SDARM, Bible & E. White

Sola Scriptura or Papal Tradition? Catholic-Adventists and the SDARM Interpretation of the Bible

The Reformists of the SDARM generally BELIEVE and TEACH:
- SDA Messenger Ellen White, rather than the Bible, can (in practice if not in theory) be used to justify doctrine.
- That only the KJV version of the Bible can be used.
- That one should use the proof-text method of biblical interpretation, citing Isaiah 28, of ‘precept-upon-precept’.
The Reformists are WRONG because:
- As Protestant Christians, we should rely on the Bible and the Bible alone (known as sola sciptura) as the basis for all our doctrine – we shouldn’t just pay lip-service to the idea.
- In practice, SDARM Reformers give more weight to Ellen White than the Bible, treat her as infallible, and quote her without consideration to her 19th-Century Western Victorian context.
- Ellen White herself counselled that the Bible and the Bible alone should be our standard for doctrine. In practice, the Reformists justify their positions first from Ellen White and only secondly from the Bible.
- Mrs White also counselled that we should not be quoting her from our pulpits in our public labour.  In practice, Reformist preaching is full of Ellen White quotes as much as if not more so than the Bible.
- Concerning versions of the Bible, there is nothing more holy about the KJV version compared with other versions of the Bible, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek not English, the KJV is based on a less widespread number of manuscripts, the KJV itself has translation errors, the KJV was made to serve the interests of the Church of England clergy, and the KJV uses archaic language no longer understandable by the masses.
- Concerning methods of interpreting the Bible, the proof-method is not supported by scripture itself. The phrase ‘precept-upon-precept’ (Hebrew sav lasav sav lasav / kav lakav kav lakav’) in Isaiah 28:1,13 actually means the opposite of what the Reformists teach – it is a gibberish statement akin to ‘blah, blah’ in English.  God is actually condemning the ancient Israelite leaders for teaching the people such stammering.

Mainstream SDA and SDARM views of the Bible
Many Protestant Christians adhere to the idea of sola scriptura (Latin for "by scripture alone"), which is the idea that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. The mainstream SDA position enshrines this principle in its Fundamental Belief #1:

‘1. The Holy Scriptures:
The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God's acts in history. (2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Ps. 119:105; Prov. 30:5, 6; Isa. 8:20; John 17:17; 1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 4:12.)’
On the surface, the SDARM view seems somewhat similar:
‘The Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are the word of God. They were given by inspiration of God, contain the all-sufficient revelation of God's will to man, and are the only unerring rule of faith and practice.’
Despite these apparent resemblances, this article will demonstrate that the mainstream SDA and SDARM views of scripture are different – if in practice if more so than in just theory.  In particular, the practical differences explored in this article include the following:

  • The mainstream SDA Church adheres to the Protestant ideal of sola scriptura to support its doctrines; like the Roman Catholic Church, the SDARM relies on extra-biblical sources (namely Ellen White and tradition) for its official positions.
  • The mainstream SDA Church relies on ancient scriptural manuscripts in the original ancient languages of Hebrew and Koine Greek for its official positions; the SDARM relies on the Old-English 1604 King James Version of the Bible.
  • The mainstream SDA Church is keen to understand scripture in context; the SDARM cherry-picks scriptural texts without regard to context.
  • The mainstream SDA Church adopts a thought-inspiration view that understands God was with the penmen of the Bible; like Muslims, the SDARM adopts a verbal-inspiration view in seeing God in the pen.
  • The mainstream SDA Church are ‘People of the Book’; the SDARM are ‘People of the Chart’.
Does the SDARM promote Roman Catholic teaching of using extra-biblical sources, rather than the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura?
In a word – yes, in practice if not in theory.
As taught by the 'independent historic' Reformists in “How to Study Your Bible” by Cameron Schofield, published in Sabbath Sermons:
‘Revelation 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
Don’t add to it, don’t take away from it. Every word of God is pure and there is nothing you can do to remove it.
And to all eternity men may be ever searching, ever learning, and yet never exhaust the treasures of His wisdom, His goodness, and His power. {SC 109.1}
When we open the word of God we must not put our thoughts upon God’s word. We must come to his word as a blank page not placing any expectations of our own upon it thinking this is what God means when he doesn’t. God himself must interpret his word not you. Why must he interpret his word? Why must I lay down my own thoughts?’
Good advice – pity the SDARM does not practice it. The truth of the matter is, Reformers do not read the Bible as a blank page.  Instead, they come to the Word with a near-crushing weight of preconceived bias. 
Instead of relying on the Bible and the Bible alone, they view the scriptures through the filters of extra-biblical sources. The two most notable examples of this are their overreliance on Ellen White and sacred tradition.  As such, the SDARM are not true adherence of the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura.
Ellen White
The first reason why the SDARM cannot be said to be true adherents of the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is their overreliance on the teachings of SDA pioneer Ellen White.  The way they quote her is reminiscent of the way Roman Catholics use Augustine, Thomas Aquinas or other Church Fathers to defend their positions.  Moreover, the SDARM’s utilisation of Mrs White’s statements seem little different from the way a Papal Bull or other pronouncement is issued from the Vatican.  Such an approach in practice, even if denied in official statements, is anathema to true Protestants engaged in the process of true reformation.
For any person who attends a SDARM sermon, or reads anything provided by them, they will notice the sheer amount of Ellen White quotations.  Moreover, in many respects, more weight is given to Mrs White’s writings than the Bible, or Bible texts are read wholly through the prism of Ellen White.  One wonders if the Reformers have fallen into the trap as observed by Arthur L. White in ComprehensiveIndex to the Writings of Ellen G. White (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1963), vol. 3, p. 3214:
‘The counsels are not given to take the place of faith, initiative, hard work, or Bible study. God did not use the Spirit of Prophecy to make us dependent or weak. Rather, the counsels are to make us strong by encouraging us to study the word of God, and by encouraging us to move forward.’
There can be perhaps no better or ironic demonstration of this problem than the official public fundamental beliefs of the SDARM. Every single one of the SDARM’s 25 belief statements is full of Ellen White quotations.  However, the absurdity of this position reaches its full height in their fundamental belief on The Holy Scriptures:
‘The Holy Scriptures, God's writing of love, explain the origin, fall and redemption of mankind. It contains the all-sufficient revelation of God's will to men as our only infallible rule of faith and practice under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. John 5:39; Psalm 89:34 (cf Matthew 22:29; John 7:17); Luke 24:44, 45; Psalm 119:104, 105; Isaiah 8:20; 2 Timothy 3:15.
The Bible (Old and New Testaments) is the authority to teach us and correct us, showing us the difference between right and wrong. Mark 12:24; Act 17:11; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17; James 1:22, 23; 1 Peter 1:22, 23. Therefore, our individual stand before God and our relationship with one another must be based on a "Thus saith the Lord." Matthew 7:12; John 8:32; 16:13; 17:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:13.
Christ's presence with men of God, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, in both the Old and New Testament times, is the origin of the written Word of God. 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16; Luke 16:29, 31; John 5:46, 47. Proof of divine inspiration of the Bible is found in the Bible itself. 1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
Through the ministration of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is self-explanatory and does not need any human tradition or catechism for its interpretation. Isaiah 28:10; 34:16; 2 Peter 1:19, 20. If we live in harmony with the Holy Scriptures, the promises and blessings of the Lord are ours. Luke 11:28; Matthew 4:4; 7:21, 24, 25; John 6:63; 8:31.
"The whole Bible is a manifestation of Christ, and the Saviour desired to fix the faith of His followers on the word. When His visible presence should be withdrawn, the word must be their source of power."—The Desire of Ages, p. 390.
"The Bible is the most wonderful of all histories, for it is the production of God, not of the finite mind. It carries us back through the centuries to the beginning of all things, presenting the history of times and scenes which would otherwise never have been known. It reveals the glory of God in the working of His providence to save a fallen world. It presents in the simplest language the mighty power of the gospel, which, received, would cut the chains that bind men to Satan's chariot."—Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 377.
"Every part of the Bible is given by inspiration of God and is profitable. The Old Testament no less than the New should receive attention. As we study the Old Testament we shall find living springs bubbling up where the careless reader discerns only a desert."—Education, p. 191.
"It is not the mere reading of the word that will accomplish the result that is designed by Heaven, but the truth revealed in the word of God must find an entrance into the heart, if the good intended is obtained."—Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 131.
"The whole Bible is a revelation of the glory of God in Christ. Received, believed, obeyed, it is the great instrumentality in the transformation of character. And it is the only sure means of intellectual culture."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 319.
"By looking constantly to Jesus with the eye of faith, we shall be strengthened. God will make the most precious revelations to His hungering, thirsting people. They will find that Christ is a personal Saviour. As they feed upon His word, they find that it is spirit and life. The word destroys the natural, earthly nature, and imparts a new life in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes to the soul as a Comforter. By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced in the disciple; he becomes a new creature."—The Desire of Ages, p. 391.
"The Bible, and the Bible alone, [is] the foundation of our faith."—Selected Messages, book 2, p. 85.
"God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority—not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain 'Thus saith the Lord' in its support."—The Great Controversy, p. 595.’
In the above statement, 499 of the 748 words (66%) are from Ellen White.  It is a shame the SDARM did not follow her own advice, by sticking to the Bible and the Bible alone as the standard for all their doctrines. Thus, one could reasonably ask whether the SDARM really does believe in ‘Thus saith the Lord’ or rather practices ‘Thus saith Sister White’?
The fact the SDARM could not help themselves in including these quotations in their official public statement of beliefs illustrates the point; they do not in fact adhere to Mrs White’s own counsel on the primacy of scripture – even if they pay lip-service to the idea.   Thus, by quoting Ellen White in a statement about the Bible, the SDARM demonstrates it does not in fact adhere to her own teaching of the Bible and the Bible alone as the only rule for doctrine.   
The other irony is that the SDARM propensity to overly rely on Ellen White is actually contrary to her own counsel.  Mrs White made clear that her writings should not be used in public to defend doctrinal positions, as these should only be defended from the Bible:
‘In public labor do not make prominent, and quote that which Sister White has written, as authority to sustain your positions. To do this will not increase faith in the testimonies. Bring your evidences, clear and plain, from the Word of God. A [p. 30] "Thus saith the Lord" is the strongest testimony you can possibly present to the people. Let none be educated to look to Sister White, but to the mighty God, who gives instruction to Sister White.’ (Letter 11, 1894.) 
And as further warned by Mrs White herself:
‘Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light.’ (The Review and Herald, Jan. 20, 1903. Quoted in Colporteur Ministry, p. 125.)
One might ask then how the mainstream SDA position differs from the SDARM position?  In many respects, the difference is much more in the practical implementation rather than theory.  However, the mainstream SDA Church is careful in adopting a more balanced approach to her writings, as affirmed by its General Conference:
1.         We do not believe that the quality or degree of inspiration in the writings of Ellen White is different from that of Scripture.
2.         We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White are an addition to the canon of Sacred Scripture.
3.         We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White function as the foundation and final authority of Christian faith as does Scripture.
4.         We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White may be used as the basis of doctrine.
5.         We do not believe that the study of the writings of Ellen White may be used to replace the study of Scripture.
6.         We do not believe that Scripture can be understood only through the writings of Ellen White.
7.         We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White exhaust the meaning of Scripture.
8.         We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White are essential for the proclamation of the truths of Scripture to society at large.
9.         We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White are the product of mere Christian piety.
10.      We do not believe that Ellen White's use of literary sources and assistants negates the inspiration of her writings.
The mainstream SDA Church certainly doesn’t quote Ellen White in its official public statement of 28 fundamental beliefs as the SDARM does.

