Certain Nervous-Disorder Proofs Examined

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Section Titles
Were Mrs. White's Visions Due to Nervous Disorders? Part IV
Why the Public Visions Ceased
John the Baptist's Question
Why a Miraculous Display at Pentecost?
Public Visions End, but Prophet's Work Continues
The First Medical Witness Examined
The Second Medical Witness Examined
The Third Medical Witness
The Fourth Medical Witness
The Critic on the Witness Stand
Not Medical Testimony but Emotions Determine Diagnosis
The New Self-delusion Explanation
Chief Weakness in the Argument
The Tottering Edifice and the Wayfarer

Were Mrs. White's Visions Due to Nervous Disorders? Part IV

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In the light of the present-day medical conclusions regarding certain nervous and mental maladies, as laid alongside the life sketch of Mrs. White and the Bible description of prophets, the reader will be able, without our aid, to evaluate certain so-called symptom-proofs that have been set forth by critics to show that she suffered from hysteria and epilepsy, et cetera. To explain the phenomenon of her life as hysteria, for example, is to violate one of the most primary rules that govern modern scientific thinking; namely, that the cause must be adequate to explain the effect. Neither hysteria nor any other grave psychic disorder could have produced a life of unremitting toil and devotion; a mother wholesomely devoted to her family; a public leader drawing the blueprints of world enlargement for a church body; a spiritual guide pouring forth, from platform and through numerous books, moral and religious counsel that even non-Adventists have acclaimed as of the highest quality.

However, one of the so-called proofs that her visions were a result of psychic disorders sounds so plausible and presents so definitely the essence of a whole series of symptom-proofs that we shall examine it here. The “proof” will be presented in the words of D. M. Canright, who first set it forth; in fact this whole chapter must focus directly on arguments presented by him: “I do not know that she [Mrs. White] ever had a vision while alone, or if so, only once or twice.” In the same connection he speaks of her “last vision,” and gives the date, “1875.”

His argument is this: Her visions were the result of hysteria;


hysterics “put on” their “act” only in public, hysterical manifestations subside with the menopause, and in Mrs. White's case that would be about 1875. Therefore, her visions are merely hysterical episodes.

But we have discovered that (1) there is no causal relationship between the fact of the menopause and the subsidence of the bizarre features of hysteria; (2) Mrs. White's visions were very definitely not all in public, even in the years before 1875; (3) her “last vision” was not in “1875.” The available evidence points to her having visions until the last years of her life. True, they were not public visions, but they were nonetheless visions. That fact stands out clear from the record, and that fact quite demolishes the argument so carefully constructed to prove that hysteria is the explanation of her visions. For the purpose of his argument, the critic dismisses the visions of her later years by a brief reference to “impressions” she had at night. He seeks to convey the idea that these were definitely not visions.

Why the Public Visions Ceased

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While we are discussing this matter of public visions we ought, perhaps, to anticipate a question that some sincere reader may raise: If Mrs. White had public visions in her earlier years, accompanied with certain physical phenomena, why did these grow less in number and finally cease, long before her public ministry was ended? The question is a fair one, and we shall seek to answer it.

God is sparing of miracles and never works them merely to create wonder and awe. But He does perform them at times to aid faith. That has been particularly true at the outset of some great program that He initiated in the earth. When the Lord instructed Moses to go down into Egypt and tell the Israelites that he had for them a message from Heaven, Moses replied, “Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.” Ex. 4: 1.

And what did the Lord do in response? He performed two miracles, and then said to Moses: “And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the


first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.” Verses 8, 9.

The sequel is that when Moses and Aaron went before the Israelite leaders and “did the signs in the sight of the people,” “the people believed.” Verses 30, 31.

The record of the Israelites reveals that there was need of more miracles in order to provide clear and unmistakable proof that God was speaking through Moses. The miracles were given, and thus the children of Israel were without excuse if they failed to heed his words.

John the Baptist's Question

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When John the Baptist, in prison, was sorely tried in faith, and sent his disciples to Christ with the inquiry, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” what did Christ do? Matt. 11:3. The record says: “Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Verses 4, 5. Clearly, here, the miracles of our Lord were intended to play a definite part in strengthening the faith of John the Baptist. Commenting on John, our Lord declared:

“But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” John 5:36.

Later our Lord declared in the same vein to His disciples: “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.” John 14:11.

