40. Didn’t Ellen White teach that Christians are saved by works rather than grace through faith?
No. As noted above, the
upholds sola fide – justification by faith alone. As noted in SDA publication Questions on Doctrine, Adventists believe: SDA Church
“13. That salvation through Christ is by grace alone, through faith in His blood.
14. That entrance upon the new life in Christ is by regeneration, or the new birth.
15. That man is justified by faith.
16. That man is sanctified by the indwelling Christ through the Holy Spirit.”
Critics often selective quote statements by Ellen White, who claim she taught Christians are only saved by works rather than grace through faith.
However, there are equally strong statements from Ellen White that clearly support a ‘mainstream’ Protestant understanding of grace. For example, in other places she said:
“Grace is an attribute of God exercised toward undeserving human beings. We did not seek for it, but it was sent in search of us. God rejoices to bestow His grace upon us, not because we are worthy, but because we are so utterly unworthy. Our only claim to His mercy is our great need.” —The Ministry of Healing, p 161.”
“We owe everything to grace, free grace, sovereign grace. Grace in the covenant ordained our adoption. Grace in the Saviour effected our redemption, our regeneration, and our adoption to heirship with Christ.” —Testimonies for the Church (1882), vol. 6, 268.
“He who is trying to become holy by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin. It is the grace of Christ alone, through faith, that can make us holy.” —Steps to Christ (1892), pp. 64, 65. (emphasis added)
It would no doubt be possible to twist statements from most Christian writers in a similar fashion to obtain bizarre and heretical results. The same sorts of accusations could equally be made against Biblical authors, from Solomon, to James, to even Paul himself:
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecc 12:13,14)
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (Jam 2:14)
“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’” (Rom 2:5,6) (emphasis added)
Critics often grossly oversimplify the issue, where the proper interaction of grace and works, together with justification and sanctification, is an extremely complex and contentious matter, with a wide variety of opinions within the spectrum Christianity. For example, views range from Prevenient Grace (Methodists), Irresistible Grace (Calvinists) to Actual Grace (Roman Catholic), to name just a few.
With respect, it appears that many of the critics who level this charge may in fact be advocating a form of Antinomianism (the Ten Commandments no longer apply), which in itself is considered a Gnostic-influenced heresy by most ‘mainstream’ Christian denominations.
Ellen White endorsed a balanced approach to the issue of grace and works, which many other Christians might agree, being careful to avoid the extremes of both Legalism and Antinomianism:
“There are two errors against which the children of God—particularly those who have just come to trust in His grace—especially need to guard. The first . . . is that of looking to their own works, trusting to anything they can do, to bring themselves into harmony with God. He who is trying to become holy by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin. It is the grace of Christ alone, through faith, that can make us holy.
The opposite and no less dangerous error is, that belief in Christ releases men from keeping the law of God; that since by faith alone we become partakers of the grace of Christ, our works have nothing to do with our redemption.
But notice here that obedience is not a mere outward compliance, but the service of love. The law of God is an expression of His very nature; it is an embodiment of the great principle of love, and hence is the foundation of His government in heaven and earth. If our hearts are renewed in the likeness of God, if the divine love is implanted in the soul, will not the law of God be carried out in the life? When the principle of love is implanted in the heart, when man is renewed after the image of Him that created him, the new covenant promise is fulfilled: "I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them." And if the law is written in the heart, will it not shape the life? Obedience—the service and allegiance of love—is the true sign of discipleship.” — Steps to Christ (1892), pp. 64, 65. (emphasis added)
Finally, the true irony of this accusation is that Ellen White was instrumental in guiding more extreme elements of the earlySee: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1888_Minneapolis_General_Conference
away from Legalism and towards a ‘conventional’ understanding of justification by faith through grace: SDA Church
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