the scorn offered by Schleiermacher’s caricature in 1829 that only “gloomy creatures” believe in ancient literalism. In this milieu of Genesis reconstruction with its converging concept of “deep time,” she could state both, “The work of creation cannot be explained by science,” 6Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, 414 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1905, 1942). and “True science and the Bible religion are in perfect harmony.” 7Nichol, The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 4:1167.
Not only did Ellen White reject popular scientific notions of her day relating to geology, she recognized that higher criticism could undermine the Genesis account of Creation by proposing