When the Holy Ghost fell upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost there was a most spectacular display. The book of Acts suggests that in other early instances of the outpouring of the


Spirit there was also a visible display. But there is nothing to indicate that the believers in later apostolic times witnessed a great outward display when they received the Holy Ghost. And we have nothing comparable to Pentecost in any later century.

Why a Miraculous Display at Pentecost?

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Bible critics make sport of Pentecost and its miraculous manifestations, and argue that it was some kind of hallucination. They call attention to the fact that nothing like Pentecost and related incidents has happened in succeeding centuries. But lovers of the Bible have another explanation for the spectacular display at the outset, and its later subsidence. We believe that such a display was intended of God to provide a certain aid to faith at the beginning of the way; a sign and a wonder to impress on all who saw and heard, that God had set His hand to do great things through this company of men who declared that they had a divine message for the world. We believe that today, as surely as at Pentecost, genuine believers in Christ receive the Holy Spirit, and we seek to prove that by showing that Christians today can give evidence of the fruits of the Spirit even as could the early Christians. And “by their fruits ye shall know them.” It is the similarity of fruits that leads us to conclude that the Source of power from which Christians draw today is the same as that from which Christians drew in apostolic times.

If, indeed, God did give Mrs. White visions—and no believer in the Bible can rule out the possibility that God may give visions to one of His children—why should we not expect that, at the outset at least, He would give these visions in such a way and in such a public manner that the very giving of them would in itself arrest attention, sober scoffers, and place men and women in a mood to listen attentively to the message that the Lord wished her to present? We do not believe that the physical phenomena in connection with Mrs. White's visions were an integral part of the visions, any more than we think Moses' rod, which was miraculously turned into a serpent, was an integral part of the message that he brought to the people. But we think that in both instances


the phenomena, which were observable to the natural eye, helped to provide a setting for the presentation of the message.

In one of the few references that Mrs. White makes to the physical phenomena in connection with her visions she remarks that such phenomena did play a proper part in the early days of her ministry in establishing the faith of believers. Writing in 1906, she refers to the messages given to her in the earlier days:

“Some of the instruction found in these pages was given under circumstances so remarkable as to evidence the wonder-working power of God in behalf of his truth…”.

“These messages were thus given to substantiate the faith of all, that in these last days we might have confidence in the spirit of prophecy.”—Review and Herald, June 14, 1906, p. 8.

Public Visions End, but Prophet's Work Continues

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It is a most significant fact, as already stated, that though after many years the outward physical phenomena ended, the visions did not. And as a result of the night visions there continued to come forth from Mrs. White the same kind of counsel for individuals and for the church.

Those night visions required neither a multitude of people around her, nor “fainting spells,” the allegedly necessary stimuli. Now, it is a well-established maxim that like causes produce like results. If Mrs. White's testimonies, counsel, and preaching continued the same throughout her life, then we are warranted in believing that the cause that provoked such a public ministry continued the same. Whatever was the source of the messages she received, as she declared, in visions, those messages continued the same. Whatever was the stimulation of her mind, it continued of the same character and nature, though the outward, physical phenomena were no longer manifest.

Does it not, therefore, follow that the visions cannot be explained on a physical basis? For on this basis the essential nature and character of Mrs. White's singular experiences should have ended at mid-life. That would leave the last half of her remarkable life and all her night visions wholly unexplained!


The First Medical Witness Examined

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We come now to the climactic evidence presented—what the critic describes as “the testimony of physicians who have personally examined Mrs. White.”

Who were these physicians? What did they actually say? How well qualified were they, either by training or by opportunity for observation, to offer a medical opinion in her case? The answers to these questions will enable us to evaluate their testimony. Let us examine them.

Canright quotes the following letter which he declares was written to him by a Dr. W. J. Fairfield, who “was for years a physician in their [the Seventh-day Adventists'] Sanitarium at Battle Creek.”

“‘Battle Creek, Mich., Dec. 28, 1887.

“‘Dear Sir:—You are undoubtedly right in ascribing Mrs. E. G. White's so-called visions to disease, It has been my opportunity to observe her case a good deal, covering quite a period of years, which, with a full knowledge of her history from the beginning, gave me no chance to doubt her (‘divine’) attacks to be simply hysterical trances. Age itself has almost cured her.

“‘W. J. Fairfield, M.D.’”