What Ellen White herself says

As helpfully collated by the Ellen White Estate, on multiple occasions, Sister White herself explained that the Bible and the Bible alone is our rule of faith:

'Relation of E. G. White Writings to the Bible Recognized in First Book. I recommend to you, dear reader, the Word of God as the rule of your faith and practice. By that Word we are to be judged. God has, in that Word, promised to give visions in the "last days"; not for a new rule of faith, but for the comfort of His people, and to correct those who err from Bible truth. Thus God dealt with Peter when He was about to send him to preach to the Gentiles. (A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White, p. 64 [1851]. Reprinted in Early Writings, p. 78.)
Not to Take the Place of the Word. The Lord desires you to study your Bibles. He has not given any additional light to take the place of His Word. This light is to bring confused minds to His Word, which, if eaten and digested, is as the lifeblood of the soul. Then good works will be seen as light shining in darkness. (Letter 130, 1901.)
Get Proofs From the Bible. In public labor do not make prominent, and quote that which Sister White has written, as authority to sustain your positions. To do this will not increase faith in the testimonies. Bring your evidences, clear and plain, from the Word of God. A [p. 30] "Thus saith the Lord" is the strongest testimony you can possibly present to the people. Let none be educated to look to Sister White, but to the mighty God, who gives instruction to Sister White. (Letter 11, 1894.) .
Relationship of E. G. White Writings to Bible--The Lesser Light. Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light. (The Review and Herald, Jan. 20, 1903. Quoted in Colporteur Ministry, p. 125.)
Not for the Purpose of Giving New Light. Brother J would confuse the mind by seeking to make it [p. 31] appear that the light God has given through the Testimonies is an addition to the Word of God, but in this he presents the matter in a false light. God has seen fit in this manner to bring the minds of His people to His Word, to give them a clearer understanding of it.
The Word of God is sufficient to enlighten the most beclouded mind, and may be understood by those who have any desire to understand it. But notwithstanding all this, some who profess to make the Word of God their study are found living in direct opposition to its plainest teachings. Then, to leave men and women without excuse, God gives plain and pointed testimonies, bringing them back to the Word that they have neglected to follow.
The Word of God abounds in general principles for the formation of correct habits of living, and the testimonies, general and personal, have been calculated to call their attention more especially to these principles. (Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 663, 664.)
Testimonies to Bring Plain Lessons From the Word. In the Scriptures God has set forth practical lessons to govern the life and conduct of all; but though He has given minute particulars in regard to our character, conversation, and conduct, yet in a large measure, His lessons are disregarded and ignored. Besides the instruction in His Word, the Lord has given special testimonies to His people, not as a new revelation, but that He may set before us the plain lessons of His Word, that errors may be corrected, that the right way may be pointed out, that every soul may be without excuse. (Letter 63, 1893.) (See Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 665.)'
Sacred Tradition
The second major reason why the SDARM cannot be considered true Protestants, who adhere to sola scriptura, is because of the implicit importance they place on tradition.  Again, this is as much in the practical implementation as official statements.  Again, on this issue they share much with the Roman Catholic Church, which has its own special extra-biblical traditions about clothing, liturgy, food, organisation and asceticism.
The point is illustrated by anyone who happens to attend a SDARM Church.  One will immediately think they have entered some form of time-warp, being transported back in time – not to Bible times, but to 19th Century Victorian America of the SDA Pioneers.  One will quickly observe the importance of tradition in everything Reformers do, from the clothes they wear, to the way they do their hair, to the songs they sing, to the food they eat, to the pervasive spirit of criticism and holy self-righteousness that permeates everything they do or say.  
If one scratches the surface and is truly honest with themself, he or she will have to admit that the Reformer’s way of life owes less to the Bible than to a specific cultural tradition inherited from over a century ago from the North-East United States. One might ask where in the Bible it instructs us to wear suits and ties to Church (which have origins in European military uniforms), where the recipe for glutton steaks is, or where the music for the organ can be found – topics more specifically dealt with in other articles on this site.    
The Reformers look upon the SDA Pioneers as an alleged golden period, which we must all emulate exactly to a minute detail – even though in reality it was a time of immense cultural and theological change and innovation.  As such, the SDARM fail to distinguish eternal biblical principles from their particular application, where the latter does change according to time, history, geography and culture.  They fail to grasp the essence of Paul’s core method in how to spread the Gospel in 1 Cor 9:20:
‘To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.’
They mistake the excuse of being a ‘peculiar people’ for isolationism.  In doing so, they hide their light under a bushel, and act as salt that has lost its saltiness, as Jesus warned in Matt 5:13,14:
‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.’ 
      They act like the first Judaizer Christians condemned by the Apostles and Elders, who in Act 15:1 wrongly taught that a convert need to follow all the rules of Judaism (i.e. circumcision) before they could be saved.  The Apostle James in Acts 15:19 declared:
‘Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God.’
They have focused on a specific, 19th Century American-Victorian application rather than the eternal biblical principle.  In this way, they act much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ own day.
The Reformer’s Talmud
The SDARM overreliance on Ellen White and Sacred Tradition is illustrative of the very worst aspects of ultra-conservative Adventism.   In Desire of Ages at chapter 42, in commenting on Matt 15:1-20 and Mar 7:1-23, Ellen White herself warned of the dangers of rabbinical tradition creating unnecessary burdens for God’s people:
‘But the apparent zeal for God on the part of the priests and rabbis was a pretense to cover their desire for self-aggrandizement. The people were deceived by them. They were bearing heavy burdens which God had not imposed. Even the disciples of Christ were not wholly free from the yoke that had been bound upon them by inherited prejudice and rabbinical authority. Now, by revealing the true spirit of the rabbis, Jesus sought to free from the bondage of tradition all who were really desirous of serving God.
"Ye hypocrites," He said, addressing the wily spies, "well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." The words of Christ were an arraignment of the whole system of Pharisaism. He declared that by placing their requirements above the divine precepts the rabbis were setting themselves above God.
The deputies from Jerusalem were filled with rage. They could not accuse Christ as a violator of the law given from Sinai, for He spoke as its defender against their traditions. The great precepts of the law, which He had presented, appeared in striking contrast to the petty rules that men had devised.’
One might well argue if the SDARM of today is any different from these Pharisees of old?  What would Jesus say of the Reformist leaders, who in their zeal heap additional and unnecessary burdens on the people of God?
Do the SDARM today turn Ellen White and their sacred tradition into a new Oral Law, which Jesus condemned?  Do they elevate the commentary over the original sacred text? Have they all become Talmudic scholars, experts in the minutiae of the commentary, whilst at the same time becoming oblivious to the spirit of eternal biblical principles?

