A Zeal Not According to Knowledge

The Zeal

Daniel Winters (as EarlySDA), has posted more than 5900 comments on Disqus forums since joining such forums 49 months ago.  Roughly, that means he has posted an average of one comment about every six hours for 1300 consecutive days.

That takes zeal (and it also means that you might need to devote substantial energy to dialoging with him if you want to trade posts back and forth).

His life and ministry have demonstrated his personal zeal to the satisfaction of sensible persons.  He has collected and promoted the 1858 Spiritual Gifts book (known as the “Great Controversy” several decades before the much larger books by that name were published.)

On his website you can find that book translated into many languages.  I especially appreciate Khmer, because few Ellen White books are available in that language.  So today I sent a copy (taken from Daniel’s site) to one of my Cambodian students.

I don’t fault Daniel for his zeal in distributing that book.  And I don’t fault the book.  You might say that we agree on many things.

So it surprised a few people when, a couple months ago, Daniel (out of the blue) lightly attacked me in a comment on an article I had written.

I can’t say it much surprised me, though.  Granted, we haven’t communicated directly in quite a while.  But we did communicate with each other for some time years ago.  I think it was in 2012 (because that is the time-stamp on the document I prepared for him.  If I edited it after the fact, our conversation might have been earlier, and maybe even much earlier.)

Not According to Knowledge

Daniel is a commandment-breaker.  I am certain he doesn’t believe he is.  But nonetheless, he accuses persons of tampering with Ellen White’s writings in such a way as to make them “spurious.”  That is the word he uses for a quote he particularly doesn’t like.  This is it:

The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God's mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen. Look at the different writers.  {1SM 21.1} 
It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God.-- Manuscript 24, 1886 (written in Europe in 1886).  {1SM 21.2}

Following this, in the book, is another related statement.

There is variety in a tree, there are scarcely two leaves just alike. Yet this variety adds to the perfection of the tree as a whole.  {1SM 21.3} 
In our Bible, we might ask, Why need Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Gospels, why need the Acts of the Apostles, and the variety of writers in the Epistles, go over the same thing?  {1SM 21.4} 
The Lord gave His word in just the way He wanted it to come.  He gave it through different writers, each having his own individuality, though going over the same history.  Their testimonies are brought together in one Book, and are like the testimonies in a social meeting.  They do not represent things in just the same style.  Each has an experience of his own, and this diversity broadens and deepens the knowledge that is brought out to meet the necessities of varied minds.  The thoughts expressed have not a set uniformity, as if cast in an iron mold, making the very hearing monotonous. In such uniformity there would be a loss of grace and distinctive beauty. . . .  {1SM 21.5} 
The Creator of all ideas may impress different minds with the same thought, but each may express it in a different way, yet without contradiction.  The fact that this difference exists should not perplex or confuse us.  It is seldom that two persons will view and express truth in the very same way.  Each dwells on particular points which his constitution and education have fitted him to appreciate.  The sunlight falling upon the different objects gives those objects a different hue.  {1SM 22.1} 
Through the inspiration of His Spirit the Lord gave His apostles truth, to be expressed according to the development of their minds by the Holy Spirit.  But the mind is not cramped, as if forced into a certain mold.-- Letter 53, 1900.  {1SM 22.2}

These statements Daniel Winters can’t accept.  His view is that God chooses the individual words that the prophets write.  They receive from God, he believes, direct word-for-word guidance.

He isn’t the only one that believes this way.  Many evangelicals have the same view.  They say the original texts of scripture were verbally inspired in such a way that no improvement could be made in the expressions.

Adventists might have ended up in this camp if we hadn’t had the hands-on-experience with a living prophet.  We learned that the vocabulary of a prophet grows over time.  We learned that some expressions of a prophet can, indeed, be improved.

In Ellen White’s case, one classic example was what she wrote in the 1888 edition of the Great Controversy regarding “fallen, fallen.”