Here are the facts about Dr. Fairfield that bear on his qualifications as a witness against Mrs. White:

1. In an editorial note in The Health Reformer of March, 1878, page 94, Dr. J. H. Kellogg announces that Dr. Fairfield has “just graduated” from “medical school.” He returned to the Battle Creek Sanitarium as a qualified physician.*

2. The best evidence available indicates that he left the sanitarium in 1881, or shortly thereafter.

3. A little later he opened a rival medical institution in Battle Creek.

* An examination of The Health Reformer reveals that Dr. Fairfield carried the “Dr.” before his name as early as 1876, and that at least for part of the time from 1876 to 1878 he was connected with the sanitarium. The explanation is this: In those days the title “Dr.” was often secured as a result of a few months' course of study in any one of numerous privately operated hospitals or institutions. Many acquired their status as doctors simply by serving an apprenticeship under a physician. During their apprenticeship they were called, by courtesy, “Doctor.” A letter from Dr. Kellogg to W. C. White, dated “Battle Creek, April 12, 1875,” refers to his own medical training, and adds: “I shall soon set Ellet [E. J. Waggoner] and Will Fairfield at work and mean to get them through [the medical course] in two years from this spring.” He missed his estimate by a year; Fairfield graduated in 1878.


4. A letter from Dr. J. H. Kellogg to Mrs. White, December 19, 1885, refers to Dr. Fairfield's rival institution. Says Dr. Kellogg:

“I have some most cutting things to bear, the details of which I must not trouble you with, but they arise out of the miserable persecution from Fairfield, whose malignancy knows no bounds….

“Through Fairfield's influence, I expect to be expelled from the society of regular physicians, of which I am a member, on the charge that I teach in my writings things which are not in harmony with the views of the regular profession.”

Canright, who presents Dr. Fairfield and also Dr. Kellogg as witnesses against Mrs. White, describes Dr. Kellogg as having “a world-wide reputation as a physician and a scientist.” According to that, what kind of person must Dr. Fairfield have been!

5. Dr. Fairfield, in his letter to Canright, does not claim that he had ever examined Mrs. White while she was in vision. How could he have done so, as a physician, when he did not graduate from medical school until 1878? *

6. Dr. Fairfield does not claim that Mrs. White was even his patient at any time at the sanitarium. He simply makes the general statement: “It has been my opportunity to observe her case a good deal, covering quite a period of years.” But just what does he mean by “observe her case”? The only claim that critics make as to Mrs. White's being a “case” in the medical sense of the word, was when she was in vision. But her public visions had ended by the time he was a qualified physician. When she was not in vision she was a most matter-of-fact mother in her home, a reserved and decorous speaker in the pulpit, and a quietly sociable person in Christian homes that she visited in her constant traveling.

In the proper medical sense of the word Dr. Fairfield patently did not have a “case” to “observe.” We would take the matter one step further and declare that Dr. Fairfield had little opportunity to focus his medically trained eyes upon her even in casual neighborly

* According to Canright, Mrs. White's “last vision” was in 1875. However, one more public vision is recorded, in 1878, when, as Mrs. White relates, “a few of us united in prayer.”—Life Sketches, p. 238. If Dr. Fairfield, had been one of the “few” who were present at this 1878 vision, would the critic have failed to mention this important fact! He evidently did not even know about this 1878 vision, or he would not have said that the last vision was in 1875.


contacts in the community. He became a physician in 1878 and wrote his letter in 1887. Where was Mrs. White during this period of time? Living regularly in Battle Creek that she might be observed? No. She traveled much and wrote much, and the file of her letters enables us to know within a small margin of error where she was and when. From the beginning of 1878 to the end of 1887 she was in Battle Creek a total of approximately eighteen months, or an average of less than eight weeks out of each year!* And while she was at home in Battle Creek she spent little time out in public for anyone to “observe her.” Most of the time she was in her home, occupied with her housewifely duties, and with her writing. In 1881, when she was in Battle Creek the longest, five months, she was confined at home for three of those months from “lameness,” on account of an accident she suffered on New Year's Day.

We think the reader will not wish us to carry the matter further. Dr. Fairfield, just coming out of medical school in 1878, who, as a physician, had never seen Mrs. White in vision, who had little opportunity even to see her as a fellow citizen in Battle Creek, and whose setting up of a rival medical institution would presumably make him critical of everyone who sponsored the Battle Creek Sanitarium, is presented as an impressive medical authority who is competent to pass judgment on her state in vision!

