The Meat of the Message
Seventh-day Adventists believe they have been called in these latter days to spread the gospel and bring people to God. One tool for achieving this aim is their health message. It is intended to show people how to live more healthy lives and lead them to Christ.
The Adventist health message is based on the counsels of Ellen G. White. The "meat" of the Adventist health message actually is based on meat or flesh food literally. Their health message hinges on this. Any Adventist today will tell you that most of them are vegetarian; a more likely figure is 40% to 50%. They will insist to you that they do not eat meat because mat eating is not in God's plan and that consumption of the flesh of animals can only lead to sickness, particularly cancer. They will tell you that chickens and salmon these days are full of cancer; and how could you eat something with cancer and not end up catching it yourself? Few Adventists however will tell you the original reason why Ellen White condemned meat. That is to be the fascinating subject of this chapter.
Before we go into this further, let me point out some good advice from the Book of Hebrews. "Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited their adherents." (Heb 13:9) The writer indicates that the Christian should not preach special diets as doctrine. Diet has not done anything for the salvation of anyone.
The revelation that was to shape Adventist health reform was given to Ellen White in the famous vision of Oswego, on June the 6th, 1863. During a vision lasting 45 minutes, God showed her highly advanced medical principles years ahead of her time. Such, anyway, is the claim. (Ellen G. White: Prophet of Destiny, Rene Noorbergen, p. 98.)
One would think that with man's knowledge being what it was, God could have
revealed some highly useful information. For example:
Turning from what God *might have* revealed to what He *did* reveal we learn the particulars with some surprise.
Just months after the vision, Ellen White published "An Appeal to Mothers: The Great Cause of the Physical, Mental, and Moral Ruin of Children of Our Time." This was Mrs. White's first book on health reform. Its intent was to warn the world about the dangers of - MASTURBATION!
Mrs. White, it seems, was dissatisfied with the result of this production and six years later she produced an amplified version entitled "A Solemn Appeal." This book was edited by her husband and included articles from other writers to back up Mrs. White's counsel.
This booklet is today unavailable, and any who read it can see why. Let us examine some of its passages.
"I feel alarmed for those children and you who by solitary vice are ruining themselves...you listen to numerous complaints of headache, catarrh, dizziness, nervousness, pain in the shoulders and side, loss of appetite, pain in the back and limbs...and have you not noticed that there was a deficiency in the mental health of your children?" "Secret indulgence [masturbation] is, in many cases, the only real cause of the numerous complaints of the young." (p. 11, 13)
"The state of the world is alarming. Everywhere we look we see imbecility, dwarfed forms, crippled limbs, misshapen heads and deformity of every description... Corrupt habits are wasting their energy, and bringing upon them loathsome and complicated diseases... Children who practice self-indulgence [masturbation]...must pay the penalty." (p. 14)
It is enlightening to note that Ellen White's original writing of this last quotation has been altered. Her husband deleted the words that showed that his wife had seen this *in vision*. Was he embarrassed by the fact? The passage originally said: "The state of the world was presented before me [in vision], and my attention was especially called to the youth of our time. Everywhere I looked, I saw imbecility, dwarfed forms" etc. This is much more authoritative than: "Everywhere we look we see..." Maybe James White doubted that this was something God had actually shown his wife. Be that as it may, he altered it. Let's continue.
"If the practice is continued from the ages of 15 and upward, nature will protest...and will make them pay the penalty...by numerous pains in the system, and various diseases, such as affection of the liver and lungs, neuralgia, rheumatism, affection of the spine, diseased kidneys and cancerous humours... There is often a sudden breaking down of the constitution, and death is the result." (p. 14-15)
"Females possess less vital force than the other sex." (See Note:) The result of self abuse in them is seen in various diseases, such as catarrh, dropsy, headache, loss of memory and sight, great weakness in the back and loins, affections of the spine, and frequently, inward decay of the head... The mind is often utterly ruined, and insanity supervenes... Such are just as much self-murderers as though they pointed a pistol to their own breast... Among the young the vital capital, and the brain are so severely taxed at an early age, that there is deficiency and great exhaustion, which leave the system exposed to diseases of various kinds. But the most common of these is consumption [tuberculosis]... They must die." (p. 17)
(Note: For the uninitiated, the basic idea of the vital force theory is that an individual begins life with a certain amount of "vital force," and expends that force slowly or quickly - the more quickly, the sooner it runs out - death follows.)
