THE DENCE LETTER
DATE OF PUBLICATION: JULY 1994
David Dence is a close friend of the present writer, and it is painful to have to prepare this report. But his letter is now being widely circulated.
Unfortunately, David made the mistake of working with Charles Wheeling. David's intentions were the best: He wanted to help distribute Great Controversy more widely, and he believed that, by working at Wheeling's headquarters in Jemison, Alabama, he could do this more effectively.
The problem is that Wheeling always tries to convert everyone within hearing distance to his speculative positions on Bible prophecy, his ever-changing predictions and time setting, and his view that the Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible writers are inaccurate—in contrast to his own positions.
In a two-page study, Shall We Throw Out the Baby? David writes from the standpoint of one who has already accepted some of Wheeling's specious arguments which reduce confidence in Gods Word. He appeals to the reader not to totally cast aside Scripture, even though it contains error and not all the light. He urges the reader to keep his Spirit of Prophecy books, for they are still useful.
David: Some of my valued friends are forcing my back to the wall, giving me an all or nothing choice regarding the Spirit of Prophecy. The Spirit of Prophecy is either all from God or it is all from Satan they say. You cannot pick and choose. Either you accept it all or discard it all.
Choosing for himself to continue picking and choosing, selecting that which he considers true in the Spirit of Prophecy and rejecting that which he considers incorrect in it, David lists four sample problems with the Spirit of Prophecy. His point is that she only had part of the light, and much more would come from thinkers and speakers after her time. He says she wrote for those living in the past, not those living today. Frankly, David sees errors where there are not errors.
is no need to question her integrity. She was shown exactly what God
wanted His people to believe at that time. If her understanding of
prophecy was not complete, it is because God held His hand over those
portions of Scripture.
We will now reply to each of the four examples David presents in support of his contention that the Spirit of Prophecy writings kept changing in their doctrinal position, so we today should be willing to keep changing ours:
(Example 1) Dence: We find in 1T 206-207 that she initially held no condemnation for those who ate pork.
That 1 Testimonies statement is a shining example of two facts:
 God did not reveal all the light—all at once—to His people through the Spirit of Prophecy. But He did, ultimately, reveal through the Spirit of Prophecy all the light needed by Gods people in these last days, in order to give the final warning to the world and prepare for the final crisis and translation. It is for that reason that we are far better off getting our light from the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy than seeking to find it in the speculations of contemporary preachers. In her 70 years of ministry, Ellen White gave us an incredible amount of light and truth!
 We have the Testimonies just as Ellen White wrote them. If the leaders really had changed the Testimonies, they surely would have removed that pork statement. Shortly after writing it, the Lord gave her clear light on the dangers of eating swine's flesh (1 Testimonies, 524-525, 4 Spiritual Gifts, 124, 126, 2 Testimonies 94, 96; 4 Testimonies 141, etc.).
(Example 2) Dence: Another example is seen in GC 440-441 where she says that the second beast of Revelation 13, the beast that brings fire down from heaven, is the United States. This was an interpretation commonly held by all Protestants at that time. But three years later she upgraded her position to reflect increased light. She was shown that the lamb-like beast is Satan himself rather than the United States (3 SM, 393). In Revelation we read concerning Satan, And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven.
David is trying to prove that Ellen White was ever changing in her doctrinal beliefs, so we should be willing to be ever changing them now. How sad it is that men and women are ever searching for the elusive new light in the uninspired writings and speeches of men, while the radiant shining of wondrous light—both old and new—shines forth from the Inspired Writings of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy.
In regard to David's second point, quoted just above, the two beasts of Revelation 13 (the leopard beast and the lamblike beast) have been clearly identified in the Spirit of Prophecy. There was no changeover from one position to the other. The first beast is the papacy and the second is the United States. Revelation 13 is based on, and sequentially, follows Revelation 12. In that chapter there is a dragon-like creature, which Revelation 12:9 and the Spirit of Prophecy identify as Satan. In Revelation 13, we see the dragon working through the leopard and lamblike beasts. In order to do that effectively, he gives power to do his will more effectively.
Who then do those two beasts represent? They primarily represent the papacy or United States; yet, behind the scenes, they represent Satan working through both of these earthly powers.
We have, in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, a consistent portrayal, not a change in doctrinal position.
The leopard beast of Revelation 13 represents the papacy (GC 439, 442, 443, 445, 578; SR 381-382). The leopard beast of Revelation 13 also represents Satan. The papacy is a gigantic system false religion and a masterpiece of Satan (GC 50). It is a monument of Satan's effort to rule the earth according to his will (GC 50). It has not changed (GC 571). It conceals the invariable venom of the serpent beneath the variable appearance of the chameleon (GC 571), and its work is done under Satan's special direction (7 BC 911).
The lamblike beast of Revelation 13 represents the United States of America (GC 440-441, 445, 578-579, SR 381-382). The lamblike beast of Revelation 13 also represents Satan. It speaks with a voice like a dragon (GC 441-442). Satan speaks through its apparent wonders (3 SM 393, quoted above).
It is clear from the above passages that we do not have a doctrinal changeover here either. Instead, all variations of the concepts are given in Great Controversy.
(Example 3) Dence: Yet another example is seen in GC 335 where she says that the sixth trumpet was exactly fulfilled on August 11, 1840. But within a few years both she and Dr. Josiah Litch abandoned that position in favor of the ever increasing light from Gods Word. They both concluded that the trumpets were still future. Trumpet after trumpet IS TO BE sounded. See 7 BC 562, 982.
