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The Ellen White Research Project: Exposing the Subtle Attack on the Bible's Authority
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"Contradiction #1: Plan of Salvation 'Devised' After the Fall"


According to the two quotes Sanders cites from the apologists, Ellen White apparently acknowledged the very point Sanders is contending for, namely, that the plan of salvation was devised before Creation. We found a few other similar quotations that are even more plain:

All our thoughts and imaginations will not alter in the least any part of the plan of redemption devised from all eternity.—The Signs of the Times, Feb. 5, 1894.

. . . it was in the death of Christ, in the cruel suffering and crucifixion, that the Son of God accomplished the very work for which he was ordained from before the foundation of the world.—Signs of the Times, Mar. 26, 1894.

When Christ spoke these words ["It is finished"], He addressed His Father. . . . It was the fulfillment of the covenant made between the Father and the Son before the foundation of the earth was laid.—S.D.A. Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1149 (1897).

The great plan, devised before the foundations of the earth were laid, was successfully carried out.—Manuscript Releases, vol. 3, p. 426 (1898).

We do not sympathize with God as we should in the salvation of the human race. We do not regard it in the light in which it is viewed by the universe of Heaven, as a plan devised from eternity in the mind of God.—Bible Training School, Sept. 1, 1908.

But how few of us regard the salvation of sinners in the light in which it is viewed by the heavenly universe,—as a plan devised from eternity in the mind of God!—Gospel Workers, 1915 ed., p. 116.

Yet at the same time we also found the following, similar in wording to the 1894 Signs of the Times quote above, but different in meaning:

And, altho the plan of salvation was carried forward according to the plan ordained from the foundation of the earth, yet men and women will not be saved unless they themselves exercise faith, and build on the true foundation, unless they allow God to re-create them by His Holy Spirit.—Signs of the Times, Feb. 14, 1900.

For some reason, Ellen White believed that the plan of salvation was devised and ordained both "before" and "from" "the foundation of the world." Some might be inclined to suggest that she grew in her understanding of this topic over the years, and thus her earlier statements tend to put the devising/ordaining after the fall while her later statements tend to place it prior to Creation. But this hypothesis appears inadequate, for after years of "before the foundation of the world" statements, we still have her placing the devising/ordaining after Creation as late as the above 1900 Signs article. And the Great Controversy statement this whole discussion started with comes from the 1911 edition of that book. Thus, we need to look for another answer.

Perhaps "devise" might have some sort of meaning that would allow it to be harmoniously used in both the contexts found in Ellen White's writings. Perhaps sometimes "devise" could refer to the original conception of the plan of redemption, while at other times it could refer to the making known, putting into effect, or elaboration of the plan already previously thought of.

We checked out a few dictionaries, and here is what we found:

de•vise (di viz'), v., -vised, -vis•ing, n. —v.t. 1. to contrive, plan, or elaborate; invent from existing principles or ideas: to devise a method.Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd ed., © 2001.

e•lab•o•rate . . . —v.t. 3. to work out carefully or minutely; develop to perfection. 4. to add details to; expand. 5. to produce or develop by labor.—Ibid.

de•vise . . . 1 a : to form in the mind by new combinations or applications of ideas or prinicples : INVENT . . . c : to plan to obtain or bring about : PLOT—Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., © 2001.

Devise . . . The sense-development was far advanced before the word was taken into English; O[ld]F[rench]. had the senses, '. . . form a plan or design, express or make known one's plan or will' . . . .

† 6. a. refl. To plan, determine, resolve. Obs. . . .

† b. intr. To resolve or decide upon. Obs. . . .

† 8. trans. (or absol.) To 'contrive' successfully; to achieve, accomplish, 'manage'. Obs. . . .

† 9. To prepare with skill, make ready, provide, purvey. (Also absol.) Obs. . . .

† 13. To set forth in detail, recount, describe. . . .

† b. intr. or absol. To give an account. Obs. . . .The Oxford English Dictionary, 1969 printing.

In all honesty, it would appear to us that our hunch is correct. "Devise" has had a breadth of meaning that allowed it in days gone by to refer to both the initial thought of a plan, and its much later elaboration, expansion, appointment, making known, or decision to put into effect.

According to Ellen White, something special took place in heaven after Adam sinned. The plan of redemption was "accepted" by the Father and "made known" to the angels:

Sorrow filled heaven, as it was realized that man was lost . . . . I saw the lovely Jesus and beheld an expression of sympathy and sorrow upon His countenance. Soon I saw Him approach the exceeding bright light which enshrouded the Father. Said my accompanying angel, He is in close converse with His Father. The anxiety of the angels seemed to be intense while Jesus was communing with His Father. Three times He was shut in by the glorious light about the Father, and the third time He came from the Father, His person could be seen. . . . He then made known to the angelic host that a way of escape had been made for lost man. He told them that He had been pleading with His Father, and had offered to give His life a ransom, to take the sentence of death upon Himself, that through Him man might find pardon . . . . act a part in His resurrection; that the plan of salvation was devised, and His Father had accepted the plan.—Early Writings, p. 149-151.

We know from John 3:16 that "God so loved the world that He gave His begotten Son." Even though the plan of salvation existed in the mind of God from eternity, the manner in which Ellen White describes it being made known reveals the fathomless depths of God's self-sacrificing love for fallen man. The Father and Son could have nonchalantly told the angels, "Don't worry about it. We had this figured out long ago. It's no big deal," but the description of the three-time struggle of the Father in consenting to give His Son is far more grand.

Similarly, we have Christ beseeching the Father three times in Gethsemane to let Him not go to Calvary. The struggle was so intense that Christ sweat great drops of blood. The more intense the three-time struggle Christ had in agreeing to go to Calvary, the greater the revelation of His self-sacrificing love.

Of course, if Gethsemane had never occurred, we wouldn't have this grand display of Christ's love. Even though Christ had "accepted" the plan of salvation before the foundation of the world, He still took the time to "accept" it again in Gethsemane. Likewise, in Ellen White's view, the Father "accepted" the plan of salvation after man's fall, even though it already existed in His mind from eternity.

Probably in some similar sense Ellen White's words regarding the devising/ordaining of the plan of salvation should be understood.

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