"There is hardly an end to the diseases caused by solitary vice" - following which statement we find a long train of diseases supposedly so caused, among them "epilepsy, impaired eye sight," "bleeding at the lungs, spasms of the heart and lungs, diabetes," "rheumatism, affected perspiration, consumption [tuberculosis again], asthma," and more than a dozen others.
Then a case history is reviewed. A two year old, who was epileptic and paralytic, was brought to a doctor. "By the most vigilant use of mechanical means for confining the hands, covering the genitals, etc. the child was at length cured; he now enjoys good health."
Picture yourself taking your two year old to see a doctor after he has suffered a convulsion. The doctor says your two year old has epilepsy caused by masturbating [in a 2 year old?]. You are going to have to tie his hands until he is cured. This is the kind of stuff that Ellen White believed with all her heart, and asked us to believe was shown her by God in vision.
Let us continue with these fascinating quotations:
"Unchastity deranges, debilitates, and ruins the body. Now, out of this startling fact arises another fact, if possible more startling. It is that unchastity deranges, debilitates, and ruins the mind." "I saw a young woman in a town of Massachusetts who made herself an idiot by masturbation." (p.2-3)
"In the fall of 1844, the writer visited the Massachusetts State Lunatic Hospital.... Our attention was suddenly arrested by a peculiarly haggard, frantic, wild, fiendish appearance of a young man, with his eye turned back over his shoulder. Struck with his shocking aspect, we inquired...what was the cause of his insanity. 'Solitary vice,' was the ready reply." (p. 4)
"Lascivious day-dreams and amorous reveries...often [cause] debility, premature disease, and even premature death, without the actual exercise of the genital organs." (p. 9-10) Think of it: death caused by mere thinking!
"There is hardly an end to the diseases caused by solitary vice." "It hurries its victims to insanity." "Confirmed onanists...will shrink from few acts of crime." (p. 11,20-21)
"Self-abuse opens the door for...almost every disease from which humanity suffers." Language supplies no word sufficiently strong to express the horrors which result from it!" "Self-abuse is a sure road to the grave." (p. 84-85,90)
"After indulging in this habit for a time, the child loses its bright and happy look; it becomes pale with a greenish tint." "Many children are born with this propensity and the habit is commenced in infancy." "Little babies [!] acquire the habit..." In these cases, the victims "live but to linger a little." (p. 22,97)
Women are "dying by thousands, of consumption [tuberculosis], of spinal affections, of general debility, and...of insanity, caused solely by this practice." (p. 191-192) Thus tuberculosis, an infectious disease, could be caused *solely* through masturbation! "No other cause of disease equals this." "This picture...is not overdrawn."
Well, enough is enough. We can see that Ellen White was preoccupied with masturbation. Her vision from God indicated that it causes blindness, epilepsy, diabetes, on through a long list.
When I revealed this information to some staunch Adventists they actually defended these assertions. Emotion took over and paralyzed their common sense.
Anyone can see that these diseases are not caused by masturbation. Tubercu- losis is caused by a germ, a specific bacterium. In fact the germ that causes tuberculosis was discovered shortly after these writings (or should I say "ranting"?) of Ellen White. How can anyone today believe in Solemn Appeal's nonsense? How could anyone insist that the woman who endorsed it was a prophet of God?