The Second Medical Witness Examined

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And now the second medical witness. The critic declares:

“Dr. Wm. Russell, long a Seventh-Day Adventist, and a chief physician in the [Battle Creek] Sanitarium, wrote July 12, 1869, that he had made up his mind some time in the past, ‘that Mrs. White's visions were the result of a diseased organization or condition of the brain or nervous system.’”

Let us examine certain facts that bear on Dr. Russell's qualifications as a medical witness:

* Approximate time in Battle Creek each year is as follows: 1878, 2 months; 1879, 4 months; 1880, 4 months; 1881, 5 months; 1882, none; 1883, 1 month; 1884, I month; 1885, none, 1886, none; 1887, 1 month. Mrs. White took long trips over the United States, often as far as California. For two years she was in Europe. For the six years immediately preceding Dr. Fairfield's 1887 letter, she was in Battle Creek a total of three months. How much of that time he could “observe her” as she moved in the community is another matter!


1. The Battle Greek Sanitarium [originally Western Health Reform Institute] was opened in September, 1866. Dr. Russell wrote in July, 1869. And where was Mrs. White during most of the time between these dates? In Battle Greek, where the doctor could observe her? No. She was either traveling or living at her home in Greenville, Michigan, trying to nurse back to health her husband, who had suffered a “stroke” in 1865.

2. And how many public visions did Mrs. White have in Battle Creek during this period of time, so that Dr. Russell, “a chief physician in the Sanitarium,” might observe her with careful medical eye? So far as the records reveal she had one, on Friday night, June 12, 1868, while preaching at the Tabernacle. But there is no evidence that Dr. Russell or any other doctor examined her at that time.

3. There is no evidence that Mrs. White was ever Dr. Russell's patient at the sanitarium. Nor does the meager fraction of a sentence quoted from him make any such claim.

4. There is no evidence, even, that he was “a chief physician.” On the contrary there is clear evidence that he was considered quite otherwise by the responsible leadership of the church. Before us, as we write, is an eight-page leaflet, the only heading to which is the large bold-face opening clause: “To Whom it May Concern.” The first page of this leaflet states that on March 23, 1869, Dr. Wm. Russell left the Health Institute to call on a patient in Wisconsin, and presumably to open a sanitarium there. The leaflet contains a statement regarding his lack of qualifications to manage a medical institution. This is followed by a testimony of reproof from Mrs. White.

In the light of this testimony from her, in the spring of 1869, it is not hard to understand why Dr. Russell, who probably never treated Mrs. White as a patient, and who almost certainly never examined her medically while she was in vision, might write as it is alleged he wrote, in the summer of that year.

5. There is an encouraging sequel to the 1869 incident of the eight-page leaflet and Mrs. White's testimony. In the Review and Herald of April 25, 1871, appears a communication from


Dr. Russell addressed to “Dear Bro. and Sr. White,” in which he repents of his waywardness in rejecting her testimony to him. We quote two sentences: “Had I heeded your reproof and counsel I would have saved myself much sadness and great loss. Space will not allow me to particularize, but I hope in future to undo as far as I can all the wrongs I may have done.”—Page 152.

The Third Medical Witness

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After bringing on Drs. Fairfield and Russell, Canright quotes from some pamphlet against Mrs. White, which is now unavailable, citing what she is supposed to have said in comment on what Dr. Jackson* is supposed to have said, after he is supposed to have examined her: namely, that she was a subject of hysteria. We hardly think our readers will ask us to spend time refuting that kind of evidence.

Then follows immediately this declaration: “Here is the testimony of three physicians, who have personally examined Mrs. White.” He apparently hopes to give added plausibility to this unsupported statement by a similarly unsupported one:

“At the Sanitarium at Battle Greek, Mich., Mrs. White was often treated when ill. The physicians there became familiar with her case. Several of those most prominent there renounced their faith in her visions. This is significant.”

