here’s to your health!
The Health Message
Ellen White wrote considerable on the principles of healthy living. Some see this as a gift of love, given us from God, so we may have the best health possible. A message from God, Who, not only wants to “recreate” us spiritually, but also wants to give us the tools to have wholeness of body, and enable to resist the many diseases which improper diet imposes on the masses. Others see the messages as a restrictive burden which EGW dreamed up and then didn’t even follow herself.
First of all, the Health Message is based solidly on Biblical Principles:
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“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Cor. 6.13-15
Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats? But God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body…..
Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?
1 Cor. 3:16-17
Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.
1 Cor. 9.25
And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
…Therefore, I keep my body under control, and bring it into subjection:
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
3 John 1:2
Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers.
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Why did EGW promote the Health reform given her in vision? Was it to gain merit points with God?
“The work of health reform is the Lord’s means for lessening suffering in our world and for purifying His church. Teach the people that they can act as God’s helping hand by co-operating with the Master Worker in restoring physical and spiritual health.” 9T.112
Did Ellen White preach one thing and practice something else? Was this just some arbitrary message she imposed on the church? Critics of Adventism have suggested such things.
Let’s go over a little history without the prejudice.
1844-1855 were the formative years for the Adventist people. As far as health goes it was basically a time of ignorance. The relation of food to health was practically unknown.
Doctors “cured” disease by “bloodletting and purgatives and emetics that weakened and often poisoned and killed the patients rather than healing them.
Yet there were a few advocating health reform, by 1860 one doctor wrote that “if the whole materia medica, as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind and all the worse for the fishes. (Dr. Oliver Holmes) The latter part of the 1800’s saw an awakening to health principles.
In the Adventist group, Joseph Bates, was probably the first to take a serious look at the health principles and to see that wrong health habits causes distress and disease to the body. He was already a vegetarian in 1843! The Haskell’s were convinced that unclean meats should not be eaten, long before the Adventist group in general were convinced this to true. Thus a lot of factors helped in paving the way for the acceptance of the health message.
However, it seems to have been in the providence of God, that the fundamental spiritual truths be formulated first, before the more testing messages of health be brought. People back then were no different than people today. They did not like having their personal habits tampered with!
It is a well known fact that both James and Ellen White, not yet having been impressed with the Scriptural reasons against ham and bacon, felt there were more important things to worry about in those early years than to “object or not object to abstinence from the use of swine’s flesh” (See: The Present Truth, Nov. 1850)
When several zealous people who wanted certain foods discarded but didn’t make provision to teach the people concerning the use of wholesome substitutes: to these Ellen White wrote in 1858:
The right time?
(while some instructions were given before this), God chose to reveal the more comprehensive Health message in 1863 (Read the message in 4SP 120-151)
Here Ellen White was shown the dangers of meat eating (among many other healthful principles)
Ellen White’s reaction as recorded in 4SP 153
On March 6, 1869, she declared:
But circumstances in those following years led her to occasionally partake of meat. Her philosophy in regard to diet was that we should use the best food available, prepared in the best and simplest way. Healthful reform is to strengthen the health not buy merits. There were no meat substitutes as we now know them back then. The great selection of foods we now know was not available back then either.
In 1873 as James and Ellen were spending a working vacation in the Rocky Mountains we read:
In 1884 Ellen White spent some time at the Rural Health Retreat. We read:
Often while there I was compelled to eat meat because there was nothing else that could be eaten. At times I would be so faint and dizzy for the want of good wholesome food that I fairly reeled through weakness. . .the cook had not made it her study to prepare wholesome dishes in order that flesh meat as a food may become less and less necessary.” (Letter 4, 1884)
She again shows the personal battle she had in discarding meat, and the strong hold it had held on her:
It is true that she struggled with meat, but rather than negate the truth, it only confirms the message was from God and not from EGW.
In a statement published in 1890 she declared:
From 1894 onward she made the final break from meats saying,
But we must not overlook the fact that all through these experiences in which she sometimes used a little flesh food, Ellen White never recommended meat as the ideal diet, she always pointed out the dangers of its use, and urged a vegetarian dietary program, both for herself, personally, and in our institutions.
But then, most of our critics want to place all these health principles into strictly legal conditions i.e. – as if we thought we earn salvation by being vegetarian. One misstep and you go to hell, type of thing.
That is where the problem lies. Health principles are not legalism – they do not earn the way to heaven.
Yet health reform, as we know it, is a progressive journey.
Even prophets must take time to assimilate revealed principles- time for theory to become practice in their lives. It is a moving in the life habits, from bad to good, from good to the better, and from better to the best.
Rumors and Criticism:
Canright, an ex-Adventist preacher, said that he saw the Whites eating ham in their own home. This is quite likely, since Canright was in the White home in the late 1850’s and early 1860’s. The Whites were still eating swine’s flesh then. It wasn’t until 1863 that EGW had the health vision and it was after that they stopped eating ham. So between 1859 and 1863 Canright would have had many opportunities to see the Whites eating swine’s flesh.
The oyster issue.
No direct vision had been given Ellen White concerning oysters. In 1883 W.H Littlejohn, pastor of the Battle Creek Tabernacle, wrote: It is difficult to decide with certainly whether oysters would properly come under the prohibition of Leviticus 11…It would however, seem from the language, as if they might.” So at that time there was still question as to oysters being clean or unclean.
Vegetarianism, as such, is not promoted as a total abstinence from all meat, at all times, under all conditions. Vegetarianism is a lifestyle of a person who does not eat flesh foods as part of the regular diet.
But doesn’t EGW say…..
Those who are to be saved in the end will not be eating meat?
—-flesh food is injurious to health, and what ever affects the body has corresponding effect on the mind and the soul. (CDF)
The Lord intends to bring his people back to live upon simple fruits, vegetables and grains. (U.T.Nov. 5,1896)
Yes, those who wish to present their bodies a living sacrifice unto God, holy and pleasing to God, (Romans 12:2) Christians who eat and drink for God’s glory not for the belly god, will be vegetarians. Why? Because meat is known for it’s injurious effects on the body. Meat is becoming more and more diseased. If it ever was save to eat, it certainly isn’t now.
There are also other principles to consider in the issue. The sheer cruelty to the animals which modern meat production causes, should make any Christian turn from supporting such an industry. And lastly– if all the grain fed to animals were used to feed people, there would be plenty of food for all nations.
Ellen White does not promote a “harsh legalistic set of rules” but grand principles for health that are a true blessing to anyone who incorporates them into their lives.
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