The Cause of the Cause
Having been told that masturbation causes these illnesses, what are we to do about it? Well, one must know what might lead to masturbation so that one can avoid it. "We noticed bad diet as a cause of unchastity. By bad diet we mean the use of food and drinks of bad qualities and unreasonable quantities." (p.5) "A diet chiefly or wholly vegetable is best adapted to allay passionate excitement. Flesh meat diet is more stimulating than vegetable. Consequently it is plain that all those who suffer from too high venereal excitement, should abandon it [meat]... When children shall be taught correct habits of diet, much, very much, will be done toward the removal of secret vice and other species of unchastity from society." (p.9) "Mince pies, cakes, preserves, and highly seasoned meats with gravies, create a feverish condition in the system, and inflame the animal passions... We should encourage in our children a love for nobleness of mind, and a pure and virtuous character. In order to strengthen in them the moral perceptions...we must regulate the manner of our living, dispense with animal foods, and use grains, vegetables and fruits." (p.15)
"Sip no more the beverage of China; no more the drinks of Java'... What shall you drink at your meals?... I say, nothing is best; yet cocoa, chocolate, or warm water seasoned, or bread coffee, rice coffee...will be good substitutes as they do not inflame." "For a similar reason, meats, mustards, condiments, peppers, spices, rich foods, gravies, everything heating and irritating, will only add to existing inflammation, and increase both desire and disease... Some kinds of food excite amorous desires; while others, as rice, bread, fruit, vegetables do not; and may therefore be eaten." "As to suppers, I recommend none at all. A full stomach induces dreams or the exercise, in sleep, of those organs most liable to spontaneous action, which produces libidinous dreams, with accompanying night emissions... A heating, stimulating diet still more prematurely develops this passion. We have already seen that meats, teas, coffee, mustards, spices, etc. stimulate in adults... A heating diet is the most prolific cause of excessive and perverted sexuality... Eat and drink cooling, calming articles only." "Sleeping on feather beds and feather pillows is another cause...of solitary vice."
We have just seen several of the stimulants which leads one to masturbation. In fact, meats and spices are claimed to be aphrodisiacs. We notice that we should not eat supper as this would cause us to have wet dreams. Also we should recognize that sleeping on feather beds and feather pillows tends to make us masturbate.
Here is the reason that Ellen White counsels against meat eating. As time
went on she added other reasons. But the original reason for abstaining from
meat, as given by her great health vision, is to prevent arousing passions
leading to masturbation which in turn leads to disease, insanity, and death.
Is this a prophet of God speaking?
Having pointed out the cause of masturbation and its disastrous results, what is her counsel as to how we could get out of such a dilemma? Mrs. White was greatly impressed with hydrotherapy or water treatments, which at the time were a national fad. Few Adventists today, reading about the days when Ellen White went about founding sanitariums, realize that these actually were (and remained throughout Ellen White's lifetime) water cure establishments, whose major service was to cure persons from masturbating. Let us look at their regimen. Here is a brief outline of the course of treatment which should be adopted...
After reading these wise counsels and realizing Ellen White claimed divine inspiration for them, I would say there is only one class of person that could continue to believe that Ellen White is a true prophet. This type of person can only be classed as an idiot.
During my three years in the Adventist Church I didn't hear one sermon about
meat eating and masturbation - lots of rumbling about meat, but nothing about
these secret horrors. Why? Isn't it time other Adventists learned the facts?
Abandoning the "Masturbation Connection"
In later years Mrs. White pretty much abandoned the meat and masturbation connection. She now gave a different reason for not eating meat: the belief that it directly transmits diseases, particularly cancer. This of course is the reason given by modern SDAs who (like Mrs. White herself) let the original vision-delivered reason to remain buried in silence.
Despite having a great health vision that condemned eating meat, and further visions condemning it, Ellen White continued to eat meat until 1894. That's 31 years in which she did not follow her own counsel. She was finally convinced to give up meat - not by God but by a Catholic lady!
Mrs. White had just given a temperance lecture and was approached by this Catholic lady who inquired if the speaker ate meat. When Mrs. White admitted that she did, the Catholic lady fell on her knees and implored Mrs. White to have compassion on the animals. Mrs. White later wrote:
"When the selfishness of taking the lives of animals to gratify a perverted taste was presented to me by a Catholic woman, kneeling at my feet, I felt ashamed and distressed. I saw [meat-eating] in a new light, and I said, I will no longer patronize the butchers. I will not have the flesh of corpses on my table."
