Call no man Father? Tell Ellen White!

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William Miller

“Father Miller”

Adventists and others accuse Catholics of disobeying Jesus by calling our priests “Father”.

There is plenty of biblical evidence to show that it is quite okay to do call them that.

But the interesting thing is that Ellen White referred to William Miller, the founder of the Millerite movement that started Adventism, as “Father Miller“, and gives one of the Catholic reasons for doing so (cf 1 Cor 4:15):

He was indeed rightly called Father Miller, for he had a watchful care over those who came under his ministrations, was affectionate in his manner, of genial and tender heart.
– Ellen White – Life Sketches of James White and Ellen G. White 1880, page 149

He was indeed rightly called Father Miller, for he had a watchful care over those who came under his ministrations, was affectionate in his manner, of a genial disposition and tender heart.
– Ellen White – Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, page 22

As Father Miller made a practical application of Scripture truth to the hearts of his hearers …
– Ellen White – Christ Triumphant, page 337

That pretty much makes hypocrites of Adventists who accuse Catholics of being unscriptural. They consider Ellen White to be inspired, and her writings are used as a lens through which to interpret the Bible.

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    • Greg Cox on November 30, 2015 at 2:03 am

    It’s interesting that the author of this piece flatly avoided Christ’s own quote about “who” to call father.

    Moreover, White’s quotes were retrospective history of what Miller’s followers called him – when she was 16, and before her conversion.

    The author then claimed; That pretty much makes hypocrites of Adventists who accuse Catholics of being unscriptural.”
    No, it doesn’t. Catholics are no more responsible for the heinous sins of the vatican than are Americans responsible for their governments wicked dealings.

    The author finished with: ” They consider Ellen White to be inspired, and her writings are used as a lens through which to interpret the Bible.”
    FALSE AGAIN! Scripture is the lens to evaluate all writings, White’s included. This last statement is simply bearing false witness

    1. I’ll quote and comment on each section:

      It’s interesting that the author of this piece flatly avoided Christ’s own quote about “who” to call father.

      Actually, this post was about Ellen, and I linked to my post about anti-Catholic misinterpretation of Jesus’ own words. You can click here to read it if you like.

      Moreover, White’s quotes were retrospective history of what Miller’s followers called him – when she was 16, and before her conversion.

      Ellen White wrote in her own words at the time she wrote them, and at that time, she referred to Father Miller. While she was referring to past events, at the time she was writing about those past events, she called him Father Miller, and justified her use of the title. She didn’t say they used to call him Father Miller, but they were wrong.

      So does Adventism need to correct Ellen White on her blasphemous use of words? Are you willing to?

      The author then claimed; That pretty much makes hypocrites of Adventists who accuse Catholics of being unscriptural.”
      No, it doesn’t. Catholics are no more responsible for the heinous sins of the vatican than are Americans responsible for their governments wicked dealings.

      No, it still does.

      1. Ellen called William Miller “Father Miller” and justified her use of the title.
      2. Adventists accuse us of being unscriptural for doing exactly the same and using the same justification.
      3. Therefore Adventists accuse Catholics of what their own prophetess did – and that is hypocrisy.

      The author finished with: ” They consider Ellen White to be inspired, and her writings are used as a lens through which to interpret the Bible.”
      FALSE AGAIN! Scripture is the lens to evaluate all writings, White’s included. This last statement is simply bearing false witness

      If the Bible says X, and Ellen says Y, Ellen is used to interpret the Bible to say Y.

      Ellen White’s writings are considered equal to the Bible in terms of inspiration, but less than the Bible in terms of authority. You can see the evidence for that in another post of mine here.

      Perhaps you as an individual reject Ellen’s teachings whenever they are in conflict with the Bible. Perhaps you as an individual reject some of Ellen’s teachings and prefer your own interpretations. That is generally not the official Adventist stance, but certainly a commendable one, and many Adventists see her as more of a problem than a solution. But the fact remains is that, for many Adventists, if the Bible gets interpreted, it’s in light of Ellen’s teachings.

    2. This is what Ellen wrote:

      “He was indeed rightly called Father Miller, for he had a watchful care over those who came under his ministrations, was affectionate in his manner, of a genial disposition and tender heart.”

      She is writing in her current time, saying that he was rightly called “Father Miller”.

      That doesn’t sound at all to me like she was speaking of a time when she had called him “Father Miller” and now she no longer does because it’s not right to do so. When she wrote this piece of history, she used that title for him, and while doing so, she justified the use of the title. At that time of her writing it.

