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The Shut Door

New students of Adventist history are often surprised and disappointed to find that adversaries of the movement
seem to know more of Adventist history than Adventists themselves.

This experience, coupled with a nagging question or a harbored doubt, often sets the unwary on track for being
deceived by manipulators of one kind or another.

On the issue of the shut door this is particularly the case. The issue, in short, is whether or not Ellen White
maintained her integrity when defending herself against charges. Closely related to this issue is that of her
inspiration. Was she a truth-teacher or a lie-monger in her ministry?

Accusers level several attacks against Ellen White on this issue. These have been taken up extensively and ably
by Adventist apologists. All the arguments and fields of evidence can be readily summarized.

But no amount of review or rehash will ever cause this problem to go away. Lies against prophets have always
been (“for so persecuted they the prophets…”) and libels against them have been believed by those that prided
themselves on not believing unsubstantiated claims to inspiration.

With that introduction, here is a description of the issues.

Charge:

Ellen White taught that mercy for sinners closed in 1844. This she did as a result of her first two visions. The
result was that many Adventists lost their burden for lost sinners. Ellen White was wrong. Instead of frankly
admitting her error, or sticking to her guns, she cowardly turned coat and claimed she had never taught the shut
door. This was a lie.

Evidence of the accusers:


A) Early Ellen White statements that used the term “shut door” in a positive manner
B) Ellen White statements supportive of certain men that certainly taught that no more mercy was
available for sinners.
C) Later Ellen White statements that she never taught the “shut door” doctrine, though she had
believed it.
D) Statements by James White; Joseph Bates; Joseph Turner; O. R. L. Crosier; and several others
teaching clearly—years after the first visions—that mercy for sinners had ended in 1844.
E) Plain statements from a document called the Camden Vision that purports to be by Ellen White and
that teaches that there is no more sense in praying for the lost world—since their case is hopeless.
F) The absence of plain statements from Ellen White countering the shut-door teaching of prominent
men (including her husband) places her in their camp.
G) An appearance that Ellen White edited her early visions in a cover-up scheme.

Evidence of the defenders:


A) Early Ellen White statements do not ever teach that there was no more hope for sinners or that probation
had closed or that Jesus had ceased his mediatory work or that the door of mercy had been shut.
B) Ellen White misunderstood her own visions for years. She did not, however, teach her
misunderstandings. Neither did she write them. When an Adventist began advocating the true position
(Bro Arnold) she came immediately to his side and asked her husband to study with him.
C) The accusers show their lack of fairness when they bring up objection C. When Ellen White defended
herself on this issue she stated clearly that the term “shut door” in her belief system had been the door to
the Holy Place (as per Revelation 3). She never denied her earlier statements and made her claims
regarding them in the face of them. To accuse her of dishonesty is, itself, dishonest handling of the
statements that she never taught the no-more-mercy doctrine.
D) This is no objection per se. They did teach it. They were wrong. They admitted it. Then they were right.
Ellen White was largely responsible for their renewed faith in the 1844 movement. She used the term
“shut door” as shown her in vision. Her original statements lacked clarity and the pioneers read into
them ideas they had held previous to 1844.
E) This is no vision of Ellen’s. It smells of fraud. And any student of Adventist history knows that Ellen
White’s enemies from the time that it came into existence were not above fraud.
F) God does not propose to bring His children to the brightness of noon-day at one showing. Visions in
lieu of Bible Study would discourage the development of Bible knowledge. In general, God gave
visions to Ellen as rewards to the pioneers for their diligence in study. A brief study of the change in the
apostles' beliefs in regard to an earthly kingdom, and then in regard to the special place of the Jews, will
shew that even God’s truest prophets often do not present important truths immediately to a church
immersed in error. Why not? There may be many reasons. But one certainty in the case of Adventism is
that it would have been disastrous for the church to grow largely prior to the harmonious development
of many of its doctrines. God gave the band time to unify before sending them to the world.
G) Ellen’s early statements were indeed edited. The originals were not repressed. Ellen publicly replied to
challenges on this point. There is no evidence of ‘cover-up’. Her claim was that the early statements
were easily misunderstood. She wrote them with greater clarity. Her claim is sensible and matches the
evidence.