(Ellen G. White and Her Critics, Francis D. Nichol, p. 388-389)
The incident tells more than Mrs. White realized. Consider Mrs. White's history. In 1863 God gives her a vision telling her not to eat meat. He later tells her that it causes leprosy, tuberculosis, cancer, that it blunts the intellect, that it destroys spirituality, and that it shortens the life span. Time and again God has her denounce church members who eat meat. And yet, through it all, Mrs. White continues to eat meat! She is not dissuaded even by supposedly solemn commands from God. Then a Catholic woman succeeds where God has failed. Unlike God, the Catholic woman knows the thing that will "reach" Mrs. White: consider that innocent animals must give up their lives. This puts meat-eating in a new light and Mrs. White gives it up.
Wouldn't visions from God have known it all along? Wouldn't those visions have told Mrs. White the thing that would have motivated her to follow their counsel?
The conclusion is clear. The visions were not from God - and Mrs. White knew
they were not.
More on Meat Eating
Mrs. White makes it plain that anyone expecting to be saved will abstain
"There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him... Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:15-19)
Jesus says that a man cannot be defiled by what goes into his stomach. Ellen
White would have us believe that a man can be very much thus defiled.
To support her case against meat eating Ellen White delights in pointing to various Bible heroes who were supposedly vegetarians. Daniel is such a hero. Any good Adventist will tell you that Daniel ate no meat.
Because Daniel early in his career refused to eat meat (or drink wine) from the king's table Mrs. White had the following to say: "Those who are truly sanctified will elevate the moral standard by preserving correct physical habits, and like Daniel presenting to others an example of temperance and self denial." (COH 68) "Here is a lesson for all...it is necessary to observe strict temperance in all the habits of life." (COH 65) "There are many among professed Christians today who would decide that Daniel was too particular, and would pronounce him narrow and bigoted." (COH 69) "Daniel's firmness of mind and firmness of purpose, his strength of intellect...were due in a great degree to the plainness of his diet." (COH 65)
The question naturally comes up; what was Daniel's diet? Daniel did right to stay away from meat during his training period. No doubt many of the foods from the king's table were ones forbidden to the Jew by the Law of Moses. Instead of causing a commotion and picking out certain types of food, he opted for a plain diet of vegetarian food and no alcohol. However, Mrs. White does not give us the idea that Daniel was mainly avoiding foods condemned by Jewish law or that this was what prompted his course of action. She considers meat eating as such to cause animalism, becloud the mind, make one incapable of understanding the truth: "A diet of flesh meat tends to develop animalism... rendering the mind incapable of understanding the truth." (COH 576) "Meat eating deranges the system, beclouds the intellect and blunts moral sensibilities." (2T 63-64) "Flesh food has the tendency to animalize the nature." She paints the picture that Daniel's diet was plain and simple.
Jan Doward wrote an Adventist devotional book called "Catch the Bright Dawn." In the introduction she tells us that nothing in her book is made up; there is no fiction; all facts and information have been carefully checked with the writings of Ellen White. On page 205 we find the story of Daniel in simple language. She imagines Daniel as saying to the officer in charge of the mess hall: "could we have a substitute meal? Something simple like vegetables and fruit, cereal and dates? We are not fussy but *we are vegetarians*." I suspect that at least 95% of Mrs. White's readers believe that Daniel was a vegetarian. Was he?
Daniel Chapter 10 describes Daniel seeking knowledge from God and his method of preparation. "I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth...till three whole weeks were fulfilled." It is obvious from this that at other times before and after these three weeks Daniel did eat flesh food; and he did drink wine. But Mrs. White says that Daniel never drank wine. Here we see in the Bible that he did drink wine. Also she implies that Daniel was a vegetarian; but here we see that in fact he ate meat.
Remember, Mrs. White said that meat eating deranges the system, beclouds the
intellect, blunts moral responsibility, tends to develop animalism and makes
one incapable of understanding the truth. She stated that Daniel would do
nothing to becloud his mind. I think you get the point and I shall not belabor
Daniel any more.
