Book Review: Ellen White’s Afterlife

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Ellen White’s Afterlife
Dr George Knight

“The early 1960s was a wonderful time to be Ellen White,” Dr George Knight concludes in his first chapter of Ellen White’s Afterlife. “She was not only authoritative for exegesis and theology but also inerrant, infallible, 100 years ahead of her time, of a flawless character, and for many, verbally inspired.”

Dr Knight’s then sketches the various studies, discoveries, insights and allegations that replaced these views in the following decades, for both her critics and many of her faithful readers. But perhaps his most telling reflection is the continuation of his first-chapter summary: “The most remarkable thing about those early 1960s perspectives related to Ellen White is that she herself did not believe them nor agree with them. And neither did most of those of her contemporaries who worked closest with her.”

This is a confronting realisation, particularly for those who still try to maintain the 1960s’ position. Of course, not all of the studies and “attacks” on 1960s Ellen White have been helpful or positive, but Ellen White’s Afterlife offers a helpful overview of some of the major studies, voices, critics and questions of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the necessary responses.

But, as much as anything, the second half of Ellen White’s Afterlife is remarkable. Dr Knight brings together 10 core documents and studies that have wrestled with these questions, many of which have not previously been widely published. These include three reflections from Ellen White’s son Willie White and two portions from the long-“lost” minutes of the 1919 Bible Conference, in which various of Ellen White’s colleagues shared their understanding of her ministry and writing.

Ellen White’s Afterlife traces a shift within Adventist understanding that Dr Knight considers has moved us closer to that of Ellen White and her contemporaries, than it was to many of her students in the decades following her death. He also challenges readers that there is still more to be done—but what he presents in Ellen White’s Afterlife sets an important foundation for this ongoing faithful work.

Ellen White’s Afterlife and other books by Dr George Knight are available from Adventist bookstores in Australia and New Zealand, or online.

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