The Fourth Medical Witness

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That Mrs. White should have been treated, at times, at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, or that a few doctors may have been faithless, is hardly significant, nor does he trouble to offer proof in support of his sweeping remark about these “prominent” doctors, other than the proofs here being examined. But what he says immediately following is really the significant part of his whole statement concerning the testimony of medical men:

* Dr. lames C. Jackson of “Our Home,” a medical institution at Dansville, New York. Dr. Jackson may have made such a statement, though the critic provides no proof. Mrs. White, who was there caring for her sink husband in 1865, tells us that she took issue with some of the amusements, like dancing, at “Our Home.” It would therefore not be hard to see how an irritated doctor might wish to discount her words by describing her as nervously upset, or worse. However, we repeat, we have seen no proof that Dr. Jackson ever passed any kind of diagnostic judgment on her.


“Dr. J. H. Kellogg, for many years the head of that institution, has [c. 1919] a world-wide reputation as a physician and a scientist. He was brought up to reverence Mrs. White and her revelations. Through long years he had every opportunity to study her case. Against his best interests he was compelled to lose faith in her visions. He is no longer a believer in her visions. These physicians, so closely connected with her, learned that the visions were simply the result of her weak physical condition.”

This statement that Dr. Kellogg had high medical standing and that “through long years” he “had every opportunity to study her case,” is correct. He was the medical director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium almost from its opening, and down into the twentieth century. Until early in this century he was a prominent figure in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a prime mover in its medical activities.*

This doctor, with “a world-wide reputation as a physician and a scientist,” repeatedly placed on record his pronounced conviction that her visions were of God. His words were Clear, emphatic, and unqualified over the years. No critic who has read anything of Adventist literature would attempt to challenge this statement. This confidence in Mrs. White he expressed as late as the opening years of this century, as his letters to her reveal.

And then what happened? Did Mrs. White in her old age have public visions once more so that Dr. Kellogg could study her “case” anew and as a result be “compelled to lose faith in her visions”? No. When he turned to be an opposer, Mrs. White was in her late seventies and spending her time largely in California. There were no physical manifestations of any kind in connection with her spiritual office in her later years that provided clinical material for a physician to study. His turning away from belief in her was squarely on the same grounds as that of certain others who turned away—nonmedical grounds. Mrs. White spoke out against certain of his views and policies that vitally affected his relationship to the church. He refused to accept her testimony

* He died in 1943, at the age of ninety-one.

In a later chapter on Mrs. White's health teachings there is quoted in full the preface that Dr. Kellogg wrote for the book Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, published in 1890, the first section of which is by Mrs. White. See also Dr. Kellogg's remarkable statement in the chapter, “Was Mrs. White ‘Influenced to Write Testimonies’?” (See p. 512.)


against him, and for the same reason that some others refused to do so—the testimony cut squarely across his path.

The Critic on the Witness Stand

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Speaking of those who long knew Mrs. White intimately while they were leaders in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the critic, Canright, from whom we have been quoting, is himself perhaps the outstanding exhibit. He could not speak as a medical man, but he could describe her as a person. Listen to his description and see whether it fits the personality picture of a nervously or mentally abnormal person. In 1877 he wrote a series of articles for the Review and Herald under the title “A Plain Talk to the Murmurers,” and subtitled “Some Facts for Those Who Are not in Harmony with the Body.” We quote:

“As to the Christian character of Sr. White, I beg leave to say that I think I know something about it. I have been acquainted with Sr. White for eighteen years, more than half the history of our people. I have been in their family time and again, sometimes weeks at a time. They have been in our house and family many times. I have traveled with them almost everywhere; have been with them in private and in public, in meeting and out of meeting, and have had the very best chances to know something of the life, character, and spirit of Bro. and Sr. White. As a minister, I have had to deal with all kinds of persons, and all kinds of character, till I think I can judge something of what a person is, at least after years of intimate acquaintance.

“I know Sr. White to be an unassuming, modest, kind-hearted, noble woman. These traits in her character are not simply put on and cultivated, but they spring gracefully and easily from her natural disposition. She is not self-conceited, self-righteous, and self-important, as fanatics always are. I have frequently come in contact with fanatical persons, and I have always found them to be full of pretentions, full of pride, ready to give their opinion, boastful of their holiness, etc. But I have ever found Sr. White the reverse of all this. Any one, the poorest and the humblest, can go to her freely for advice and comfort without being repulsed. She is ever looking after the needy, the destitute, and the suffering, providing for them, and pleading their cause. I have never formed an acquaintance with any persons who so constantly have the fear of God before them.”—April 26, p. 132.