      • Dave on December 6, 2015 at 8:04 am

      Hi Stephen,

      Truth is Mrs. White considered her righting canon and warned that anyone that disregarded her righting would offend God. She also preaches that she needs to interpret the scriptures because the truth of the scriptures are at risk in the hands of the layman. The bible says the opposite. It says “No one shall say Know the Lord for they will all know me from the least to the greatest” we don’t need a prophet to tell us what God says, he talks to us all. Jesus says “My sheep know my voice” …Paul says that you don’t need anyone to teach you because the Spirit that the Lord gave you will teach you all things and guid you into all truth. My point is Adventists have their own pope. Their own infallible interpreter of scripture. They might not call anyone father but the call Mrs. White biblical interpreter and infallible teacher. And I will say this for an Adventist ALL scripture is sifted through her writings making her writings above the bible. Not good.

    • John Regueiras on March 19, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    I wonder if anyone has ever taken the time to consider what the Lord meant when He told the disciples to not call anyone father?
    He was meaning that it is wrong to call any human father in the spiritual sense, He was not refering to it in the physical sense. In other words, we only have One Spiritual Father(Abba), and that is God the Creator.
    If Ellen White was refering to Miller as a spiritual father then she is guilty of the act of blasphemy, but if she was refering to Miller as father out of respect and the fact that he founded the movement and for his contributions, then she is not in error, as even God refers to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel as fathers. If the Catholics refer to their priests and popes as father and even holy fathers, that would not be because these fathers founded the church or contributed to its foundations, because even new priests are called father this day who could not have contributed in the founding of the movement. In this case it would be considered blasphemy, because Catholic priests and popes are called father’s for spiritual reasons!
    The title POPE is derived from the Latin PAPA, which means FATHER. To call a founder of a movement or organisation father is ok, but to call someone father because of religious reasons, such as a persons position in religion and a person to whom confessions are made, is not ok. Adios.

    1. You say that we can only call people Father if they are founders of a movement/organisation, but not for spiritual reasons.

      Abraham was called Father for spiritual reasons, not just because he was seen as the founder of the Israelites, but because he was a paternal figure in a spiritual sense as well.

      Paul writes to the Corinthians (1 Cor 4:15) and claims to be their father. They are in his spiritual care, and he is their spiritual leader – their father. At that point, he was not the founder of a movement, he was the person in charge of that part of the Christian flock, much like a bishop or priest.

      Furthermore, Jesus did not give exceptions, so any exceptions you add are as valid as exceptions we find in the pages of the Bible. If what Jesus said applied absolutely to the use of the word “father”, then both Ellen and Catholics are wrong. If Paul’s use is legitimate, then Ellen and Catholics are right, and Adventists must remain silent and repent of their slander.

      Useful reading: Call No Man “Father”? via Catholic Answers

    • John Regueiras on March 19, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Surely Abraham was a type of Jesus(by his example of faith), and also of God the Father, when taking into account his willingness to sacrifice his own son(according to the biblical teaching of type and anti-type), father to Israel in the literal sense, father to Christians by his example of faith in the spiritual sense, refering to him as a founding father of faith, not as the spiritual father. (note dual application)

    Surely Paul was a founding father of Christianity in the literal sense, as it is relatively well known that he established a few churches which did not exist before he came along, that fact certainly qualifies him as a founding father of at least a few churches based on Christian beliefs. But as for him claiming to be spiritual leader and father to the saints, as you claim, Paul does no such thing, and humbly fulfills his role as spiritual guide, who guides the saints to their Spiritual Father through Christ.
    Using your way of reasoning about no exceptions, we could argue that Christ made no exceptions when He instructed His followers to cut their eyes out and chop their hands off if either of those members of their bodies should cause them to sin. By your logic saints would have to be mutilated in order to satisfy this verse, thankfully we know that it was meant in the spiritual sense. as it is written: “God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” John 4:24, and, “…..comparing spiritual things with spiritual” 1 Cor 2:13, and “…. because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor 2:14. Meaning that even though the Lord made no exception in this case, which you pointed out, we can have an understanding of what He really meant when we apply the above mentioned biblical study principles.

    1. You say Abraham was a father to Christians in a spiritual sense, but not a spiritual father. Huh?

      You say Paul was a spiritual guide, but not a spiritual father. Yet Paul says he has begotten them. That’s what a father does.

      You acknowledge exceptions. Good.

    • John Regueiras on March 20, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    About Abraham, i meant SYMBOLIC father or figure in relation to Christians, please be merciful enough to consider forgiving me this simple typo error, it was late and “much study tires the flesh”.

