Spiritual Overtones in the Ellen G. White Science Counsels

It is always helpful for the Seventh-day Adventist professional man or woman to keep in mind the spiritual goals of the Spirit of Prophecy writings whenever the Ellen G. White science counsels are explored.

A FEW years ago a small group of young people—including several young Jews from prominent families—became Seventh-day Adventists. Their first contacts were with a friend of theirs who was not a Seventh-day Adventist but who had been impressed by reading about Mrs. White's visions in the book Early Writings. These youth experienced a telling exposure to the facts of Mrs. White's experience as they read Early Writings. They were convinced of the genuineness of her Christian experience and of the divine origin of her spiritual messages, and were converted to God.

Included among the numerous books that they read was Counsels on Diet and Foods. So impressed were they by the reasonableness of the author's position on nutrition and its relationship to behavior that they became both Christians and vegetarians—the latter even before they were baptized.

This experience and many more could be told to illustrate the broad dimensional quality of the Spirit of Prophecy messages, and the fruition in human experience of the important goal Mrs. White constantly worked to achieve—the making of man into a whole person. This included restoration of physical and emotional health, but more important, the recovery of the soul from sin through faith in the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Goals of Spirit of Prophecy Counsels

It is always helpful for the Seventh-day Adventist professional man or woman to keep in mind the spiritual goals of the Spirit of Prophecy writings whenever the Ellen G. White science counsels are explored.

Mrs. White never occupied a professional role. She was not a doctor of any thing. She wrote no prescriptions, per formed no surgery, examined no patients, made no diagnoses or prognoses, and collected no fees.

Like her divine Lord, Ellen G. White sought "first the kingdom of God." Apart from the goal of the restoration of human beings to the moral image of God and to optimum physical, mental, and emotional health, there remained scant justification for her involvement in science counsels. She sought to help prepare a people for the day of the Lord.

Mrs. White's health and medical ideas, her insights, observations, and teachings in the broad field of the physical and biological sciences, and indeed of psychosomatic medicine, must be understood in the light of the statement of Jesus, "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Divorce Mrs. White's spiritual views from her science messages and you have facts that will help human bodies and minds but save no souls.

Mrs. White announced great scientific ideas, particularly in the medical science field and long before the world of medicine had discovered or had come to accept these principles, but she did not write as a professional journalist. Her mind and obedient pen moved with uncanny insight; for instance, she discussed the science of the mind with a conscious certainty that she knew precisely what she was talking about.

Like the ordinary science researcher, she wished to be a benefactor to the human race. Even as the researcher seeks to improve public health and to prevent disease, so did Mrs. White. In this sense Ellen White was like the professional scientist. She sought the health and prosperity of all, and her written books—there are about a dozen of them with science themes and overtones—have brought great blessing to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and to the world. But at this point the comparison ends.

The ordinary scientist is usually a college graduate, and more often than not an M.D., a Ph.D., or a qualified practitioner in some specific area. When he writes on a science theme he approaches his subject in a practical way. He suggests a theory that he hopes will lead to the eradication of a certain disease. Then he describes laboratory experiments that he has undertaken in an effort to prove (sometimes they dis prove) the theory. If he is fortunate, he may be prepared to announce the solution to the medical problem by describing a series of revealing experiments resulting from his research.

Hence, the medical scientist of today is a formally educated man or woman who undertakes research in the laboratory or in the field that he hopes will reveal facts resulting in the eradication of disease and misery. And we respect the scientist who is able to present to the world this information. But Ellen White's work in the field of science did not follow the preceding order of things at all. In the first place, she had no regular diplomas or degrees!

Mrs. White Not a Scientist

Thus, Mrs. White was not prepared to bring to her science writings the advantages of scientific training, learning, and experimentation; indeed, there were no medical schools or colleges in the early days of her work that could have provided her with the scientific information so abundantly taught in her health counsels, even if she had attended them. This may seem strange, but she was uniquely ahead of her contemporaries even in some science fields.

Mrs. White's health counsels and messages were not announced to the world as theories or discoveries that were the result of laboratory tests or surveys she had made. Her cautions, for example, regarding tobacco as a "slow, insidious, and most malignant poison" (The Ministry of Healing, p. 327) were not backed up by a formidable array of scientific data and information. She announced the fact of tobacco's evil effects upon the human system with a simple lack of professional authority. She could say when she was discussing tobacco, as she wrote concerning the misuse of salt: "I give you the instruction as it is given me." And again she wrote of "the light given me by God" (Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 344).

In one instance, when discussing the unhealthful diet habits of a certain family, she made clear that it had been presented to her by God that the food placed upon the table in their home was not wholesome. This knowledge had not been communicated to her by any member of this family, but in vision scenes had been opened to her mind by the great Nutritionist Himself. She was shown in vision the condition of this family's health. The mental outlook and spiritual life were being frustrated by unwholesome dietary habits (Letter 184, 1908).

Relation of Divine Counsels to Spiritual and Mental Growth

Let us now see how the Ellen G. White science and health counsels were related to spiritual and mental development. Wrote Ellen White:

One of the most deplorable effects of the original apostasy was the loss of man's power of self-control. Only as this power is regained, can there be real progress.

The body is the only medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the up-building of character. Hence it is that the adversary of souls directs his temptations to the enfeebling and degrading of the physical powers. His success here means the surrender to evil of the whole being. The tendencies of our physical nature, unless under the dominion of a high power, will surely work ruin and death.

The body is to be brought into subjection. The higher powers of the being are to rule. The passions are to be controlled by the will, which is itself to be under the control of God. The kingly power of reason, sanctified by divine grace, is to bear sway in our lives.—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 73.

When Mrs. White discussed science themes in the area of nutrition or pschosomatic medicine she did more than simply offer illuminating information. Her goal was to achieve the sanctification of the mind and the soul, as well as the health of the body. She sought salvation for her readers. Essentially Mrs. White was a spiritual author, burdened to save the lost and to bring them to God. I might say that the testimony of Jesus that she bore was also a testimony to Jesus' love that sprang from her own heart. This testimony is greatly needed today. There is no greater healing power.

To illustrate the point of the high priority Mrs. White set on spiritual values, let me refer to a report made by a psychologist at a medical meeting. This professional man spoke of his efforts to help a dozen poorly adjusted people to "adjust" to life. Then he described a dozen friends of his who were "adjusted" but were nevertheless unhappy and bored with life. Later, in an editorial, a writer asked a loaded question, To what did the doctor seek to adjust his unhappy patients—to boredom? It was a good question. Life devoid of God and faith and spiritual values can be boring and unhappy indeed!

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March 1971

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