Three points should be noted here:
 The 7 BC 562 numerical reference is incorrect; what it should be we do not know. But it probably says about the same as the 7 BC 982 passage, which is quoted.
 If the Spirit of Prophecy gave a fulfillment of the sixth trumpet in GC 335, and later said there would be other fulfillments of all seven trumpets, we cannot assume that she therefore canceled the GC 335 fulfillment as having been an incorrect application. She nowhere said that the GC 335 fulfillment was incorrect; she only said there would be future fulfillments of trumpet after trumpet.
 We cannot be certain from the 7 BC 982 quotation (it is on the bottom right of the page), that it is even talking about the seven trumpets of Revelation, although that is a definite possibility. It is unwise to use one or two unclear statements to found doctrine upon.
So this third example cannot be used to prove that Ellen White had switched from one doctrinal position to another.
(Example 4) Dence: Perhaps I should cite one final example. In GC 439 she stated that the 42 months spoken of in Revelation 13:5 began in 538 and ended in 1798. Later, after quoting Revelation 13:4-10 she clearly placed this time period in the future: This entire chapter is a revelation of what will surely take place. (See 7 BC 979).
Two points should be noted here:
 Once again we find David using the same flawed argument of over-application: Because, in one passage, the Spirit of Prophecy applied Revelation 13:5 to one time span, and later said the entire chapter still had a future fulfillment, does not mean that, by so doing, she had abrogated or nullified the first application.
 David is trying to prove that the 1260-year prophecy has a future fulfillment. Although that time prophecy is mentioned a remarkable number of times in Daniel and Revelation (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 11:2; 12:6; 12:14; 13:5; more times than any other single time prophecy in the Bible), yet the only Spirit of Prophecy passage David could locate which might place it in the future is this general statement in 7 Bible Commentary 979. That is the way it always is with these stretched, futuristic Spirit of Prophecy time-setting statements. They hint at a future time setting, but do not come out and say so!
On one hand, we have clear (very clear!) Spirit of Prophecy statements that there will be no correct time-setting calculations after 1844 (except the one the Lord declares at the sounding of the Voice of God after the close of probation, when He declares the day and hour of Jesus coming)—indeed, so many clear statements that we have a entire 11x17-inch tract filled with part of them (ask for a copy of Its No Time for Time Excitement [PG21]).
On the other hand, we have only the most nebulous statements put forward in favor of the possibility that there will, indeed, be such time setting in the future. The above-quoted paragraph is an example of this kind of thing. Read the referred-to passage (7 BC 979; part-way down the second column) in its entirety. It is talking about the mark of the beast being applied and the Sabbath truth being the issue in the final crisis. THAT is what is to be fulfilled in the future! This is the focus of that chapter. 7 Bible Commentary, 979 does not clearly place this time period in the future.
David uses the above four dubious examples to prove his point that Ellen White repeatedly repudiated earlier doctrinal beliefs and adopted new ones.
David: As you can see, her understanding was progressive. In some instances the new light contradicted previously held positions.
But in the last three of the four examples cited, she did not contradict her earlier positions.
David then appeals to his Wheeling supporters not to throw out the Spirit of Prophecy because she has been proven wrong. But, in reality, Ellen Whites writings have not been proven wrong! It is true that men will attempt to make it appear they are inconsistent, so new theories can be presented, but the truth is we find those sacred writings to be very consistent.
David goes on to tell the reader that, even though he has tried to show that Ellen White has erred doctrinally, and been fickle and wishy-washy in her theological positions on last-day events, yet we should adhere to her writings anyway, and why? because not all her writings are about those doctrines!
David: Some conscientious souls say, If Sister White can be proven wrong in one area, she must not be a true prophet. I may as well drink wine and go back to dancing.
While this may seem like logical reasoning to some, it is really an extreme position. Who said anything about the standards? And what do Christian standards have to do with eschatology? There is no reason to question Sister White on health reform, dress reform, education, recreation, association, or true medical missionary work. Even her teaching of the doctrines is sound. Aside from the experience with pork, all the above examples are concentrated in one area: eschatology [last-day events].
If David believed Ellen Whites presentation of final events, he would have no problem with her statements, but he has been with Wheeling so long, he has imbibed his zeal for developing ever new theories about coming events and the dates they will occur.
David then goes on to explain that Ellen Whites problem was that she believed that Jesus was going to return soon. If she had not believed that, she would not have made those doctrinal mistakes. Apparently, David imagines that Ellen White thought up her theology by herself, and, because of personal misconceptions, was swayed into developing incorrect theology. He then says that the Bible writers would also have changed their teachings, if they could have seen down to our time. Apparently, their doctrinal teachings were incorrect also.
David: She simply had the same problem all the prophets before her had; she was an Adventist. An Adventist is one who looks for the eminent return of Jesus. For most of her life she confidently expected Jesus return in her day. This would understandably color her view of the apocalyptic [end-time] prophecies . . Just think how quickly Daniel, Peter, Paul, John, and Sister White would commence applying the prophecies if they were alive today! As we have seen above, Sister White progressed in her prophetic understanding. Have we progressed? Or have we gotten stuck just where she left us?
With that, David ends his position paper. I am very sorry that David takes this stand, for he is about as nice a person as one can meet.
Are you one of those pitiful individuals who chooses to be stuck with the Spirit of Prophecy and Bible, when you could walk in the evanescent sparks of newly thought up speculations? There are those who pity you in your ignorance. But cheer up; you have the Word of God on your side. Be faithful to the end, and He will give you a crown of life.