The message of Revelation 14 announcing the fall of Babylon, must apply to religious bodies that were once pure and have become corrupt. Since this message follows the warning of the Judgment, it must be given in the last days, therefore it cannot refer to the Romish Church, for that church has been in a fallen condition for many centuries {GC88 382.3}.

When Ellen White wrote above “therefore it cannot refer to the Romish Church,” careful Adventist readers understood her to mean that it could not refer uniquely to the Romish Church, but must include the Protestant churches.  Why would they think this?  Because of the sentence immediately preceding these two sentences is quite explicit.

 Babylon is said to be “the mother of harlots.” By her daughters must be symbolized churches that cling to her doctrines and traditions, and follow her example of sacrificing the truth and the approval of God, in order to form an unlawful alliance with the world. – Ibid.

So when you put these sentences together (as you must since they are part of the same paragraph) you get the idea that Babylon is both the papacy and her protestant daughters and that the need for an announcement shows that it cannot refer uniquely to the former.

Ellen White explicitly approved an improvement of the expression to say just this.  In the 1911 edition we read:

The message of Revelation 14, announcing the fall of Babylon must apply to religious bodies that were once pure and have become corrupt.  Since this message follows the warning of the judgment, it must be given in the last days; therefore it cannot refer to the Roman Church alone, for that church has been in a fallen condition for many centuries. –{GC 382.3} 

But such a change as this is anathema to Daniel Winters.  Why?  See below.


If you dialogue with him, he is likely to prove to you that the words of Scripture were dictated by the Spirit of God.  Now by “dictated” he understands “each word was chosen.”  This is the usage we give to the word when we say “she took dictation.”  It is the usage in the phrase “dictation machine.”

This became the primary usage fairly recently, long after Ellen White’s death.

In her writings, as in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, the primary usage meant to give instruction or direction.  That usage had nothing to do with word-for-word transcription.

Her usage is plain in this statement where men might want to “dictate” to God by giving Ellen White instructions of what she should preach.

Two elders visited me on Sabbath morning, and I was asked by one what I was going to speak upon.  I said, "Brethren, you leave that matter with the Lord and Sister White, for neither the Lord nor Sister White will need to be dictated to by the brethren as to what subject she will bring before them. {16MR 215.2}

In like manner, a course of study “dictated by the Spirit of God” refers to a godly education, not to classes where each word is dictated by Divine inspiration.  Only a Spirit-dictated godly education is approved of God

That course of study which is not dictated by the Holy Spirit, which does not embrace the high, holy principles of God's word, will open before the student a course unmarked by the approval of heaven.  It will leave gaps, and mistakes, and misunderstandings all along the road he travels.  Those who will not give themselves to a deep, earnest, prayerful study of the Scriptures will hold ideas contrary to the principles that should control the life.  {YI, March 31, 1898 par. 9} 

These statements, and others like them, show that when God dictated to his scribes, the prophets, He was authoritatively giving them messages for us.  Those statements don’t address the mode of inspiration.

If you continue dialoguing with him, Winters is likely to prove to you very well that the words of the Bible are God’s words.  That is exceedingly true.  But not in the way that he proposes.


Why is it, for example, that often “the Word” is used singularly? Why do we find references to the “Word of God”?  Are these references to a word like “love” or “Sabbath” or “holiness”?  Or are they references to an entire collection of inspired ideas?  Obviously, it is the latter.

And even in the plural, the same is generally true.  When the Bible speaks of “ten words” it means “Ten Commandments.”  And when it speaks of “one word” it means “one idea.”

And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, (Ac 28:25).
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Gal. 5:14).
And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water.  And He wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten words  (Ex. 34:28).

So in this sense, the words of Scripture are God’s words.  They are God’s ideas.  And, accordingly, they are precisely true and accurate.

On the other hand, there are reasons that Luke uses “immediately” more than other writers. It was his style, not God’s.  And there are reasons that 1 Peter differs from 2 Peter in terms of style.  One was written by the fisherman, and one by his scribe.  That produces no difference in truthfulness, only a difference in expression.  (And for the same reason, the difference disappears in translation.)