Does the SDARM rely on the 1611 English King James Version of the Bible rather than the original manuscripts in ancient Hebrew and Greek?
Again – yes, in practice if not in theory.
The SDARM would fall within the ‘KVJ-Only’ group of ultra-conservative Christians who believe the King James Version is the only English version Christians should use.  In many cases, these KVJ-Only proponents believe the translators of the KVJ are somehow inspired.
As admitted by the 'independent historic' Reformists “How to Study Your Bible”:
‘In the reading of God’s word in seeking to understand it as it reads in its purity, if you will read any other version than the King James you will be disadvantaged. The gospel in its entirety is not in any of the other versions. Many will say its God’s word, no it’s not. In the dark ages Satan worked hard to keep the word of God away from the people but the time is come that he can’t so what he is done is now is say we will let the Bible be in every home but with many different versions and translations with subtle little twists. You can read it that’s fine, you can do what is written in there, but it’s not God’s word. Some say the King James Version is an old language and we don’t speak that anymore.
If you have ever read the preface to the King James Version you will find they didn’t speak that way in the time of King James either. When the King James version was commissioned it was specified they word the language in a higher grade of English so that it was not to be on the same common language of the people. The people were to come up in their understanding. Today all of the contemporary English versions take God’s word down and unfortunately man can never be brought up. In universities they will tell you that if you want to understand perfect grammar read the Bible. The professors with doctorates in English will tell you perfect English is in the Bible. It will purify your language and expressions. Just in daily conversation people will realise something different and its pure speech is not something the world rejects someone who can speak clearly.’

Did readers get that?  According to the SDARM:

  • Only the KJV of the Bible supposedly has the entire Gospel in it.
  • Other versions of the Bible are not God’s Word.
  • There is supposedly some conspiracy, in that other versions of the Bible are allegedly a twisting of truth by Satan.
  • The KJV supposedly was not written in the everyday common language of the people at the time, but in some alleged higher grade of English, which is why the KJV is somehow superior.
  • The KJV contains superior English, which is why we should all supposedly use it.
On what basis does the SDARM come to all these conclusions – we are not exactly told? However, it does provide an opportunity to analyse in greater detail the SDARM approach to reading the scriptures.
This author certainly cannot recall university professors ever suggesting students read the KJV to improve one’s English.  Perhaps it is just an exaggeration based on an urban legend? The only professor this author is aware of that praises the use of the KJV in terms of English literature is world-famous atheist Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion – hardly a glowing endorsement.    
Myths about the KJV
With myths in mind, it might be best to deal with the SDARM claims by dispelling a few myths about the KJV.  Many of these are completely obvious, but one will be surprised how often people forget the basic facts.  The article Modern Versions and the King James Version (Biblical Research Institute: 1997) provides an excellent resource for this, as does the one by Arthur Ferch, Which Version Can We Trust (Biblical Research Institute: 1998).  These scholarly resources demonstrate the following:

  • Although it may be stating the obvious, the Bible was not written in English – it was written in ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek.  Jesus and the disciples on the other hand spoke Aramaic (somewhat a cross between modern Hebrew and Arabic) as their daily language. 
  • There is nothing holy about the English language, and there is certainly nothing holy about Old English of the KJV – unless you happen to worship the theatre and Shakespeare.  English is a modern and mongrel language composed of ancient Greek, Latin, Old German, Old French, Celtic and a whole host of others.
  • The authorised KJV of 1604 was not in fact the first English translation – Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale and other early Protestant Reformers began producing translations as early as the 15th Century.  These earlier versions were later condemned by the official clerical authorities who endorsed the KJV.
  • The KJV is based on the Byzantium Textus Receptus, which is based on a small number of manuscripts originating from the 4th Century; whereas, many modern translations are based on the Alexandrian Text, which is based on an earlier 2nd Century manuscript plus a much larger number of additional manuscripts.
  • Today modern Bible translators also have at their disposal some 5,400 different manuscripts for the NT.  The original translators of the KJV did not have such material to double-check and cross-reference. 
  • Modern translations are superior in the sense that modern translation committees rely on far older, and a far greater number of ancient manuscripts of the Bible.
  • There are a number of passages in the KJV which in any event do not conform to the Greek Textus Receptus anyway, and are perhaps translation errors.  For example, Acts 19:37 in the Textus Receptus literally says “robbers of temples” but the KVJ translators made this “robbers of churches” to downplay any reference to pre-Christian worship.
  • The original translators of the KJV themselves observed there were different manuscripts.  In fact, in the original KJV, the translators placed alternative manuscript readings in the margins.
  • The KJV has terminology that is reminiscent of Roman Catholic (or more appropriately High Church of England) theology.  For example, the title of books include ‘The Gospel According to Saint Luke’, adding the word ‘Saint’, instead of simply ‘The Gospel According to Luke’ as many modern translations have it. 
  • Presuming the KVJ was not written in everyday language of the people but superior language, how would such an elitist book be beneficial?  Would it not be contrary to the Protestant efforts of Tyndale and others to bring the scriptures to the masses?  Would this not be reminiscent of the Roman Catholic stance that the Bible only be in Latin, so the ordinary people could not really understand it? In this sense, the ‘superior English’ of the KVJ is not a benefit but a danger.
  • The KJV has various naming errors, or unusual naming conventions for today’s audience, including the use of mythical creatures like "unicorn" for wild ox, "satyr" for "wild goat", "cockatrice" for common viper.
  • The KJV translators had no consistent rule for differentiating between the use of definite and indefinite articles (i.e. whether to use a “the” or “a” in Dan 3:24 cf. 3:28).
  • The KJV added passages that were only found in the Roman Catholic Bible, the Latin Vulgate, and not in the original Greek manuscripts.  Examples include Acts 9:6 or 1 John 5:8.
  • If someone wants ‘superior English’, it is arguable that it would then be far better to use the Latin Vulgate Bible of the Roman Catholic Church, as Latin forms the underlying building block for English grammar and syntax.  In the most elite schools in the English-speaking world, it is Latin, not Old English, which is learnt by private-school students.
  • The KJV makes some pretty bizarre translations, such as having the phrase “book of life” in Rev 22:19 when all known Greek manuscripts read “tree of life”. Or as another example, Luk 14:10 in the KJV gives the impression that men can be worshipped, in contravention of the 1st Commandment.
  • The KJV uses words that are just likely to confuse a modern audience. This is especially problematic because English is a mongrel language that routinely evolves – faster than any language on earth.  For example, how would a modern reader render “gay clothing” in Jam 2:3 – happy clothing or homosexual clothing?
  • There is no proof that the translators of the KVJ were inspired, or any more inspired that modern translators.  In fact, the original KVJ translators had their own preconceived theological-clerical agendas, as members of the Church of England clergy.  By contrast, most modern translation committees are full of scholars from across denominations, to ensure that bias does not tempt the translators.  Thus, modern translations have the kind of checks-and-balances that the KJV did not have.
  • It is not entirely clear what KJV-Only adherents like the SDARM think about Christians who don’t speak English?  Are they ok with them having a modern translation of say Swahili, or do they expect everyone to learn English? 
Thus, the KJV is a good translation, but there is nothing especially magical about it.  All good Bible students, if they cannot read Hebrew and Greek, should use a variety of different translations.  To expect all Christians to read the Bible in Old English is about as useful and logical as the Dark Ages Roman Catholic Church expecting everyone to read the Bible in Latin. 
Ellen White and other versions
Contrary to the extremist SDARM view, Ellen White herself used different English versions of the Bible from time-to-time.  As noted by the EllenWhite Estate:
‘Did Ellen White use any translations of the Bible other than the King James Version?
Yes. While it was Ellen White's custom to use the King James Version, she made occasional use of the various English translations that were becoming available in her day. She does not, however, comment directly on the relative merits of these versions, but it is clear from her practice that she recognized the desirability of making use of the best in all versions of the Bible. For example, in her book The Ministry of Healing, Ellen White employed eight texts from the English Revised Version, 55 from the American Revised Version, two from Leeser's translation, and four from Noyes, in addition to seven marginal renderings. In her preaching, however, Ellen White preferred to use the language of the King James Version as it was the most familiar to her listeners.’
In fact, given how far removed the language of the KVJ is removed from today’s speech, even more so than in Ellen White’s own day a century or more ago, it is questionable whether its use contravenes her own counsel.  In particular, she suggests there is no grand superhuman language of the Bible, but rather it needs to be in the imperfect language of men so they can understand it for practical purposes:
‘The Bible is not given to us in grand superhuman language. Jesus, in order to reach man where he is, took humanity. The Bible must be given in the language of men. Everything that is human is imperfect. Different meanings are expressed by the same word; there is not one word for each distinct idea. The Bible was given for practical purposes.’ (Selected Messages, book 1, pages 19-22)
SDARM jealously and biblical illiteracy
If one scratches the surface, part of the underlying reason for the KVJ-Only stance is simple – SDARM pastors on the whole lack professional theological education.  As such, SDARM pastors do not know ancient Hebrew or Greek, so they cannot read the Bible in these original languages – unlike mainstream SDA pastors.  As such, their stance is no doubt part of an attempt to shore up a key weakness in their status and standing when going head-to-head with the leaders of the mainstream SDA Church.
This is not to suggest that all ministers of the Gospel need to be highly educated in ancient languages.  However, the Apostle Paul was undoubtedly an educated man of some learning.
Moreover, the New Testament suggests that all the disciples, even the ‘rustic’ Galilean fisherman, had a surprisingly middle-class education for the day – more than we commonly credit them for.  For example, in Mar 1:20 we read that the family of James and John had servants.
The NT writers apparently could read-and-write Greek, knew the ancient Hebrew scriptures, and all the while their own day-to-day language was actually Aramaic. Recent archaeological research now actually suggests the Galilean region was quite a sophisticated melting pot of culture.  
Thus, it would seem the anti-intellectualism of the SDARM is borne more out of jealously than the scriptures. As people who have no expertise at all in ancient languages, the SDARM have no qualification or credibility to provide guidance on what English translation of the Bible is the most accurate.
SDARM control
The other thing to consider is how close the SDARM position is to Roman Catholicism.  To suggest all Christians must use the archaic language of the KJV appears to be akin to Papal injunctions during the Dark and Middle Ages that all Bibles be in Latin. 
In effect, such a view takes power out of the hands of the masses and puts it into the hands of the leaders, who then must explain what the passage really means.  Before the real objective of the SDARM leadership is to maintain control in their interpretation of scripture, lest their people in the pews read it for themselves and come to a different conclusion?

