Was Ellen White Against Anything New?



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I once read a book that lamented the good ol' days when Christians rejected anything that was new. As you can imagine, the book was anti-new. This is a common view held in every denomination by what many have dubbed the traditionalists. Traditionalists are known by their fear, dislike, or suspicion of anything and everything that is new. In one sense, their fears are well founded. Jude wrote:
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. - Jude 1:3
For Jude, it was "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" that was the true faith. Anything new was to be discarded. In the same way, modern attempts to reinterpret Genesis 1 - 11 as allegorical, merge Christianity with other religions, or undermine the central pillars of biblical Christianity should be rejected.*

However, not everything that is new is bad. It was in the name of "the old ways" that many of the Pharisees refused to come to Jesus or accept Christianity. Likewise, 1888 taught the Adventist church the danger of rejecting new light simply because it is new. Many in those years patronized themselves and one another with "sticking to the old ways." Such an attitude made many feel as though they were standing for the truth though the heavens fall. But the reality was that they rejected the Holy Spirit who was trying to bring them to a new experience and traded Gods will for their lives for their allegiance to "the old ways."


However, history shows that the Adventist church is riddled with the new. A new understanding of the Sabbath, a new view of the state of the dead and hell, a new revelation of the sanctuary doctrine, a new emphasis on health and education. We were on the cutting edge with sanitariums and Christian education, have a new prophet, a new style of evangelism, and a new message. Adventism, it seems, was all about the new. In keeping with the flow Ellen White made the following comments on outreach, evangelism, and the need of the new:

In the cities of today, where there is so much to attract and please, the people can be interested by no ordinary efforts.... put forth extraordinary efforts in order to arrest the attention of the multitudes.... make use of every means that can possibly be devised for causing the truth to stand out clearly and distinctly. {Ev 40.3}
The methods and means by which we reach certain ends are not always the same. The missionary must use reason and judgment. Changes for the better must be made... {GW 468.3}
Let us not forget that different methods are to be employed to save different ones.  {Ev 106.2}
Different methods of labor are really essential in sowing the seeds of truth and gathering in the harvest. {TM 251.1}
New methods must be introduced. God’s people must awake to the necessities of the time in which they are living. God has men whom He will call into His service,—men who will not carry forward the work in the lifeless way in which it has been carried forward in the past.... {Ev 70.1}
Whatever may have been your former practice, it is not necessary to repeat it again and again in the same way. God would have new and untried methods followed. Break in upon the people—surprise them. {Ev 125.4}
Let every worker in the Master’s vineyard, study, plan, devise methods, to reach the people where they are. We must do something out of the common course of things. We must arrest the attention. {Ev 122.4}
As field after field is entered, new methods and new plans will spring from new circumstances. New thoughts will come with the new workers who give themselves to the work. As they seek the Lord for help, He will communicate with them. They will receive plans devised by the Lord Himself. {6T 476.2}
We fully believe in church organization; but this is not to prescribe the exact way in which we should work, for not all minds are to be reached by the same methods. {6T 116.1}
There must be no fixed rules; our work is a progressive work, and there must be room left for methods to be improved upon. {Ev 105.1}
Some of the methods used in this work will be different from the methods used in the work in the past; but let no one, because of this, block the way by criticism. {Ev 105.2}
There is to be no unkind criticism, no pulling to pieces of another’s work... {AA 275.2}
The leaders among God's people are to guard against the danger of condemning the methods of individual workers who are led by the Lord to do a special work that but few are fitted to do. Let brethren in responsibility be slow to criticize movements that are not in perfect harmony with their methods of labor. Let them never suppose that every plan should reflect their own personality. {9T 259}
With history, the insights of Ellen White, and the need of the hour I propose that it is time we stopped giving innovation the cold shoulder. We should not be so naive as to embrace every new thing but neither should we flip the "auto-pilot of rejection to anything new" switch. We need new. We need innovation. If we embrace this reality and seek God for those new ideas and methods of evangelism and outreach the results, I'm sure, will be stunning.



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* While any new anti-biblical teachings should be rejected we must always do so intelligently and graciously not dogmatically. Behind every teaching is a soul for whom Christ died and they must never be mistreated for their faith regardless of how much it differs from our own.

Thanks to Russel Burril's How to Grow an Adventist Church for the compilation of Ellen White quotes.

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