Q&A – Ted N.C. Wilson shares the reasons for his deep convictions — and they start and end with Jesus.
October 23, 2015
Andrew McChesney, news editor, Adventist Review
Ellen White, front row, fifth left, attending a New York camp meeting in 1880. Wilson’s great-grandfather attended a similar event with White. [Photo courtesy of The Ellen G. White Estate]
The grandfather of Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, sat as a boy at the feet of church cofounder Ellen G. White and listened to her stories.
White, who lived close by, visited the Wilson home near Healdsburg, California, in the early 1900s.
Wilson’s grandfather, Nathaniel C. Wilson, and his three brothers eagerly gathered around her chair every time.
“My grandfather remembered Ellen White coming to their ranch home when he was a boy and how she lovingly told stories to him and his brothers as they sat at her feet,” Ted Wilson said.
But those visits are not the only reason that the Wilson family has fond memories of White, a prolific author and tireless evangelist whom Adventists believe had the gift of prophecy. The Wilson family owes its knowledge of the Advent message to the direct practical and prophetic evangelistic activity of White, Wilson said.
The story started when Wilson’s great-grandparents, William and Isabella, immigrated to the United States from Ireland around 1870, eventually becoming fruit and cattle ranchers and the owners of a country store in California.
The couple had four sons, including Wilson’s grandfather. Isabella joined the Adventist Church, but William did not.
Then William attended an Adventist camp meeting at the invitation of his wife in 1905. The speaker was Ellen White, and she spoke about the need of all sinners to have a Savior and allow Him to change their lives.
“She made an earnest appeal and, much to the surprise of Isabella, William stood up and went to the front, giving his heart to the Lord,” Wilson said.
William studied the Advent message for a year. He closed his store on Sabbath. He was baptized and later became the first elder of the Healdsburg Seventh-day Adventist Church, the forerunner location of Pacific Union College.
“Christ changed his life, and he became known as a generous man, helping people in need,” Wilson said.
The transformation in the life of great-grandfather William Wilson is among the reasons that Ted Wilson is a firm supporter of both the Bible and White’s writings, which Adventists commonly refer to as the Spirit of Prophecy. More significantly Wilson said, the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy came from the same source — God — and have the same message — pointing people to Jesus and preparing them for His soon coming.
Wilson has spoken repeatedly about his deep convictions regarding the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy during his five years as president of the Adventist world church, and he indicated after being elected to a second five-year term last July that he would keep the matter in the spotlight.
The reason, he said, is because the Spirit of Prophecy has been entrusted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church to share with the world in the last days of its history.
“The Spirit of Prophecy was given to nurture and assist God’s last-day movement with instruction from heaven,” he said.
“He used the Spirit of Prophecy to guide in the establishment of His remnant church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” he said. “These people would love Him supremely and follow His commandments through His power. He is using the Spirit of Prophecy to prosper His last-day church into the growing Advent movement of millions of members around the world.”
The following Q&A is based on a Sabbath message that Ted Wilson gave during the Spirit of Prophecy Symposium at Andrews University on Oct. 17.
Q: Was Ellen White’s calling biblical?
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church we accept Ellen G. White as a modern servant of the Lord and prophet.
I personally believe and attest that the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy are believable and true because Ellen G. White and her prophetic ministry pass the four biblical tests of a prophet:
1. Her writings agree with the Bible fulfilling Isaiah 8:20: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
2. Her life and works testify of her connection with God fulfilling Matthew 7:20: “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
3. Her prophecies have come to pass fulfilling Jeremiah 28:9: “As for the prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent.”
4. Her writings lift up Christ and affirm Him as the Son of God who came to this Earth to save us fulfilling I John 4:2: “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.”
In addition, her life and work is verified by physical manifestations during visions, the timeliness of her work at the end of time, the certainty and fearlessness of her pronouncements, the high spiritual plane of her work and the practical nature of her explanations about multiple aspects of the Christian life.
