Perspective: Stephen Bohr Quotes Ellen White Selectively

Published:
June 16, 2015

Stephen Bohr recently spoke at a symposium on women's ordination in Bakersfield, California. I cannot offer a full critique. However, I can make a few observations. First of all, I found Mr. Bohr’s arguments unconvincing. Certainly, his body language seemed to indicate that, if he could not convince me, as his listener, he would like to force the issue. At other times, when apparently satisfied that people were finding him very convincing, he seemed to gloat.  At times I felt that the lack of logic was being supplied by sheer persistence, that I was being beaten into submission by endless repetition.

I should say that Mr. Bohr was successful in making one point against his critics. He established that there can be other heads (or leaders) under Christ, the one Head of the church. Having gained this seeming advantage, Mr. Bohr spent a great deal of time “rubbing it in.” Yet, in my view, he failed to establish that those leaders must be male. He read quote after quote after quote, emphasizing what he alleged to be gender-specific language. To me it seemed like an endless repeat of the “husband of one wife” fallacy. That is, he was making a point which the inspired writer never intended to make, in an approach which could only be convincing to those who (at least implicitly) believe in verbal inspiration (i.e. to fundamentalists). I think we all know what Ellen White had to say about that.

“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...” {YRP 225.5}

From this I can see that the mere supposition, on the part of an inspired writer, that a leader will be male, falls far short of being a directive to that effect, even in those limited instances where the language truly is gender specific. (Notice that the inspired writer, in the above quotation, is called “the man himself.” Yet we have to know that Ellen White was including herself in this.)

Now let’s take a brief look at a few details in Mr. Bohr’s presentation. His entire thesis hangs on establishing:
1. That Christ was subservient to the Father prior to the incarnation, and
2. That Eve was subservient to Adam prior to the fall of mankind.

In order to establish the first of these points, Mr. Bohr cites 1 Corinthians 11:3, as well as a passage from Patriarchs and Prophets, page 36. The Bible text itself merely states that the head of Christ is God. It says nothing about their relationship prior to the incarnation. Thus we see that Mr. Bohr’s first assertion stands or falls on the Ellen White quotation alone.

Now, personally, I believe that Ellen White exercised the prophetic gift in the highest sense. I do not believe that she was somehow less inspired, or less authoritative, than the Bible writers themselves. However, I do understand that the “testimonies,” as her writings were called, were given for a different purpose than were the Scriptures – I see that their glory is a mere reflection of the glory of the Bible, as the moon reflects the sun. They were never intended to be canonical, and we are not to adopt any doctrinal position without Scriptural support. We are “sola scriptura” Protestants, after all. So Mr. Bohr’s thesis is already in trouble.

Then, when we look at Patriarchs and Prophets itself, we find that the information shared there was given to the angels by God the Father in order to “set forth the true position of His Son and show the relation He sustained to all created beings.” In other words, it was about the relationship between the Son and His created beings, not about the relationship between the Father and the Son. It is apparent to me, from the context, that the latter question would have been nobody’s business, as the Father and Son shared the throne. Therefore, Mr. Bohr fails to establish his first point.

In order to establish that Eve was subservient to Adam before the fall, Mr. Bohr commits a similar error. He quotes Ellen White numerous times, showing that Adam was placed over the “human family.” He seems to be hoping that his listeners will infer, from this, that Adam was also placed over Eve, rather than her standing by Adam’s side as his equal (as a co-regent). But this is where things really get interesting. Can it be that Mr. Bohr is unaware of the following statements from Patriarchs and Prophets?

Eve was created from a rib taken from the side of Adam, signifying that she was not to control him as the head, nor to be trampled under his feet as an inferior, but to stand by his side as an equal…” {PP 46.2}

In the creation God had made her the equal of Adam. Had they remained obedient to God—in harmony with His great law of love—they would ever have been in harmony with each other; but sin had brought discord, and now their union could be maintained and harmony preserved only by submission on the part of the one or the other. Eve had been the first in transgression; and she had fallen into temptation by separating from her companion, contrary to the divine direction. It was by her solicitation that Adam sinned, and she was now placed in subjection to her husband.” {PP 58.3}

Could language be any plainer than that? Ellen White, whom Mr. Bohr so frequently quotes for his own purposes, clearly tells us that the subjection of Eve to Adam was in consequence of sin, and took place only after the fall. Furthermore, she strongly suggests that God’s choice to make Eve subservient, rather than Adam, is not due to any inherent differences between the two. Someone has to submit, so it might as well be the one who transgressed first.

Mr. Bohr is correct in stating that Paul made something of the fact that the man was made first, and that the woman was taken from the man. However, when it comes to finding just what Paul was making of these facts, Mr. Bohr cites a “context” which is nowhere apparent to me. He even suggests a “context” in which Paul is talking about teaching with “full ecclesiastical authority,” so that women can still teach Sabbath School. Aside from the total lack of support for this, it raises a very serious question. If women are allowed to teach us the Scriptures, on which we Protestants say the authority of the church is based, then just what more are men allowed to do, beyond that, with their “full ecclesiastical authority?” To my ear, this strongly suggests some kind of papal doctrine. Maybe Mr. Bohr doesn’t realize that the papacy attempts to place far more than just “one man” between Christ and the believer.

 

Ronald G. White is a former preacher's kid who writes from Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.
 

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