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Inspiration/Revelation: What It Is and How It Works - Contents
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    Chapter 1—Inerrancy and the Prophet’s Personal Life

    The evidence of history and Scripture testify that the control of the Holy Spirit over the lives of the prophets did not preclude their freedom to sin. If “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), this would presumably include the prophets as well. To verify this, one need but examine their lives individually, as recorded in sacred writ, to discover the nature and extent of their sins of omission and commission.IRWHW 61.8

    One of the earliest prophets mentioned in Scripture is Abraham (Genesis 20:7). Repeatedly the canonical writers of both Old and New Testaments call him the father of the faithful, and indeed, both Jews (through Isaac) and Arabs (through Ishmael) consider him their lineal ancestor as well.IRWHW 61.9

    Abraham was not only made the progenitor of peoples too numerous to count, not only given the special relationship with God signified by the role and office of a prophet, but he was also given the title—by Jehovah Himself—“Abraham my friend.” 21Isaiah 41:8. See also James 2:23. (In the Koran, written by Mohammed in Arabia, this title is rendered El Khalil. Islamic philologists state that the word in Arabic—a language noted for its nuances and fine distinctions of meaning—should not be rendered merely “friend” but rather “a very special friend.”)IRWHW 61.10

    What kind of man was the “very special friend” of God? In Genesis 12 we find Abraham and his wife Sarah in Egypt. Because Sarah is a very beautiful woman, Abraham fears that Pharaoh will want to add her to the royal harem, and will kill Abraham to pave the way for this conquest. So Abraham prevails upon Sarah to declare that she is Abraham’s sister instead of his wife.IRWHW 61.11

    Now Sarah was indeed Abraham’s half-sister, so what she said was half true; but she was also his whole wife. And what is half-truth is whole-lie, because the intent is to deceive. God stepped into the situation in a remarkable manner to protect the life of His friend; and Abraham and Sarah were allowed to leave Egypt unmolested, with all of their possessions intact.IRWHW 61.12

    But eight chapters later, in Genesis 20, we find the same story being repeated—with the same results. God bore long with His very special friend—even as He bears long with us. But one somehow tends to expect a little higher standard of behavior of prophets! Surely Abraham should have learned a lesson the first time. But he did not, as we often do not.IRWHW 61.13

    Abraham was not only a “royal liar” twice over, but he also sinned in acquiescing to Sarah’s proposal that he take Hagar as a secondary wife in order to “help” God’s plan to make Abraham’s progeny as numerous as the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky.IRWHW 61.14

    Sarah was beyond normal child-bearing years (Genesis 18:11); and not believing that God would work a miracle, she sought a naturalistic solution. But in taking Hagar, one of Sarah’s servants, as his wife, Abraham demonstrated a serious lapse of faith. God intended Isaac to be a “miracle” child—for he was in several ways to be a type of Christ. And even if Abraham and Sarah’s conduct was acceptable by the cultural standards of the day, it was contrary to God’s plan. Paul uses this illustration in Galatians, chapter 4, to allegorize Hagar as salvation by works, with Sarah representing salvation by faith.IRWHW 61.15

    Incidentally, the seriousness of Abraham’s lack of faith at this point is underscored by a more recent prophet. Because he did not trust God to produce a miracle child, but instead took Hagar as his wife, Abraham was called upon, a few years later, to offer Isaac as a human sacrifice on Mount Moriah. Wrote Ellen White, “If he had endured the first test and had patiently waited for the promise to be fulfilled in Sarah ... he would not have been subjected to the closest test that was ever required of man.” 22The Spirit of Prophecy 1:98.IRWHW 62.1

    So much for El Khalil, the friend of God.IRWHW 62.2

    Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, a prophet, was also a sinner. In fact, his very name had to be changed to Israel after his conversion because the old name meant deceiver or supplanter; and God couldn’t have a prophet going around with that kind of name in a day when the giving of a name had a significance far transcending the same event in modern times.IRWHW 62.3

    Then there was David. Twice in Scripture, once in the Old Testament and once in the New, David is given the title “a man after his [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; see also Acts 13:22). And what kind of man was he? Well, among other things, he was first an adulterer with Bathsheba, and then a murderer of her husband Uriah in a cover-up effort (2 Samuel 1). Is that any way for a prophet to behave—especially one so close to the heart of God?IRWHW 62.4

    Incidentally, the experiences of Abraham and David have been used in recent times by lapsed Christians to condone polygamy, among other sins. However, the question persists, was Abraham the friend of God and was David a man after God’s own heart because of their sins, or rather in spite of them?IRWHW 62.5

    Although the prophets were all sinners—and some of them rather lurid ones at that—their sins did not invalidate their prophetic gift!IRWHW 62.6

    Jeremiah complained, charging God wrongfully (chaps. 12:1; 15:15-18). Both Jonah (chap. 1:3) and Elijah (1 Kings 19) ran away from duty. And then there was Peter.IRWHW 62.7

    Peter denied his Lord three times with foul fishermen’s oaths that had not stained his lips for three years. Jesus forgave him, and restored him to the gospel ministry, and even gave him the gift of prophetic inspiration. And did Peter than live a morally impeccable, upright life forever after? He did not.IRWHW 62.8

    Peter was subsequently guilty of gross hypocrisy. While with the Gentile Christians he was the epitome of friendship; but on occasions when Jews were present, Peter catered to their narrow chauvinistic prejudices by not according the Gentiles the same warmth of Christian fellowship as he would have in private. In fact, this was such a serious moral issue that the apostle Paul was obliged to rebuke Peter in a rather forthright and public manner (Galatians 2:11-14). And Peter was a prophet.IRWHW 62.9

    What about Ellen White? She once wrote, “God and heaven alone are infallible.... In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible.” 23Selected Messages 1:37.IRWHW 62.10

    A recent critic reportedly found Ellen White guilty of three sins (if not crimes): (1) she was a literary thief, since he charged that she stole the writings of others; (2) she was a liar, for she allegedly claimed that those writings were from her own pen when they were not; and (3) she and her husband James were held to be shameless, opportunistic exploiters, writing for a guaranteed, captive market for the purpose of enriching their own family fortunes! 24“Plagiarism Found in Prophet Books” by John Dart, Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1980, pp. 1, 3, 21.IRWHW 62.11

    Now, for a moment, let us assume that the critics’ worst charges about Ellen White are absolutely true. Although these charges have been answered in substantial detail, 25See Olson. for the sake of the argument let us momentarily assume the worst. If Ellen White were guilty, as charged, would that invalidate her prophetic gift?IRWHW 62.12

    And the answer comes quickly, No—not unless you are willing to invalidate Peter’s prophetic gift, Jonah’s prophetic gift, Elijah’s prophetic gift, Jeremiah’s prophetic gift, David’s prophetic gift, and Abraham’s prophetic gift, among others.IRWHW 62.13

    We must be consistent; we must treat Ellen White exactly as we would any prophet of biblical times. If we don’t tear out of our Bible the Psalms written by David, the prophecies of Jeremiah and Jonah and the two epistles of Peter, then we have no right to throw out the writings of Ellen White.IRWHW 62.14

    History and the Scripture testify that the control of the Holy Spirit over the lives of the prophets did not preclude their freedom to sin; and yet, their sinful acts did not invalidate their prophetic gift!IRWHW 62.15

    At this point someone is likely to assert that Peter did not say we have a more sure prophetic life; but rather that we have a more sure prophetic word. What about the words of the prophet?IRWHW 62.16

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