Canright did not have to write that glowing tribute to Mrs. White in 1877. The only compulsion was that of his own troubled heart. Not long before he wrote this he had for a time dropped out


of active preaching, because he took exception to a testimony written to him by Mrs. White. Then not long after he wrote this tribute he dropped out again from active ministerial work, and for the same reason. All this he makes clear in an article he wrote in 1884, from which we quote:

“Most of the readers of the REVIEW know the part which I have acted in this cause for many years, both in preaching and in writing. They also know that for two years past I have dropped out of the work. I wish here to state why this was so. Some twelve years ago I received a testimony from Sr. White. I felt that it was too severe, and that some of it was not true. Instead of holding on to my faith in the work and to God, and waiting for him to make it clear, I became tried and quit preaching a short time. But I soon got mostly over this, and went to work again, though I did not feel exactly right toward St. White, nor fully accept all the testimony.

“Some five years since I received another testimony while under great discouragement. This I did not receive at all well, but felt hard toward Sr. White, and soon quit the work entirely. But I found no comfort that way, and so, after a short time, went to preaching again. Still I was not heartily in sympathy with all parts of the work, especially the testimonies. I thought I would preach practical truths largely, and as much of the message as I liked; but this did not work, as the brethren were not satisfied, neither was I. So I went to farming….

“A short time since I attended the Northern Michigan camp-meeting with Eld. Butler. Here we had a long time for consultation, prayer, and careful examination of my difficulties…. Light came into my mind, and for the first time in years I could truly say that I believe the testimonies. All my hard feelings toward Sr. White vanished in a moment, and I felt a tender love towards her. Everything looked different….

“I deeply feel that in my past labors I have lacked in spirituality, humility, and a close walk with God. I have often been too hasty and harsh in my labors. I will never rest till all this is changed, and I become a tender-hearted, devoted shepherd of the flock. I will submit to any humiliation, shame, or cross that will fit me to win souls to Christ. I think that my disbelief of the testimonies and other truth has come by opening my heart to doubts, cherishing them and magnifying them.”—Ibid., Oct. 7, 1884, pp. 633, 634.

Not Medical Testimony but Emotions Determine Diagnosis

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Here is our critic in a moment of high contrition and confession, in 1884, describing himself in essentially the same condemnatory language that he a little later employs to describe Mrs. White.


He reveals that his opposition to her teachings resulted, not from a profound study of medical cases, nor from the pressure of irresistible evidence that she was a fraud, a deceiver, or a hoax, but from a mood of resentment at what she wrote to him in counsel, guidance, and rebuke.

Less than three years later Canright left the Adventist ministry for the last time, permanently severed relationships with the church, and began to collect testimony from doctors to prove that she was the exact opposite of the kind of person he had so recently and repeatedly declared her to be. And the farther he removed from her in years and distance, the more dogmatic he became in his diagnosis that her visions were nothing more than the display of a disordered mind. Further comment on his mental-malady charge seems superfluous!

The New Self-delusion Explanation

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Some present-day critics, after they have echoed the old charge of epilepsy, hysteria, and perhaps schizophrenia, add for good measure an amendment, as though to make sure that they cover enough ground to explain Mrs. White's case. Say they: The history of the Christian Era reveals that certain pious people have had ecstatic or trancelike experiences in which they declared that they saw heavenly sights and communed with heavenly beings. Yet they did not have genuine visions such as Bible prophets had. Mrs. White's singular experiences were simply like those of these pious people. She was sincere, but self-deceived, in thinking she had real visions.

It is easy to see why this amendment to the charge has been made. Anyone who looks into a medical book today can see immediately that the charges of epilepsy, hysteria, or schizophrenia will not stand. And anyhow, it sounds more plausible to speak of Mrs. White as simply a self-deceived, pious soul. In fact Canright himself thus spoke of her once in a condescendingly indulgent moment.

However, present-day critics can consistently speak thus only by renouncing all that former critics have said about her cunning deceitfulness and scheming that darkly expressed itself in suppressions


of certain writings, for example, and in other ways. But that is renouncing much, for the hulking structure of indictment against Mrs. White is largely built of charges that she, far from being a piously self-deluded person like certain medieval saints, was instead a cool, calculating individual who set out to deceive others and to make money out of the evil adventure. Let this point be clear to all before we proceed further.