Q: Why do Adventists refer to Ellen White’s writings as the Spirit of Prophecy?
The spirit of prophecy is described by the Bible as one of the two characteristics of God’s last-day, remnant church.
Revelation 12:17 says: “And the dragon [Satan] was enraged with the woman [God’s church], and he went to make war with the rest [or remnant] of her off-spring [or seed, God’s last-day people and church], who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Revelation 19:10 goes on to explain that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
The two distinctive characteristics of God’s people are so plain: people who keep the commandments of God — including the vital fourth commandment, which identifies who God is and indicates our submission to our Creator who in six literal, consecutive days created this Earth recently by His word and then rested on the seventh-day Sabbath — and have the testimony of Jesus, which the Bible identifies as the “spirit of prophecy.”
The commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus, or the Spirit of Prophecy, come from the same source: God Himself.
Q: Are Ellen White’s writings equal with the Bible?
Seventh-day Adventists do not portray the Spirit of Prophecy as part of the Bible or equal to the Bible. As Ellen White herself indicated, the Spirit of Prophecy is to lead to the Bible.
However, I fully believe that the Spirit of Prophecy is inspired by the same heavenly inspiration as that of the Bible since it is the testimony of Jesus.
Q: Is Ellen White relevant today?
We have seen and are seeing determined efforts on the part of people motivated by Satan to attack Ellen White’s writings and make it “of none effect.” The Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy both are products of heavenly inspiration and are thus accurate accounts describing the great controversy between good and evil, between Christ and Satan. This is why the devil is determined to destroy the truth found in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.
The testimony of Jesus, which is the Spirit of Prophecy, is integral to the Advent movement. I believe that the Spirit of Prophecy is one of God’s greatest gifts to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It focuses on Christ and His Word — His all-encompassing righteousness, His plan of salvation, His grace and His ministry in the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary. The Spirit of Prophecy portrays God’s plan for His people living at this end-time and waiting for Christ’s soon second coming. The final events of the great controversy are about to take place. I believe that Jesus is coming soon!
The Spirit of Prophecy is as relevant today as it was when it was written. It is accurate, uplifting, instructive and powerful as it points to Christ and to the Holy Bible. It is truly the testimony of Jesus and that’s why I believe in the prophetic ministry of Ellen White.
Q: Do you have concerns about how church members treat the Bible and Ellen White’s writings?
As we face the last days of Earth’s history, we know there will be a determined effort by Satan to destroy the effectiveness of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.
We see the neutralization of God’s authoritative Word all around us. The historical-critical method applied to the Word of God reduces its effectiveness as authoritative. It is Satan’s plan to undermine God’s plain “Thus saith the Lord.”
One of the greatest threats against the Spirit of Prophecy is not necessarily animosity but rather the threat of indifference. Today many members are unacquainted with it, don’t read it or just plain ignore it.
In Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pages 390-391 we read, “The volumes of the Spirit of Prophecy [forerunner of The Conflict of the Ages series], and also the Testimonies, should be introduced into every Sabbath-keeping family, and the brethren should know their value and be urged to read them. … They should be in the library of every family and read again and again. Let them be kept where they can be read by many, and let them be worn out in being read by all the neighbors.”
Various projects, including “Connecting with Jesus,” have circulated millions of Spirit of Prophecy books to the public and to church members around the world. The rapid expansion of the Seventh-day Adventist Church demands that our members know in their own languages and dialects what Spirit of Prophecy counsel God has for His last-day church.
The devil is so intent on destroying the influence of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy because it contains the counsel needed to help finish God’s work on this Earth through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Q: What is the impact of Ellen White’s writings on the church and the world?
This church would not be where it is without the special guidance given it by God through Ellen White in the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy.
The counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy has been instrumental in establishing publishing, health, education, humanitarian and media institutions. The Spirit of Prophecy guides the pastoral, evangelistic, missionary and administrative expansion of the church. The Spirit of Prophecy provides instruction in almost every aspect of life, including theology, lifestyle, personal health, the family, the home, young people, interpersonal relationships, personal stewardship, and many others. The Spirit of Prophecy is guiding God’s people and always will until the Lord returns. This also is why I believe in Ellen G. White’s prophetic ministry.
As a result of Spirit of Prophecy guidance, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not just another denomination but a heaven-born Advent movement with a special destiny — a mission and message to proclaim found in Revelation 14:6-12 — the three angels’ messages.Testimonies, Volume 9, page 19, tells us: “In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the Word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import — the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention.”
Q: What would Ellen White say to people who express disappointment in the church?
The devil knows that if he can get God’s people to look to themselves and their own opinions instead of looking to Christ that he will be able to bring in dissension, disunity, and tension. It is one of his greatest tools against the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Another powerful reason I believe in the prophetic ministry of Ellen White through the Spirit of Prophecy is the emphasis on unity that is presented.
God has called us to be participants in the greatest proclamation of truth in history, the culmination of the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan. God entrusts us with the task of sharing Christ who lived a sinless life, died for us, rose again, who is now interceding on our behalf as our High Priest and who is to soon return to take us to heaven. We have been called to share the Word of God in all its power through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In this heavenly calling, we will be confronted with people who will disagree with our message and mission. We may be tempted to become discouraged with the apathy of others within the church. Whatever we may face, we should not be tempted to work independently and apart from the church. We are called to work within God’s last-day remnant church not apart from it.
Stay unified with your local church and with the worldwide church family. Stay close to the church regardless of its imperfections. Keep the Lord and His mission for His church always before you.
Q: As a child, what did you think of Ellen White?
I grew up in a home that held the Spirit of Prophecy in great respect. My father always spoke so positively and passionately about it. My mother gave such unflinching loyalty to God’s Word and the Spirit of Prophecy. I never heard a scornful word or a disparaging remark from my parents about the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy.
My wonderful wife, Nancy, grew up in a home with the same positive attitude. She loves to daily read the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy as do I. It has a tremendous influence in our home. I advanced from the early trust instilled in my heart by my parents to my own personal deep appreciation for the counsel, direction and clarification in the Spirit of Prophecy. Parents, instill in your children a love for and confidence in God’s Holy Word and the Spirit of Prophecy. As I read the Spirit of Prophecy I accept that its inspiration by God because it is the testimony of Jesus.
Q: What has the Spirit of Prophecy done for you personally?
It has pointed me to Christ and His plan of salvation. It has pointed me back to the Bible. It has amplified many aspects of Scripture. It has given me a strong belief in the leading of God in the lives of those who commit themselves into His hands as I have observed the work of our church’s pioneers. It has given me new insight to Christian living. It has drawn me closer to Christ.
It has provided incredible understanding of how to accomplish our mission entrusted to us by the very One who inspired the Spirit of Prophecy. For instance, it has given me an unusual burden for “Revival and Reformation,” for “Mission to the Cities,” for “Comprehensive Health Ministry,” for Christ and His righteousness, for faithfulness to God, for “Total Member Involvement,” of which you will hear much more, for the use of publications and media in our evangelistic outreach, for an understanding of prophecy, for the sanctuary service, for the work of departments and on and on. It points us back to Christ and His work for us on the cross and His soon Second Coming.
You read the Spirit of Prophecy, and you will be positively changed forever as it points us back to Christ, His ministry, and His work for us in preparing a world through the Holy Spirit’s leading for the new world to come after the Lord’s return. The Spirit of Prophecy has given me an inexhaustible resource for implementing heaven’s plans for the Advent movement. When I think about the Spirit of Prophecy, I just am thrilled with happiness that God would provide us with so much information to accomplish His will in our lives personally and for His church’s mission to the world.
For me personally, I am so excited to have the written Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy. There are no better sources of clear, understandable instruction from God. These two heavenly sources of God’s instruction have given me a very settled confidence in God Himself and His plans for you and me.