My Accusation Against Daniel Winters

At the head of this section I made a strong accusation against Daniel.  I said he is a commandment breaker.  Now let me back that up.

Which command does he break?  The 9th.  That is the one that many violate when they teach that Ellen White’s writings have been manipulated or changed so that statements unwelcomed by the accusers are viewed as “spurious.”  To say that Smith, or Butler, or Froom, or Willie changed the writings of the prophet to say other than what she intended to say, is to make a grave accusation against an elder.  And if it is a false accusation, it is a violation of the 9th commandment indeed.

And to say that Ellen White let anything go out over her signature without approval is likewise a violation of the 9th commandment.  But it is a violation that Daniel committed today (September 9).  The following is from him.

Since I gave you several quotes from the Bible and SOP showing that the words are God's words, and that they are inspired, you should be able to tell by now that the Selected Messages quote is spurious.  Just the name "Selected" should be a yellow flag for anyone searching for God's words.  (Disqus comments by “earlysda” on the article “The Sweetest Apostle.”)

No one should be angry with Winters over his belief that the writings have been corrupted.  But neither should anyone follow him there.  Instead, we should learn to discount the ideas of a man that places himself over inspiration such that he discounts entire statements that disagree with his pet theories.

Winters faults me for not believing God chose the precise words of the prophets, though he knows I believe God did choose the ideas of the prophets.

I fault Winters for not believing even the ideas of the prophet when those ideas counter his personal understanding of things. Who is authorized to say which Ellen White writings are inspired and which are not?  In her day she rebuked those who took up that daring project.

Another Fault

Daniel has become a negative person.  Visit his Disqus page and read 50 random statements and see what you find for the fruits of his views regarding inspiration on his own character. They have not profited him personally.  This is the one type of ad hominem argument the Bible authorizes you to make, at least to yourself.

Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.  For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein (Hebrews 13:9).

His views match oddly with history.  Ellen White worked tirelessly for decades, for example, to promote the sale of the 1888 Great Controversy, and then briefly of the 1911 edition before she died. Her writings to canvassers and colporteurs about that book are strong recommendations.

But Daniel Winters appears to consider these to be books that fulfill Ellen White’s prophecy that “books of a new order would be written.”  How sad.  The last deception will be to make of none effect the testimonies, and this zealous man has helped forward this last deception. Ironically, the prophecy that such a change could take place happened long after many of the changes that Daniel Winters alleges to be nefarious.  Below is the statement.  Judge for yourself, dear reader, if the books of Ellen White that you find on your shelves are the type of books alluded to here when she writes “books of a new order.”

The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed, they would place their dependence on human power, which, without God, is worthless. Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure.  {1SM 204.2} 


Daniel Winters is a warning to all of us.  In his experience you can see how the efforts of a lifetime can be largely wasted by an unwillingness to acknowledge God’s hand in Ellen White’s experience with secretaries and literary helpers.

But don’t react.  Don’t let his insistence that God chose every word drive you to deny that the thoughts (and thus the words that express them) are inspired.  Every word of God is pure.  And ten of those words are the Law of God.  And if I say, “I want the last word,” you know that I don’t mean one word.

Jesus is the Word of God. His Words were not his own, but were given him by His Father.  That is beautiful.  I want that.  And I won’t let a petty argument about inspiration drive me away from a firm faith that I can rest my whole weight on whatever God says.

And while we fault his misguided zeal against many of those writings we believe are by Ellen White, we ought not to discount the value of what he has done in promoting a book that all parties appreciate, the 1858 “Great Controversy.”




Eugene Prewitt directs the Bible Teacher Training hosted by Aenon.  From there, his teachers train young people from around Asia to reach the various people groups of South East Asia. During school breaks and on weekends he and his wife Heidi frequently travel to put on presentations on Bible topics, canvassing and on Christian Education.