When I was a pastor in California, my son came down with a stubborn rash. Our physician couldn’t figure out what caused it. He sent us to Dr. Sang Lee, praising him as the best allergist in Orange County.
Dr. Lee’s tests quickly identified the irritant–an innocent-looking eucalyptus bush in our front yard. He suggested a particular diet for optimal health. I looked over his list of recommended foods and smiled. “We already eat this way,” I told him. “Seventh-day Adventists have been doing so for more than a century.”
Dr. Lee was amazed. “How did Seventh-day Adventists get such advanced information? Is there something you have that I can read?”
His sudden request startled me. I hesitated, silently praying about what to give him. Well, what else? Ellen White’s Ministry of Healing!
I told him, “Back in 1905 an Adventist woman wrote a book that says everything you are telling your patients today.” I delivered a copy to him along with another Ellen White book. In one week he read them both. The following Sabbath his big white Mercedes was purring down our church driveway. The Korean Adventists in Anaheim studied the Bible with Dr. Lee and soon baptized him. He went on to become a world-renown advocate of Adventist living.
Oh, the zeal of a new convert! I wonder whether we who are longtime Seventh-day Adventists really appreciate our truth about theology and our truth about health. And do we value our heritage of inspiration in the role of Ellen White?
I admit that many Adventists have unwittingly abused her gift by trying to turn God’s messenger into the message. People often ask, “Do you believe in Ellen White?” Actually, it’s Jesus we believe in. Focusing faith on anyone else amounts to idolatry. Some Adventists go to the other extreme and reject (or just ignore) what Ellen White gave us from God.
Not that everything that our prophet taught was original. She warned that theology must always be rooted in Scripture rather than in her writings. As for health, she didn’t claim to invent good nutrition. But she did reveal divine discernment in selecting the best of what others were saying and rejecting the rest. How did she know what to take and what to leave? The answer is her gift of inspiration.
Long after her death, the books of Ellen White still ride the crest of medical research. We hear warnings about saturated fat and cholesterol, when way back in 1868 she cautioned about the effects of animal fat in the bloodstream. America is just getting over its infatuation with the high-fat, low-carb Atkins’ Diet. Now we hear about smart carbs–a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Well, that’s exactly what Ellen White was recommending a century ago. She counseled against refined foods, particularly white flour and sugar, long before scientists even suspected that such things as vitamins get destroyed in the refining process.
For Ellen White, healthful living was not chasing after the top 10 tabloid diet fads. She viewed health as a holistic lifestyle that meets the needs of body, mind and soul. At the core of her teaching on health are the eight natural remedies: “Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness [that means a good strong No! when you need it], rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in divine power–these are the true remedies.” (1) This old-fashioned Adventist wisdom represents the best of contemporary medical and nutritional science.
I’m fascinated that Ellen White recommended sunlight for good health. Until very recently, medical experts were making us scared of sunshine. And it’s true that overexposure to the sun increases the risk of skin cancer, but the latest research says that sunshine is good after all–in moderation, as with anything else. Now we hear that vitamin D in the body, stimulated by sunlight, destroys more life-threatening and hard-to-detect types of cancer than that which usually grows on the skin. One of many such scholarly articles, “Does sunlight have a beneficial influence on certain cancers?” suggests that greater exposure to the sun in the southern United States explains why cancer deaths are fewer there than in the north. (2)
Another benefit of sunshine is that it boosts the spirit. Ellen White even recognized the health benefits of a good attitude: “Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of soul than does a spirit of gratitude and praise.”(3) “Gratitude and trust open the heart to the healing power of God, the energies of the whole being are vitalized, and the life forces triumph.”(4)
So let’s be grateful for life as God has provided it, both now and for eternity, in Jesus.
1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1905), 127.
2 Article by A. Kricker and B. Armstrong of the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, accessed on the joint website of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.
3 White, Ministry of Healing, 251.
4 White, Ministry of Healing, 119.
This article from Martin Weber, published here for the first time online, previously appeared in OUTLOOK magazine, June 2007.