During my first West Coast pastorate, my son came down with a stubborn rash. Perplexed, our family physician referred us to Sang Lee as as “the best allergist in Orange County.”
Lee’s tests identified the irritant: a eucalyptus bush in our yard. He suggested a particular diet for optimal health. I surveyed 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.”
Lee was amazed. “How did Seventh-day Adventists get such advanced information?" he asked. "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 brought him a copy.
The following Sabbath, his white Mercedes ventured into our church parking lot. The Korean Adventists in Anaheim, California, studied the Bible with Lee and soon baptized him. He went on to become a world-renown advocate of Adventist living.
The zeal of a new convert! I wonder whether longtime Seventh-day Adventists really appreciate our truth about theology and our truth about health. And do we value 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 Ellen White’s writings.
Not that everything she taught was original. Sister White warned that theology is 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?
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 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 things such 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 recently, medical science was scaring us about sunshine. Yes, 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 and the lifestyle we have from Jesus, both now and for eternity.
- Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1905), 127.
- Article by A. Kricker and B. Armstrong of the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, accessed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16595142.
- White, Ministry of Healing, 251.
- White, Ministry of Healing, 119.