If I were to make a contribution to the study of the shut door it might be with a Bible study. The Bible clearly
predicted the Great Disappointment. More than that, it predicted the shut door-error and prophesied of its
correction.

Habakkuk 1 describes the prophet’s concern for God’s lack of intervention in the face of carnage against the
godly. God responded that He would punish Israel with the Babylonians. Habakkuk countered that they, too,
needed judgment. Then he rested his case to see what answer God would give Him, what rebuke he would
receive for asking such daring questions. Hab. 2:1.

God’s answer was almost cryptic. He told the prophet to write “the” vision and to make it plain upon tables. He
said that those that read it would be enabled to “run.” God said the vision would be one to wait for, that it
would come at an appointed time. It would speak at the “end.” God also said that it would appear to tarry but
that it would not tarry. He said that the just would live by holding on to his confidence in the vision and that
those that became exalted at the apparent delay in the vision would not be the upright ones.

And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run
that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie:
though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted
up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. Hab 2:2-4.

Paul saw significance in this teaching of Habakkuk. He used it as the basis for the last portion of Hebrews 10.

For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And
again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But . .
. ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which
hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God,
ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But
we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
Hebrews 10:30-39.

From Hebrews we learn the object to be waited for in Habakkuk—the Second Coming of Jesus. We also learn
that those that do the “will of God” need patience if they are to receive the promise of a happy end.
We also learn that those that draw back at the trying stage do so “unto perdition.”

There is another prophet, Asaph, that had concerns similar to those of Habakkuk. He nearly lost his hold on God
through his perplexity about the prosperity of the wicked. But then he came to understand the end of sinners as
he studied the sanctuary message. They were bound for destruction.

My feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw
the prosperity of the wicked. . . .They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other
men. . . .They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. . . They say,
How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who
prosper in the world; they increase in riches. . .[Then] I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood
I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.
How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. Ps 73:2-
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So Asaph and Habbakuk had the same question and God gave them the same answer—the Judgment would
settle all things and make wrongs right. Asaph saw it in the sanctuary. Habakkuk was pointed to a vision.

But where can we find a vision that meets the qualifications of Habakkuk 2? A vision that speaks at “the end”
and that postulates a certain time for judgment that would be understood as the time of the second coming? A
vision that men were to be running with? Would it, perhaps, be a vision that also described the sanctuary that
Asaph saw?

There is just such a vision in scripture. The vision of Daniel 8 was fit to be put into tables and charts. It was to
speak at the “end” according to the angel. It was understood to predict the Second Coming to the Adventists
when it really pointed to the judgment in the sanctuary. The Adventists were to continue waiting for the Advent
after an apparent (and unreal) delay.

The prophecy was fulfilled to the letter.

Revelation 10 describes the same experience. There the little book of Daniel is unsealed and preached. In the
mouth of the church (under the figure of John) it was sweet. But when it was truly understood (in the belly) it
was a bitter pill.

Then the angel gives John a peculiar message. He must “prophesy again.” Why did he stop the first time? In the
metaphor it ceased to be sweet at the same time it ceased to be in the "mouth." But now he is to preach to every
kindred, nation, tongue, and people.

And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey:
and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again
before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. Rev 10:10-11.

How could a prophet have better predicted the shut-door heresy and its demise? And is there a scripture that
connects the message of the timing of the judgment (as given to Asaph and Habakkuk) and that of preaching to
all peoples?

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them
that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud
voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: Re 14:6-7.

The truth is beautiful.

-- Eugene Prewitt, 2006


Further points:

Several early Ellen White statements are quoted regularly in attacks against her integrity in regard to the "shut door." F. D.
Nichol has responded to these with a thoughtful synopsis of SDA history.

The short of it all is that groups of men may reach a state of hopelessness simultaneously. This happened in 1843-48 and
will happen again as the world ranges under the "seal of God" or the "mark of the beast."

The power that attended the warnings of the First Angel's Message convicted many hardened sinners. Those that refused
this power, while under its mighty convictions, became callous and belligerent. These were referred to by Ellen White as
the "wicked world that God had rejected."

Then, after the disappointment of 1844, many Adventists concluded that the mighty power that had moved them so recently
was the result of deception. They attributed the work of the Spirit to be the work of the deceiver. These also "did despite" to
the Spirit of Grace. They had tasted of the powers of the Word of God and their rebellion (See Heb 6) was hopeless.