Does the SDARM cherry-picks scriptural texts without regard to context?
Again – yes, in practice if not in theory.
As admitted by the 'independent historic' Reformists in “How to Study Your Bible”:
‘Precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little. You find a verse, you want to know what it means so you take a concordance or the middle reference if you have one and you follow the verse through that use the same words and as you do that the word of God builds before you a picture but it is God’s word. You may find a verse and you don’t know what it means. If we think we can read a chapter or verse and take it on its own we can’t. The word of God says it must be line upon line and precept upon precept. It will be paired up somewhere else. You can’t read the word of God from the front to the back. You can, you will gain many blessings and learn the stories and combine it with this principle you will learn the moral. When studying God’s word here a little and there a little be careful to not exclude the Old Testament.’
There is a lot of truth here; however, like poison there is a small amount of error that is liable to kill you. 
Proof-texting or quote-mining
The method proposed here is often called ‘proof-texting’ or ‘quote-mining’.  There is nothing wrong with using proof-texts – the NT writers used proof-texts from the OT.  However, there can be a huge danger when individual texts are plucked out of context, and then placed with other decontextualized texts.
Using such methods, one can make the Bible say pretty much what the person wants, regardless of context. This is what comes from refusing to read the Bible ‘from back to front’.
The mainstream SDA Church, by contrast, attempts a more balanced approach, taking the text literally but not in a contextual vacuum:
‘While Christ is honored as head of the church, what we know of Him and His truth is found principally in the Scriptures, to which Adventists turn for guidance in pursuit of faith and practice. The Word is interpreted by means of a hermeneutic that, aside from obvious poetic and symbolic sections, treats the text quite literally, taking into account the historical, cultural and linguistic elements involved. Its method relates more closely to the historic Antiochian school of interpretation than the Alexandrian and reflects adjustments in method encouraged by the sixteenth-century reformers.’ (emphasis added)
Precept upon precept
The SDARM rationale for their extreme use of proof-texting is supposedly supported by Is 28:10 (repeated in vs13), which is quoted in the Reformer’s passage above:
‘For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little
The problem of the overreliance on this passage for the SDARM approach of cherry-picking scripture includes the following:
  • It is circular reasoning to cherry-pick a text to justify more cherry-picking.
  • The passage is actually in Hebrew sav lasav sav lasav / kav lakav kav lakav’, which many Bible versions note in their margins is probably meaningless sounds mimicking the prophet’s words.  In other words, the prophet is effectively saying something meaningless akin to saying in gibberish English ‘Lah de dah, lah de dah; blah be blah, blah be blah.’
  • As many Bibles also note in their margins, the actual reading of this passage in Hebrew is uncertain.
  • Looking at the context of the chapter as a whole (something the SDARM deliberately avoid by their quote-mining method).  We can see from verses 7-8 the Bible is describing false prophets and false priests, who are intoxicated from beer and wine, who have drug-induced visions and who vomit:  ‘And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions. All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth’
  • We then learn in verse 9 that the false priests and false prophets teach the people only milk, like a baby at the breast. Isaiah echoes these thoughts in Is 30:10: ‘They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.’
  • Thus, it is these false prophets and priests who then speak gibberish-baby words in verses 10 sav lasav sav lasav / kav lakav kav lakav’, really meaning something like ‘Lah de dah, lah de dah; blah be blah, blah be blah.’
  • It is a result of these evil teachings of the false priests and false prophets that God effectively says fine, I’ll allow the people of Israel to listen to gibberish-baby words then, and so in verse 13 sav lasav sav lasav / kav lakav kav lakav’ is repeated.
  • We also read in the end of verse 13 that because the people also listen to the gibberish-baby words of the false priests and false prophets, God will allow them to be punished with impending doom (the destruction of Zion by Babylon): ‘so that as they go they will fall backward; they will be injured and snared and captured’
  • There are allusions of this to the gibberish Glossolalia (Pentecostal tongue speaking) condemned by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 14:22.
Thus, Is 28:10-13 is not a proof-text in support of a method of biblical interpretation, as the SDRAM teach, but rather the very opposite – unbiblical gibberish of false priests and false prophets condemned by God!  It is not God’s wisdom – it is man’s wisdom.  It is the ‘smooth words’ that trick the people and don’t prepare them for the coming crises.
SDARM approach: milk not meat
The above passage in Is 28:10-13 is also reminiscent of Paul’s teachings in Heb 5:11-14 about Christian teachings being stuck on milk instead of spiritual meat:
‘We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Therefore, whilst the proof-text method might have some place for a new convert to  Christianity, who is not ready to delve into the deeper context of the scriptures, this is certainly nothing to be advocated as a long-term strategy of Christian discipleship.  In this way, the SDARM method of reading scriptures is with all respect immature, and not sufficient training to distinguish good from evil.