John the Baptist
Another "favorite vegetarian" of Adventists is John the Baptist. Mrs. White confirms this, writing about John that "his diet [was] purely vegetable, of locusts and wild honey." (3T 62) But was John the Baptist a vegetarian? Matthew 3:4 says "His meat was locusts and wild honey." What are locusts? Adventists and Ellen White would like us to believe that locusts are not an insect but a fruit!
The word *locust* is translated from the Greek _akris_. The word is used in 24 other passages in the Bible, and it always indicates an insect. However, Ellen White would have us believe that in this 25th usage of the word *locust* suddenly means a vegetable! In Leviticus 11:22 we find a dietary law of the Jews. "Of them you may eat; the locust, according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind." Except in the minds of Ellen White and her followers, there is no question as to the meaning of the word.
Why does Mrs. White insist that John the Baptist was a vegetarian? John the Baptist never drank alcohol, as this was one of the instructions given to his parents before his birth. However, there was no instruction indicating that he must abstain from meat. [John the Baptist was in fact a Nazarite. The rules governing the diet of a Nazarite can be found in Numbers 6:2-7. In these vows there is nothing which prevents a Nazarite from eating meat.] In fact all Jews, including John the Baptist, were under command from God to take part in the Passover supper. This was *required* of them. And the Passover supper consisted in eating of the Passover lamb. John the Baptist as a practicing Jew *couldn't* have been a vegetarian!
We also know that John the Baptist was the "reincarnation of Elijah." But
Elijah ate meat. When he was starving, God sustained him by having a raven
bring him bread and flesh. But an Adventist must believe what Mrs. White tells
when she insists that John the Baptist was a vegetarian. As for me the Bible
indicates that John was not a vegetarian and I intend to believe the Bible.
Jesus of course also ate meat. There are Biblical statements that He ate fish and that He ate Passover lamb. Does Ellen White accuse Jesus of becloud- ing His mind? Animalizing His nature? Blunting His moral sensibilities? Making His mind incapable of understanding the truth? Jesus ate meat, yet He was supposed to be our example in all things!
Certainly if one chooses to be a vegetarian this is fine. But please, there is no basis to make this a religious issue and to insist that meat eating has something to do with your eternal life.
As the years passed Mrs. White's misgivings about meat eating changed. In
the days following her great health vision she was preoccupied with meat eating
as a cause of masturbation. Later she connected meat eating with specific
diseases such as leprosy, tuberculosis, and cancer. (see Note) She wrote that
by eating meat "the liability to take disease is increased *ten-fold*." (CDF
386) [Any Adventist can easily see that meat-eating SDAs are not ten times
sicker than vegetarian SDAs.] Later she all but dropped this "disease claim"
for an emotional one. She wrote:
"What man with a human heart that has ever cared for domestic animals could look into their eyes, so full of confidence and affection, and would willingly give them over to the butcher's knife? How could he devour their flesh?" (MH 361)
This has great emotional appeal. But it raises a question. How could Jesus look into the animals' eyes and then have killed and eaten them? By inference Ellen White is maligning Jesus!
Note: Adventists point out that chickens and cattle can develop cancer, then ask how a person can eat something with cancer and not get it. This they see as unshakable proof for Mrs. White's cancer-from-meat statements. But the evidence says otherwise. We quote from "Doctors Don't Believe It - Why Should You?" (p. 266):
"Many persons take it for granted that cancer is caused by some germ, which medical scientists have not yet discovered. It is true that many varieties of germs, molds, and microscopic parasites can often be cultivated from various kinds of tumors, *but when these microscopic organisms are injected into animals they fail to cause any cancerous or other tumors to grow*."
If they fail to cause cancer when injected, they won't when ingested. The
same source (next page) quotes the American Cancer Society for the Control
"Many absurd ideas regarding the relationship of diet to cancer are prevalent, not all of which are confined to the laity.... Particular food substances [which would include meat]...have no known influence upon the causation, prevention, or cure of any form of cancer."
A connection between meat eating and cancer (if it existed) would have been
scientifically verified by now. Thus it is a fair certainty that Mrs. White's
statements on the matter are wrong. Totally certain is that she is wrong in
saying that meat causes tuberculosis and leprosy. These diseases have been
the subject of careful study, including how they are transmitted, and no study
has ever connected them even in a minor way to eating meat. If leprosy were
caused by eating pork, the fact would have been borne out. Rather than
revelations from the heavenly Physician, Mrs. White's visions were just her
own half-baked guesses.]