Finally, there were a class of ministers in the early 1800's that became "Christian" spiritualists. These had revivals under
their labors. They were spiritual descendants of the Fox sisters and their introduction of the spiritualistic movements. Ellen
White writing of the rise of spiritualism under the Fox sisters referred to the revivals of these ministers as producing bad
fruit, unconverted converts. Ellen's enemies have taken these statements and used them as if they spoke about all revivals
by all revivalists in all Protestant churches. This is unwarranted and mean spirited or heedless.

"While praying at the family altar, the Holy Ghost fell on me, and I seemed to be rising higher and higher, far above the
dark world. I turned to look for the advent people in the world, but could not find them--when a voice said to me, 'Look
again, and look a little higher.' At this I raised my eyes and saw a straight and narrow path, cast up high above the world.
On this path the advent people were traveling to the city, which was at the farther end of the path. They had a bright light
set up behind them at the first end of the path, which an angel told me was the midnight cry. This light shone all along the
path, and gave light for their feet so they might not stumble. And if they kept their eyes fixed on Jesus, who was just before
them, leading them to the city, they were safe. But soon some grew weary, and they said the city was a great way off, and
they expected to have entered it before. Then Jesus would encourage them by raising His glorious right arm, and from His
arm came a glorious light which waved over the advent band, and they shouted, Hallelujah! Others rashly denied the light
behind them, and said that it was not God that had led them out so far. The light behind them went out, leaving their feet in
perfect darkness, and they stumbled and got their eyes off the mark and lost sight of Jesus, and fell off the path down into
the dark and wicked world below." {1SM 62.1}
Now follows the passage said to be in the original work, but not found in Experience and Views nor in Early Writings:
{1SM 62.2}
"It was just as impossible for them {those that gave up their faith in the '44 movement} to get on the path again and go
to the city, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another." {1SM
62.3}
It is claimed that these expressions prove the shut-door doctrine, and that this is the reason of their omission in later
editions. But in fact they teach only that which has been and is still held by us as a people, as I shall show.
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{1SM 62.4}
For a time after the disappointment in 1844, I did hold, in common with the advent body, that the door of mercy was
then forever closed to the world. This position was taken before my first vision was given me. It was the light given me of
God that corrected our error, and enabled us to see the true position. {1SM 63.1}
I am still a believer in the shut-door theory, but not in the sense in which we at first employed the term or in which it is
employed by my opponents. {1SM 63.2}
There was a shut door in Noah's day. There was at that time a withdrawal of the Spirit of God from the sinful race that
perished in the waters of the Flood. God Himself gave the shut-door message to Noah: {1SM 63.3}
"My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years"
(Gen. 6:3). {1SM 63.4}
There was a shut door in the days of Abraham. Mercy ceased to plead with the inhabitants of Sodom, and all but Lot,
with his wife and two daughters, were consumed by the fire sent down from heaven. {1SM 63.5}
There was a shut door in Christ's day. The Son of God declared to the unbelieving Jews of that generation, "Your house
is left unto you desolate" (Matt. 23:38). {1SM 63.6}
Looking down the stream of time to the last days, the same infinite power proclaimed through John: {1SM 63.7}
"These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth;
and shutteth, and no man openeth" (Rev. 3:7). {1SM 63.8}
I was shown in vision, and I still believe, that there was a shut door in 1844. All who saw the light of the first and second
angels' messages and rejected that light, were left in darkness. And those who accepted it and received the Holy Spirit
which attended the proclamation of the message from heaven, and who afterward renounced their faith and pronounced
their experience a delusion, thereby rejected the Spirit of God, and it no longer pleaded with them. {1SM 63.9}
Those who did not see the light, had not the guilt of its rejection. It was only the class who had despised the light
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from heaven that the Spirit of God could not reach. And this class included, as I have stated, both those who refused to
accept the message when it was presented to them, and also those who, having received it, afterward renounced their faith.
These might have a form of godliness, and profess to be followers of Christ; but having no living connection with God,
they would be taken captive by the delusions of Satan. These two classes are brought to view in the vision--those who
declared the light which they had followed a delusion, and the wicked of the world who, having rejected the light, had been
rejected of God. No reference is made to those who had not seen the light, and therefore were not guilty of its rejection.
{1SM 63.10}