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    Chapter 3—Ellen White On Orthodoxy, Pluralism, And Liberation From Societal Mandates And Scientific Trends Impacting Biblical Teachings On Earth History

    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.IEGWEHC 3.4

    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.IEGWEHC 3.5

    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 hierarchical concepts of polygenesis, thus providing a religious rationale for the preservation of racial hierarchy. 8Leslie N. Pollard, Embracing Diversity (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2000), 107 In an era where notions regarding the biological, social, and civilizational inferiority of the Negro were commonly accepted as scientific, 9Ibid., 108. Ellen White challenged science by such statements as “The Black man’s name is written in the book of life beside the White man’s. All are one in Christ. Birth, station, nationality, or color cannot elevate or degrade men.” 10Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, 3 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958, 1980), 2:488.IEGWEHC 3.6

    Thus, like Christ, Ellen White demonstrated both inclusiveness in her ministry and a Spirit-driven ability to filter through conflicting claims to define truth. Her unique voice contrasts with the increasing solidarity in biblical reconstruction and revisionism of her time and ours.IEGWEHC 4.1

    “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” 11The Holy Bible: 2 Chronicles 20:20. These are encouraging words for the Adventist discussion of earth history and the meaning of Ellen White’s statements on the subject to which we now turn.IEGWEHC 4.2