    About Paul, we could argue that it is a case of semantics. But for the sake of peace, for which we must always strive, let us agree that God alone is God, and to call any man a ‘spiritual father’ is tantamount to calling the man God. It is by God’s Spirit and grace that Paul was an Apostle of God and was called to preach the gospel, performed miracles, wrote letters, etc. To give Paul the full credit for God’s work is absurd, Paul, like all other men of God, is a servant of God, which is what he personally prefered to be called. The Spirit of God is pure, which is why He is worthy to be God, but Paul admits his own impurity by declaring himself the “chief of sinners”, to call Paul a spiritual father, would be to imply that Paul was God. You argue that Paul made the statement that he had “begotten”, but you conveniently ignore how Paul had “begotten”, allow me to contextualise: 1 Cor 4:15 “….For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” Paul is not claiming the ‘credit’ alone as father and he informs us by who’s Spirit he ‘begets’, surely he wasn’t implying that he had begotten anyone by his own(sinful) spirit. It is also clear in this verse that Paul was merely the ‘conduit’ or vessel through which the Spirit of God works. Paul was well loved, honoured and respected among the believers, who regarded him as a brother, leader and father in the literal sense. If man can be spiritual father, why would we need God the Father then? Jesus never refers to Himself as Father at any time, but we are to call Paul that?
    The Lord’s statement, “call no man Father”, would be hypocritical.

    1. Calling a man a spiritual father cannot be tantamount to calling the man God, because the Bible calls both Abraham and Isaac fathers, and Paul calls himself a father.

      You correctly cite 1 Cor 4:15, and you correctly say that Paul did not beget those he is addressing in his sinful nature. But Paul begat them, in a spiritual sense, and that makes him their spiritual father. Paul repeatedly calls people his children, and says he became Onesimus’ father.

      Paul was clearly not their biological father, and it was in a spiritual sense that he was their father, which makes him their spiritual father.

      Jesus never claimed to be the Father because he was not God the Father; he was God the Son.

      None of this detracts from the Fatherhood of God. Paul said “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Paul was an example to them, and it was not blasphemy for him to tell them to follow him – he was a type, Christ is the antitype. The fatherhood of Abraham, Isaac, Paul, and our biological fathers, symbolise for us the Fatherhood of God, and this is quite legitimate as a type, as it is portrayed as such in the Bible.

    • John Regueiras on March 21, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Very glad to know that we have reached an agreement, but i am not sure if you realize it or even willing to accept it(the carnal mind sees what it wants to see, the spiritual mind sees what God sees!).

    You concluded your last comment by admitting that Abraham, Isaac and Paul fall into the category of type and antitype. However, even after correctly making this conclusion, you fail to understand the concept of type and antitype, your failure to understand can easily be remedied by praying and adding a little more effort into your studies of the Holy scriptures. Type is designed to be a SYMBOLIC representation of the actual SUBSTANCE(I would say THING so as to be easier understood, but it is not appropriate/respectful in this case).

    We can correctly conclude and peacefully agree that Paul, Abraham, all the other godly men and prophets of God were symbolic fathers(types), not Spiritual Father(antitype). Just as the lamb, which was used as a sacrifice for the sins of the Jews, was symbolic(type) of Christ(antitype), the lamb was never intended to be a spiritual representative of Christ, that would be blasphemy and idolatry. It is understandable that Catholics are not prepared to accept that their can be no spiritual Father besides God, because this admission would destroy one of their most treasured (false)beliefs which involves praying to and through deceased Apostles, saints, Mary and others. Which practice is definitely not of God, as we find a fair warning of this error when king Saul made the fatal mistake of seeking after deceased prophet Samuel for ‘spiritual inspiration’.

    Our Lord declares that no man can come to THE Father except through Him(Jesus the Son of God alone), no exceptions whatsoever, God alone is the Father of spirits Heb.12:9, no other entity can therefore be called spiritual father.

    1. As you said before, this is semantics.

      One way of wording it: Abraham, Isaac, Paul, biological fathers, and clergy = symbolic fathers (types) representing God the Father (antitype)

      The other way of wording it: Abraham, Isaac, Paul, biological fathers, and clergy = spiritual fathers symbolising God the Father

      Either way, what Ellen did and what Catholics do is legitimate, and either way, Adventists are hypocritical for condemning Catholics for doing what Ellen did.