Does the SDARM deny the human role in the formation of the Bible?
Finally – yes it does, in practice if not in theory.
Of course as the Bible teaches in 2 Tim 3:15-17:
‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’
And of course the Holy Spirit, not the human imagination, is the ultimate source behind the inspiration of the Bible, as acknowledge in 2 Pet 1:20,21:
‘Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.’
However, there is a human element in the formation of the Bible – and it seems the SDARM denies or is reluctant to admit this.  For example, as argued in the 'independent historic' Reformist publication “How to Study Your Bible”:
This is one point in which we all need the Holy Spirit to direct us on. Rightly dividing. We have before us a book but it is not written as man writes. You can’t read the Bible from the front to the back, that is man’s way, God’s way is not our ways. I read the Bible from the front to the back as a youth but I never learnt the morals. The word of God must be divided but it must be rightly divided. As we make divisions in God’s word separating text from text, we will find we will not be disappointed…

Again, here is the denial of context with the cherry-picking method, which allows a reader to twist the Bible to say whatever he or she wishes it.  However, more problematically, we see a denial of humankind’s role in the writing of the Bible. 
As observed above, their simplistic views of the Bible are illustrative of an immature diet of spiritual milk, having never graduated to the heartier course of spiritual meat.  Whilst this author does not doubt the sincerity of most ordinary Reformers (the SDARM leadership is another matter), it seems they are not fit to lead the Adventist movement as they have not yet put away childish things, as Paul commands in 1 Cor 13:11:
‘When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.’
God’s penmen, not His pen
The first childish thing that Ellen White herself dispelled is the notion that God dictated the Bible word-for-word, like to some holy secretary taking shorthand.  She made the excellent statement that the Bible writers were God’s penmen, not His pen:
‘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.
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.’ (Selected Messages, book 1, pages 19-22l Manuscript 24, 1886; written in Europe in 1886.)
Diversity not rigid unity
The second childish thing that needs to be put away is the idea that every little thing in the Bible is 100% factually correct in the sense of a scientific textbook.  Although that no doubt will shock many people, again it is important to recognise that the Bible was written by human beings using imperfect human language.  The vision was no doubt from divine origins but the recording of those visions was done by flawed human beings.
Before anyone becomes completely shocked, Ellen White herself observed and embraced the diversity of the Bible, rather than the sort of rigid uniformity taught by ultra-conservatives like the SDARM:
‘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.
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?
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 [p. 22] 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. . . 
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.
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.)
Consider for example:

