March 16, 2023

The Soul's Contemplation and the “Unread” Books

Dig into Ellen White's writings on the life of Christ

Shawn Brace

You may have heard people somewhat humorously say that Ellen White’s books, sometimes colloquially referred to as the “Red Books,” could be called the “Unread Books,” since, sadly, few Seventh-day Adventists seem to read them today.

I get this. Both empirical and anecdotal evidence seems to point to the idea that, while many Adventists still like to refer to and quote Ellen White (at least in my experience), there doesn’t seem to be a high percentage of members who give her writings a very thoughtful and thorough reading.

There are probably varied reasons for this that could be debated and analyzed. But I’d submit that there is, in particular, a certain genre of books by Ellen White that we need to refamiliarize ourselves with.

I think that if every Adventist submersed themselves in her writings on the life and teachings of Christ, we’d experience the powerful revival and reformation we’ve been looking for.

Indeed, what if we—following her counsel—spent a “thoughtful hour” each day contemplating the life of Christ?1 This can be pursued, in addition to reading Scripture, by reading her wonderful classic works on the life of Jesus—such as The Desire of AgesChrist’s Object LessonsSteps to Christ, and Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing.

In one of those books White puts it this way: “Christ in His self-denial, Christ in His humiliation, Christ in His purity and holiness, Christ in His matchless love—this is the subject for the soul’s contemplation.”2

This isn’t to say her writings on other matters aren’t important, because we have plenty to learn from her very practical counsel. But I’m wholly convinced that if Adventists spent more time contemplating the life of Christ through her writings, and a little less time tracing out various end-time scenarios or poring over behavioral concerns, we could turn the world upside down.

After all, it seems to me that what God is chiefly focused on in these last days is developing our characters to reflect His love, which can be done only by contemplating, understanding, and embracing Christ’s tender character of love.

Of course, some might feel that focusing primarily on Jesus might not be “Adventist” enough. We have a specific message and mission in these last days that goes beyond what other denominations have. We should therefore leave Jesus with them while we pursue our prophetic calling, preparing people for His soon return.

But again, I believe the true preparation we need for the last days comes not through a perfect understanding of how everything will unfold prophetically, but by having a deeper understanding of Christ and His love. And to that end, I’d humbly propose that the Adventist understanding of Christ, which Ellen White beautifully articulates, goes beyond what other faith communities have been able to recognize.So yes, let’s reacquaint ourselves with the “Unread Books.” But let’s spend the bulk of our time learning about Christt hrough them.

1 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898, 1940), p. 83.

2 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 70. (Italics supplied.)