The diet of Adventists really is a joke. They profess concern about addi- tives in meat, but prepare other dishes to look and taste like meat. Consider the additives in their church-made fake wieners. Keep in mind that they were commanded by "the Lord" not to eat any spices:
natural smoke flavor,
Did you know that a strict vegetarian diet can result in death? Vitamin B12
is found only in animal products. (Cows make their own B12, man cannot.)
Fortunately most vegetarians are not true vegetarians in that they eat dairy
products. These are good sources of Vitamin B12. And vegetarians today can
take B12 supplements. But what about someone in Mrs. White's day? Suppose
someone had believed what Mrs. White said about discarding meat, milk, eggs,
and cheese. Instead of enjoying the superior health that Mrs. White promised,
such a person would in time have died of Vitamin B12 deficiency.
I would like to close this chapter with Hebrews 13:9.
"Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited their adherents."
Mrs. White says, "The Bible nowhere sanctions the use of intoxicating wine." (MH 333) This is a straightforward statement. It is all inclusive, with a flat "nowhere".
Whenever wine is spoken of approvingly in the Bible, Adventists contend that the biblical "wine" actually means grape juice. The following passages will explode that myth.
Let us consider a passage from the book of Proverbs. "Give *strong drink* to him who is perishing and *wine* to those in bitter distress: let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more." (Prov. 31:6-7) Here we see strong drink and wine being prescribed for people who are dying. This Biblical passage indicates that alcohol can be used for medicinal purposes. However it also indicates that people who are of low spirits or who are depressed should use alcohol to escape their miseries. I do not particularly like this passage in the Bible as I feel that alcohol does not genuinely benefit someone who is depressed. However it certainly does provide escape for many so that they may forget their troubles for a time. Used under these circumstances it usually becomes addictive and the person ends up suffering more misery because of the alcohol. However, regardless as to whether I agree with the advice or not, the advice is there in the Bible: the very thing EGW denied. She was mistaken in writing that "the Bible nowhere sanctions the use of intoxicating wine."
Let us look at another very plain commandment in the Bible concerning the use of alcohol. Deuteronomy 14:25-26 says, "Then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice." Note that God is actually commanding one to use his tithe to buy something his appetite craves whether it be meat, wine or strong drink and to consume it. I find this a disturbing passage also, but I must be realistic and admit that it exists. Obviously God doesn't have the hangups that you and I have. My point however is valid: Ellen White is a liar. Whether we personally like it or not these commandments are in the Bible and Ellen has misrepresented the facts. Granted, she may well have had personal reasons for hating alcohol; but God did not give her this message to pass on to us.
Let us be aware that the term "wine" is used in both of these passages and one can argue forever whether this means grape juice or fermented wine. (Actually, there is *no* uncertainty. The Hebrew language has several words for wine, one of which is used for wine before it ferments. In other words, Hebrew has a word for grape juice and a word for fermented wine. The Old Testament often speaks of wine as something that God's people may enjoy, and these passages use the word for alcoholic wine, not the word for grape juice, as would be the case if Adventists were correct.) However, the term "strong drink" is also used in both passages. There can be no doubt as to the meaning of this terminology.
Mrs. White went to great lengths to discredit alcohol. Certainly we don't have to look far around us to discredit alcohol for ourselves, but that is really not the point. Mrs. White was always reading something into the Bible. Her rendition of a story is always accepted by Adventists rather than the Biblical account. Mrs. White has done a successful job in perverting the story about two priests during the time of Moses. "Nadab and Abihu drank too freely of wine," she says, "and the result was, they used common fire instead of sacred, and were destroyed for thus dishonoring God." (SG-4 124) But that is not what the Bible actually says. The story is in Leviticus 10:1-3, and says nothing about alcohol. (If drunkenness were a key factor to the story, wouldn't Moses have made that plain in telling it? By adding something pertinent that the Bible leaves out, Mrs. White implies that the Bible writer was inept.)
