41. Is it true Ellen White taught some really crazy things, such as that Adventists should not ride bicycles?
Yes, she made statements upon riding bicycles to address a particular situation as existed at the time.
No, the statement was not crazy when understood in its proper context.
Once must acknowledge that the major role of the spiritual gift of prophecy is for the edification of the Church (1 Cor 14:1-4). Similarly, as outlined by famous Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel in his work The Prophets (1962), the ancient prophetic model was not as some soothsayer or diviner, who attempts to discover the will of their gods. Rather, according to Heschel, the ancient prophets are characterized by their experience of what he calls theotropism — God turning towards humanity.
To this end, Ellen White often gave counsel to address particular situations that were relevant to the
. When understood in this context, such advice was perfectly understandable; when taken out of context as many critics do, her statements admittedly sound completely absurd. However, the words and actions of the ancient prophets are equally bizarre if not properly understood within the cultural, historical and linguistic context of their times. Early Adventist Church
Back to the issue of bicycles, in 1894 Ellen White warned both young and old to avoid the “bewitching influence of the bicycle craze” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 51, 52). One should remember that in 1894 a bicycle was not the cheap, utilitarian device it is today but an expensive, fashionable luxury item. If said today, Ellen White may have counseled against expensive, polluting, city-bound SUV-Four Wheel Drives, most of which have never seen a country road or dirt track. Thus, such advice is sound and in accordance with the edifying role of the spiritual gift of prophecy.
For an official response to a range of common allegations and criticisms of Ellen White, see:
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