    • John Regueiras on March 21, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    If you insist upon getting into semantics, let’s consider that In one of your previous replies, you refered to Jesus as ‘Son of God’, but you are equally comfortable to refer to Paul and other mortal men as ‘Spirtual Father’. Quite interesting.

    Please understand that it is not intended to offend, or defend, SDA, Catholics, or any others, but to stimulate clear reasoning and expose error, Lord willing. There is no conclusive evidence that White was refering to Miller as a spiritual father, what is likely is that she was refering to him in the same SYMBOLIC sense of forefather that is acceptably applied to Paul and the other fathers as previously listed. This can be reasonably assumed because, in the context, she was refering to Miller as being the founding father of Millerites, not necessarily as spiritual father(she wasn’t praying to him), which is what i am able to gleen from the context of what she wrote. But if we could prove conclusively that she, or anyone else for that matter, refered to him as spiritual father, that would certainly be wrong and hypocritical.

    Biological father, or just father, forerunner, founding father, symbolic leader/father, teacher, and we can even throw in ‘mentor’ to list biblically valid/acceptable/non-blasphemous titles(which all fall into the category of TYPE) for the men of God. To refer to any godly man born of Adam according to the order of man as a TYPE/SYMBOL is correct because any man who knew God(ANTITYPE/SUBSTANCE) would reflect the character of God, just as a human son reflects characteristics of his earthly father, but to call the son ‘father’ would be absurd. The godly men(son’s – types) of God(Father – antitype) were expected to reflect the character/spirit of their Father, not their own. Salvation is of the Spirit(God) not of the flesh(man).
    Blessings.

    1. Jesus as Son of God? Paul as spiritual father? I don’t have a problem with those concepts – they’re biblical.

      “Symbolic sense of forefather like Paul” = spiritual father.

      Paul was a father to his flock in a spiritual sense. Same sense as with Catholic priests.

    • John Regueiras on March 21, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    It was previously mentioned that the proper application of the concept of TYPE and ANTITYPE is not being clearly understood, and that is where the disagreement/error/confusion lies. Probably due to weakness on my part to explain it in simple terms, but please bear with me in allowing me this final attempt, thanks for your patience thus far.

    When we refer to Paul and all the other godly, righteous men of God through the ages, whom God saw fit to ‘use’ in order to fulfill certain roles for His glory, as fathers in the TYPE or SYMBOLIC sense, then that is right and no complaint or charge can be made, but if and when we refer to these same ‘characters’, of whom we agree are all TYPES and SYMBOLS(meaning that they are a REFLECTION of their respective ANTITYPE), then they cannot possibly also be refered to or called by the title of the ANTITYPE or SUBSTANCE of who they are TYPES or SYMBOLS of.

    The TYPE can never also be or refered to as the ANTITYPE, the SYMBOL can never also be or refered to as the SUBSTANCE. Just as The Christ cannot also be the antichrist, neither can the REFLECTION of a man in a mirror, or on the surface of water, ever be the actual man or the SUBSTANCE of what is being reflected. An image or photo of Stephen can never be the real Stephen, we can certainly point to an image/photo/statue and exclaim “this is Stephen!”, but is it really Stephen?

    in conclusion, no man or creature by any name, at any time can rightly be refered to as Spiritual Father, wether capitalized or not, as God Almighty Saviour and Father of all Creation alone is due this most Holy of titles. We agree that Paul and all godly men were and are SYMBOLIC and TYPES, therefore, of necessity, they can never be, or refered to as the ANTITYPE or SUBSTANCE of the One whom they are TYPES of.
    “Call no MAN Father” is valid! Amen.

    1. You have some strange ideas about types and antitypes.

      “Call no man father” is a hyperbolic instruction regarding the respect due to man and God.

      King David was no less a real king of Israel just because his kingship was a type of Christ’s kingship.

      Abraham was no less a spiritual father to Israel and Christians just because his fatherhood was a type of God’s fatherhood.

      Paul was no less a spiritual father to his flock just because his fatherhood was a type of God’s fatherhood.

      When the Bible calls these men kings and fathers, it does so legitimately. Otherwise the phrases “your father Abraham” and “Ahraham our father” in the Bible, and “Father Miller” in Ellen’s writings, would be blasphemy. But they are not. Likewise, the spiritual fatherhood of people today in charge of their flocks, like Paul was in his time, is not a blasphemous concept.

      Semantic hoops aren’t going to change this. I think you’re trying desperately to separate out the Bible and Ellen on one hand, from Catholic usage on the other, so make the one okay and the other not. But you can’t – they’re the same thing.

      This is getting repetitive.

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