Later in the same chapter God does indicate to Aaron that the priests should drink no wine or strong drink when they are going to serve in the temple, implying that these priests were allowed to drink when off duty.
God led the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness, and they lived all those years without any alcohol. "I have led you forty years in the wilder- ness; your clothes have not worn out upon you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet; you have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink." (Deut 29:5-6) These Israelites were teetotalers for forty years. Of those who entered the promised land none of them had ever tasted alcohol. If God felt they should remain abstainers He would have given them a commandment telling them so. But there is no such commandment.
In the book of Psalms we find the writer thanking God for providing many good things in life including wine. "And wine that maketh glad the heart of a man and oil to make his face shine and bread which strengtheneth man's heart." (Psalms 104:15) Surely this verse refers to something other than grape juice. It is alcohol that lifts the spirits and "maketh glad."
Paul lays down some rules of bishops. "Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money." (1Tim 3:2,3) This passage indicates that the bishop must be temperate. It does not say he is to be an abstainer. The same chapter has some rules of deacons. "Deacons likewise must be serious, not double tongued, not addicted to much wine..." They must not be addicted to wine. It does not say that they must abstain from it. I don't think anyone will argue over what the wine here is. Few become addicted to grape juice!
Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees did not accept the preaching of John the Baptist even though he fulfilled all the requirements of a Nazarite. He then contrasted His own lifestyle. He said: "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, "he has a demon; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, behold a glutton and a drunkard." They accused Jesus of drinking too much, but in His reply Jesus didn't deny that He drank.
Many have trouble with the idea that Jesus drank alcoholic beverage, but they should try to put their prejudice aside and accept what is written in God's word.
In John 2 we have the account of Jesus' first miracle, which consisted of changing water into wine. Adventists say He changed water into grape juice, but a telling point undercuts that contention. The governor of the feast called the bridegroom after he had tasted the wine and questioned him as to why he kept the good wine for the end of the celebration. This makes sense if the wine really were wine. People were given the best wine at the start of the feast, when their senses were still clear; as the feast progressed the people would become more and more intoxicated until any wine would taste the same, and this would be the time to serve the "rot gut." The governor of the feast, in asking why the best grade wine was being served late in the festival rather than at its start, shows that the wine is not mere grape juice.
Most uses of the word "wine" in the New Testament show this. Jesus spoke a parable in which He used wine to illustrate a point. "And no one puts new wine into old wine skins; if he does the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wine skins." (Lk 5:37,38) Grape juice will not burst old wine skins. Jesus is talking about the fermentation which builds up pressure.
Jesus goes on to say: "and no one after drinking old wine desires new; for he says, 'The old is better'." (Lk 5:39) Old grape juice doesn't taste better than fresh. Jesus is talking about wine that has had time to ferment.
Jesus tells another parable, this one about how the Samaritan cared for the wounded man on the road. "But a Samaritan, as he journeyed came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him." (Lk 10:33,34) I don't think anyone will argue that the Samaritan was pouring grape juice into the wounds. Even in biblical days alcohol was recognized as an antiseptic.
In celebrating the Lord's Supper Adventists use grape juice, claiming that this is what was used by the first Christians. They ignore 1Cor 11:19-22 in which Paul complains that some came to the Lord's Supper and drank so much of the wine (= grape juice?) that they got disorderly and drunk.
I think I have made my point. I do not want anyone to conclude that we can therefore become drunkards. The Bible exhorts us to be temperate and to avoid drunkenness. What God has provided is to be received with thanksgiving; unfortunately alcohol has been much abused. However, *abuse* of a gift does not give us the privilege of changing God's word to try to prevent the *use* of it. God does not insist on abstinence, but He does expect control and temperance. If one makes a personal decision to abstain I can certainly accept that decision, but he does not have the right to insist that God has said all must do it.
As I have indicated, I am not particularly happy with some Biblical passages concerning alcohol. However that is my personal problem and I have to accept what is written in God's word. I think I have pointed out quite nicely that in preaching abstinence and insisting that this is God's position, Ellen White is unable to accept what is in God's word.