In 1982 the July 15 issue of Adventist Review and the August issue of Ministry published a statement on the relationship of Ellen G. White’s writings to the Bible. This statement, drafted by an ad hoc committee of the General Conference, invited readers to respond with suggestions. Following responses from readers, the statement was refined and published again in the Adventist Review on December 23, 1982, and in Ministry in February 1983. The statement included the pertinent Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists—specifically “The Holy Scriptures” and “The Gift of Prophecy.” Since 1983, the Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists have been revised at General Conference Sessions, as the preamble indicates:
Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. These beliefs, as set forth here, constitute the church’s understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture. Revision of these statements may be expected at a General Conference Session when the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teachings of God’s Holy Word.1
The updated statement below reflects the revised Fundamental Beliefs but retains the affirmations and denials as published by the Adventist Review on December 23, 1982, and Ministry in February 1983.
Frequently Seventh-day Adventists, particularly congregational leaders, receive questions regarding Ellen White’s ministry, and the readers of Elder’s Digest are encouraged to keep these ten affirmations and denials as a concise and helpful guide for future reference.
In the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs voted by the General Conference Session of Seventh-day Adventists at Dallas in April, 1980, the Preamble states: “Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.” Paragraph one reflects the church’s understanding of the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, while paragraph eighteen reflects the church’s understanding of the inspiration and authority of the writings of Ellen White in relation to the Scriptures. These paragraphs read as follows:
1. The Holy Scriptures
The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration. The inspired authors spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to humanity the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the definitive revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history. (Ps. 119:105; Prov 30:5, 6; Isa. 8:20; John 17:17; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Heb. 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.)2
18. The Gift of Prophecy
The Scriptures testify that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and we believe it was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. Her writings speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction to the church. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. (Num. 12:6; 2 Chron. 20:20; Amos 3:7; Joel 2:28, 29; Acts 2:14–21; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Heb. 1:1– 3; Rev. 12:17; 19:10; 22:8, 9.)3
1. We believe that Scripture is the divinely revealed Word of God and is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
2. We believe that the canon of Scripture is composed only of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments.
3. We believe that Scripture is the foundation of faith and the final authority in all matters of doctrine and practice.
4. We believe that Scripture is the Word of God in human language.
5. We believe that Scripture teaches that the gift of prophecy will be manifest in the Christian church after New Testament times.
6. We believe that the ministry and writings of Ellen White were a manifestation of the gift of prophecy.
7. We believe that Ellen White was inspired by the Holy Spirit and that her writings, the product of that inspiration, are applicable and authoritative, especially to Seventh-day Adventists.
8. We believe that the purposes of the Ellen White writings include guidance in understanding the teaching of Scripture and application of these teachings, with prophetic urgency, to the spiritual and moral life.
9. We believe that the acceptance of the prophetic gift of Ellen White is important to the nurture and unity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
10. We believe that Ellen White’s use of literary sources and assistants finds parallels in some of the writings of the Bible.
1. We do not believe that the quality or degree of inspiration in the writings of Ellen White is different from that of Scripture.
2. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White are an addition to the canon of Sacred Scripture.
3. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White function as the foundation and final authority of Christian faith as does Scripture.
4. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White may be used as the basis of doctrine.
5. We do not believe that the study of the writings of Ellen White may be used to replace the study of Scripture.
6. We do not believe that Scripture can be understood only through the writings of Ellen White.
7. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White exhaust the meaning of Scripture.
8. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White are essential for the proclamation of the truths of Scripture to society at large.
9. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White are the product of mere Christian piety.
10. We do not believe that Ellen White’s use of literary sources and assistants negates the inspiration of her writings.
We conclude, therefore, that a correct understanding of the inspiration and authority of the writings of Ellen White will avoid two extremes: (1) regarding these writings as functioning on a canonical level identical with Scripture, or (2) considering them as ordinary Christian literature.
1 Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 19th ed. (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2016), 162.
2 Ibid., 162.
3 Ibid., 168.