“The Church ‘drifting toward a crisis’: Prescott’s 1915 Letter to William White.”

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Gilbert M. Valentine


In 1915 Professor W. W. Prescott, wrote a letter of concern to W. C. White in which he made a number of controversial observations about uncorrected errors in authorized church publications and serious misconceptions about Ellen G. White’s manner of writing which were held by many Adventists. Initial explanations and interpretations of the letter are inadequate. These explanations are reviewed and assessed. The historical context of the 1915 letter is further explored and misunderstandings about Prescott corrected. Other senior and trusted Adventist church leaders also experienced cognitive dissonance in their attempts to understand and explain “inspiration” as it applied to Ellen White’s work. Elmshaven editorial assistants found it necessary to expand their understanding and their explanations. The foundational 1883 description of “inspiration” needed to be qualified. The work of the editorial circle around the prophet is significant. Should the theory of inspiration be adjusted so that the theory arises out of the actual data or should a presupposed theory be imposed on the data? Later explanations tended to over simply and idealize the literary process. Prescott’s letter continues to have implications for the pastoral care and education of the church.


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