  • Matt 8:5-7 v Luk 7:3-7 (Centurion himself or some Jewish Elders and friends);
  • Matt 9:18 v Luk 8:41-42 (dead vs dying);
  • Matt 20:30 v Luk 18:35-38 (2 vs 1 blind men);
  • Matt 21:2-7 v Mar 11:2-7 (ass and colt vs just a colt);
  • John 20:1 v Matt 28:1 (1 v 2 women at the tomb); and
  • Luk 24:4 v Mar 16:5 (2 v 1 angel at the tomb).
These texts don’t undermine the Bible; they only undermine a dogmatic view of the Bible as taught by groups like the SDARM.  They wholly afford with Ellen White’s own view of herself, as an inspired by very human person:
‘In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible. His word is true, and in Him is no variableness or shadow of turning.’—Ellen G. White letter 10, 1895.
We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed.’ (RH: July 26, 1892).
The limitations of the Bible: Ultimate Truth is in Jesus
The Bible itself admits that it is not The Truth (capital “T”).  The ultimate revelation about God is not found in a book, it is found in a person – Jesus Christ.  John 1:1-14 tells us that the Word of God (capital “W’) is Jesus, God incarnate.  Jesus says in John 14:6:
‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’
Did you get what truth and life is – not a book but a person.  The importance of the book is it tells us about the person, and the best source there is about Him.  However, the Bible itself admits its limitations in John 21:25:
‘Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.’
Thus again, knowledge of Bible texts alone can’t save.  It is relationship with the person of Jesus Christ that matters most. It is a slight but important distinction.  It was the heretic Christian Gnostics of the 1st Century AD that taught that knowledge alone could save.
Present truth: What it would say; not merely what it does say
The Bible needs to be seen not as a dead book in a cultural and contextual stasis but as an indication of the Living Word, which is Christ Jesus – raised from the dead.  It is for this reason that the gifts of the Spirit, including prophecy, are not dead but living, even until the ministry of Ellen White.  It is for this reason that we must be cognisant of present truth, which is found in a living Jesus Christ.
For these reasons, knowledge is progressive as Ellen White herself observed:
‘And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase. The more men learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character.’ (Mar 373.2)
It is for this reason the SDA Pioneers were fearful of official creeds, of anything that might stifle growth and the acquisition of new light, as observed in the current preamble to the 28 fundamental beliefs of the mainstream SDA Church:
‘These beliefs, as set forth here, constitute the church's understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture. Revision of these statements may be expected at a General Conference session when the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teachings of God's Holy Word.’
For these reasons, it is important to recognise that it isn’t just what was said in a long dead language that matters, but what would be said today in our own historical, geographical and cultural context. It isn’t just what Jesus did; it’s what Jesus would do today.
So can SDARM consider themselves searchers of new light, or reactionaries to it? 
The SDARM: Reformers or Counter-Reformers?
In considering the above matters in their totality, one might consider whether the SDARM can really claim the title ‘Reformer’ at all – would the title ‘Counter-Reformer’ being more fitting?  Do they live in their own cultural vacuum of 19th Century Victorian America, happily cherry-picked verses from an Old-English version of the Bible to justify their critical and heavily-burned religion?  Are they really the true heirs of Adventism’s quest for present truth in every age, as Ellen White herself called for:
‘The Word of God presents special truths for every age. The dealings of God with His people in the past should receive our careful attention. We should learn the lessons which they are designed to teach us. But we are not to rest content with them. God is leading out His people step by step. Truth is progressive. The earnest seeker will be constantly receiving light from heaven. What is truth? should ever be our inquiry.’—SDABC, vol. 11, p. 1000.

Can the SDARM can themselves ‘People of the Book’?
In a word – no, in practice if not in theory.
Seventh-day Adventists were traditionally called ‘People of the Book.’  However, for the above reasons, it is questionable whether the SDARM could legitimately claim that title.  One might ask whether the titles ‘Papal Seventh-day Adventists’, ‘Traditional Seventh-day Adventists’, ‘Victorian-Catholic Seventh-day Adventists’ or ‘Whitist Seventh-day Adventists’ would be a better fit.
The example of John the Baptist being Elijah
The greatest dangers of the SDARM approach to reading the Bible include, as observed above:

  • It is extremely reactionary and as such opposed in practice, if not in theory, to the possibility of new light.
  • It insists on using a four-hundred year old Bible version, the KJV, which uses archaic Old English many of the common people cannot understand; thus, the common people must rely on the leaders, a situation similar to the priestly power of the Dark and Middle Ages.
  • Its proof-text method is at worse gibberish, or at best immature and childish spiritual milk, which will not adequately prepare the people of God for the coming crises.
It is especially the last problem that is of major concern.  The First Advent of Christ taught us that even where prophecies come true, they are often fulfilled in a way the people did not quite expect.  A very good example of this is John the Baptist.  Whilst the experts of the Law, the Pharisees, were awaiting the return of Elijah, it turned out that John the Baptist was the fulfilment of this prophecy – having the Elijah message.
People of the Chart
In this way, ultra-conservative Adventists could be more appropriately labelled ‘People of the Chart’ rather than ‘People of the Book.’  As such, whilst ultra-liberal Adventists have stopped looking, ultra-conservatives like the SDARM only look in one direction, thinking they have the situation all mapped out in minute detail.  Both groups fall into the real danger of a false sense of security, no longer looking for Christ’s return with serious vigilence and prayer.  Instead of watching for the signs, they make the signs from the daily news fit their preconceived ideas of how the End of Time will all play out.

The best concluding words for this whole question of interpreting the Bible come from the SDARM themselves, as admitted by the 'independent historic' Reformists in “How to Study Your Bible”:
‘There are many today who think they do know it and proof of that is that we have many denominational churches today and those denominations have their offshoots and there are all these independents and groups. Why? Because they think have got it. They are convinced in their mind that they know what God is saying and they think we can get people along in that train of thought.’
Pity the Reformers don’t practice what they preach.  Their extremist views and spirit of criticism would be more tolerable if they were not so dogmatic and sure of themselves in having The Truth.  The very reason they exist as just another offshoot is because they have retrojected their own cultural and emotional biases into the Word, going back to the society and authoritarian cultural traditions of WW1 Germany and 19th Century Victorian America before that. 
Far from coming to the Word as blank pages, the SDARM have so much preconceived bias invested that it is doubtful that even divine intervention could dissuade them.  To paraphrase a Middle-Age Jewish proverb, even if an angel of God told them they would probably deny it.  The SDARM are so convinced in their own mind, with their own cherry-picking of proof texts, that they cannot honestly contemplate that God may be attempting to give them new light – one without the crushing burden of the Pharisees.


  1. Impressive analysis. I was a member of the SDARM for some years, until I saw the light, and accepted the truth that there is no god. I saw firsthand what goes on behind closed doors.

    1. Thanks. Not sure if it is possible or relevant, but if you are truthful to yourself, do you think you would have become an athiest if you had not been exposed to such an extreme brand of Christianity as the SDARM?


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