Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Reflections on Gen 3:6 Is it Ok to disagree with the prophet?

In my previous article on Genesis 3:6 I noted the overwhelming desire of Adventists to embellish the story. Of course this tendency is found throughout the Christian world as I showed in my article about Jimmy Swaggart’s commentary that told us how God told Adam and Eve all about the sacrificial system. It becomes a powerful tool to redefine the Bible stories to fit them to what we decide we want them to be. Jimmy Swaggart is able to claim that God helped him write his commentary and that it is the most doctrinally correct book he knows of. The Latter Day Saints do something very similar with their book, the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith said: "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion…”

Like so many others, Joseph Smith and the LDS followers find their fulfillment by redefining the Genesis story to suit their needs. One of the important doctrines of the LDS church is that people on earth provide the earthly bodies for all the spirit children in heaven. So man had to fall so that mankind could reproduce. So in the Book of Mormon in Moses 5 we read: 10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was afilled, and began to bprophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my ctransgression my deyes are opened, and in this life I shall have ejoy, and again in the fflesh I shall see God. 11 And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had aseed, and never should have bknown good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.

You may think you can dissuade them from thinking this is true by quoting the Bible where it says “be fruitful and multiply” but you would be sorely mistaken. When invested with prophetic authority it is easy to assert that the meaning is as the supposed prophet has attested. It matters little what the context of the story said when one has the churches own prophet to assert to what really happened.

This was brought home to me most powerfully by the teacher of my Sabbath School class as he discussed my blog article on Gen 3:6. He noted that the story has the possibility for meaning that Eve was away from Adam and she came back to Adam with the forbidden fruit and Adam immediately saw she was different and decided to also eat because he did not want to be alone. In fact he pretty much repeated it the way Ellen White wrote the incident. Since it was a possibility and we are part of the SDA church and the SDA church has a prophet (even a fundamental belief that she is an authority on truth) he feels most secure in accepting her account. Speculating on possibilities becomes more important then accepting the story as it reads because we have a tradition, a specific viewpoint to defend. It is a possibility after all, just as the LDS verses for Moses 5 are a possibility. Possibilities are ever present, only subject to the imagination but is possible alternatives unmentioned in the Bible stories what the Bible is trying to tell its readers?

With all these possibilities it is easy to form the logic where tradition can become in itself an authority such as happened in the Roman Catholic Church. This is what we have believed and because we have believed it, now and forever more the tradition has the authority as divine revelation. Now of course we don’t accept the tradition as an authority from the Roman Catholic Church or from the LDS Church, however our own tradition, that is sacrosanct. Does that sound like the way to search for truth? If we question them should we not also question ourselves?

So what do we do in our churches if someone questions the views of Ellen White? Should it be assumed that if the story in the Bible differs from Ellen White’s version we should simply accept Ellen White’s version because we have invested her with authority? What do we do with those who have not invested her with authority? Making matters more complicated there are many who while investing her with authority acknowledge that she sometimes spoke with authority on things that were only her opinion. Others in my Sabbath School class say that we must give even more authority to any of her “I was shown” or the “Lord said” statements. One person in the class even questioned whether some of the “I was shown” statements were not merely also her opinion of what she thought God was showing her. Note, none of these were my comments as I don’t really talk about Ellen White in Sabbath school classes; it is a hot button issue and if our classes are looking at the Bible then I think we can deal with what the Bible says. Most Adventist have not studied the issues involved and their opinions are often based upon assumptions rather then what Ellen White really said, see footnote below.

Even before the 21st century our church was at a crossroads regarding Ellen White. But as we redefine our church for the new century we must also define how she is dealt with in our Church and Sabbath School classes. Will some in the church use her as the hammer of God to declare this is what God says through the “pen of inspiration.” As if to disagree with Ellen White is to reject God. This has traditionally been the SDA perspective, leadership and responsibility must not be given to those who question Ellen White. Yet in fact we regularly edit her statements because we don’t think they apply anymore, we say take the principle behind the statement. What is the principle behind the statement in the quarterly on Gen 3:6 where it said: "The angels had cautioned Eve to beware of separating herself from her husband while occupied in their daily labor in the garden; with him she would be in less danger from temptation than if she were alone."—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 53. The principle there; that woman is the weaker person who is more likely to fall into temptation then the man even in an unfallen world. No, since it is an addition to the Bible stories most SDA’s don’t look at the principle they take the account as a literal description of events. If on the other hand we look at her admonition to not play chess or checkers or a host of games SDA’s say it is the principle that we should not waste our time with too much play. Or some may say the principle is that we should not engage in competitive activity. What of those who want to hold to her statements about games literally? I can tell you when the Davidians visited our class with their literalistic Ellen White views few of us felt comfortable with them.

The answer to the above questions will often depend on how an individual interprets the work of Ellen White. But we are inviting nothing but trouble if the leadership in the church allows Ellen White to trump all opinions. We will never have a safe environment in our churches if we allow the “Ellen White said,” trump card to be played. Not only will we drive many current SDA’s out of our churches and Sabbath Schools, but we will alienate fellow Christian visitors and very likely the seeker who sees value in the Bible yet is far away from accepting a nineteenth century denominational prophet.

No doubt some will read this and say that Ellen White’s prophecy that some will make the “testimonies of none effect” has come true. But then the splinter groups hold that such has already happened in the Adventist church and the traditionalists in the Adventist church feel that way about the Progressive Adventists. It is really just another matter of interpretation and depends upon whose special doctrines someone feels are being trampled.

Here is something from the July 2007 issue of Adventist Today, the conclusion of the editorial by Ervin Taylor entitled Celebrating Unity and Diversity.

The leadership of the 21st Century corporate Adventism, especially in North America, is currently confronted with an opportunity to rethink how it will deal institutionally with the reality that many loyal and committed Adventists in educational and medical centers hold what can be considered minority views on a whole host of topics. Is the Adventist Church now mature enough to embrace an appropriate unity, where diversity is recognized as a vital part of growth? Or shall we follow the counsel of those who, even in the pages of the Adventist Review, regularly call for the exclusion of minority viewpoints from Adventist University and College campuses and Adventist pulpits? Pluralism and tolerance are adult virtues that deserve a significant place in the increasingly complex Adventist world.

Footnote: The person who stated many of Ellen White statements are her own opinion would have to seriously redefine their postion if they were presented with her own words where she says:

"Yet now when I send you a testimony of warning and reproof, many of you declare it to be merely the opinion of Sister White. You have thereby insulted the Spirit of God. You know how the Lord has manifested himself through the spirit of prophecy. Past, present, and future have passed before me. I have been shown faces that I had never seen, and years afterward I knew them when I saw them. I have been aroused from my sleep with a vivid sense of subjects previously presented to my mind; and I have written at midnight letters that have gone across the continent, and, arriving at a crisis, have saved great disaster to the cause of God. This has been my work for many years. A power has impelled me to reprove and rebuke wrongs that I had not thought of. Is this work of the last thirty-six years from above, or from beneath? . . . ( Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 1906-08-30 Also General Conference Bulletins 1913-06-02 and Testimonies for the Church Volume 5 page 64 1889

See also: 5T.687.003 Testimonies for the Church Vol 687

5T.688.001 4T.229.002 5T.098.002 Testimony for the church at Battle Creek 1882 PH117.084.003 5T.671.002 Pamphlet to J.N. Andrews and Sister H.N. Smith 016.022.002

1 comment:

Scott Ryan said...

ron,

the post is too long for me to stay focussed.

all i can tell you is you can disagree with prophet as long as your soul tells you that right