Are the present-day critics who bring forth this theory of pious self-delusion in explanation of her visions really prepared to square all the rest of their thinking about Mrs. White with this theory? If so, then they ought, for safety's sake, to hasten out of the edifice of charges where they have long dwelt with Mrs. White's older critics, lest the logical arms of their new self-delusion theory bring down the house upon their heads. We plead only for consistency in this matter. We ought not to be asked at one and the same time to defend Mrs. White against the charge of cunning and crafty deceiving, befitting the most unsaintly of characters, and against the charge of being self-deceived, though undoubtedly saintly, and thus obviously free of guile!

Chief Weakness in the Argument

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We do not doubt that through the centuries various devout Christians have had unusual spiritual experiences. There is nothing in the Bible that requires us to believe that God never opens the eyes of anyone but a prophet to a scene of spiritual glory, or never gives to any but a prophet a sense of the divine presence.

The principal weakness in the contention of some critics, that Mrs. White's visions were simply like the singular experiences of certain saintly persons, is this: The argument proves too much. Bible critics often use precisely the same argument to explain away the claims of Bible prophets! Indeed, modernist churchmen, who express great love for the Holy Book, but who deny its unique authority and claims, use essentially this argument. But Mrs. White's critics affirm their confidence in the Bible as being exactly what it claims to be, the voice of God to men. We think we hear her critics replying to Bible critics and modernists on this wise:


“We do not grant for a moment the patronizing contention that the ancient prophets, though sincere, were self-deluded men who enjoyed spiritual exercises essentially the same as those enjoyed by many other devout believers in God. We do not believe that self-deception can bring forth such fruitage as the Bible produces. We think it irrational to hold that self-deception can carry with it the compelling power for righteousness that the Bible carries.”

With this answer that Mrs. White's critics give to Bible critics, we heartily agree. Yet both we and Mrs. White's critics know that this answer will never silence these Bible critics who insist that they can read God's Book from Genesis to Revelation without finding therein anything spiritually unique!

We who believe in Mrs. White's claim to the gift of the Spirit of prophecy, use essentially the same line of reasoning in defense of her claim that we use in defense of the ancient prophets.* In this we think we are consistent. Nor do we feel that our defense is necessarily weakened because her critics declare they can read her writings from beginning to end without finding therein anything spiritually unique. We believe that her writings will offer their own testimony to those who are willing to read and to consider the fruitage produced by them over a hundred years of time. For her we would contend, as we earnestly contend for Bible prophets, that it is irrational to hold that self-deception can carry with it the compelling power for righteousness that her writings carry! Nor can self-deception carry with it the far-visioned wisdom and planning that her writings have displayed as they have given direction to a vigorously growing religious movement now active in almost every country in the world.

The Tottering Edifice and the Wayfarer

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Thus we come to the end of our examination of a charge that has impressed many through the years. Reared, ostensibly, on a foundation of medical books, with an ex-Adventist minister as its architect, and reinforced by the testimony of ex-Adventist doctors,

* We do not, however, consider Mrs. White's writings another Bible. (See chapter 6.)


the mental-malady edifice has awed many a wayfarer with its pretentious form. Doubtless we have not demolished it in the minds of those who still wish to keep it probably nothing could do that. But we think that the unprejudiced wayfarer, journeying the road to the kingdom, will no longer be impressed. He will note that medical books have disappeared from the foundation, and that the reinforcing material has crumbled under cross-examination. More than that, he will note that the whole structure is listing dangerously, as if a strong force were pushing it over, the force of Mrs. White's long record of service and devotion released against it.

And if through a broken window of the fast-toppling structure he hears some critic cry out to him: “Mrs. White had hallucinations,” he will be ready to reply: “Indeed! She is more remarkable than I had thought. Deluded creatures see strange sights, but no one else can see even the shadow. But what Mrs. White saw in mystic lines we see hardened into brick and mortar, into sturdy buildings that house Christian schools, publishing plants, and medical institutions.”

Or if from the swaying roof of the foundationless structure another critic steadies himself to call down to the wayfarer: “Mrs. White heard strange voices,” he will be ready to answer back: “Truly, she was most remarkable! Demented creatures hear voices, but no one else even catches the echo. But multitudes have heard through Mrs. White, the sound of a Voice that has stirred them to holy living, to sacrificial zeal, to worldwide missions, and to increasing devotion to Him whose Voice is the guide of all true Christians.”

And with that the wayfarer will doubtless hasten out of range of the tottering structure, amazed that it holds together and that there are still men and women who fondly cling to it.

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