Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Great Controversy View

Adventist Today recently started publishing various blogs for their subscribed readers. In one Clifford Goldstein writes:

Then, just as an aside, he said (and I'm paraphrasing him), "Oh, yes, there is one more theodicy. No one takes it seriously any more today but I thought I'd mention it." He called it the Cosmic Free Will Theodicy or something like that. The upshot is that for about three minutes he describes, basically, the great controversy scenario, pretty much how any traditional Adventist would. You know, an angel Lucifer with free will, falls into sin, leads a rebellion in heaven that takes hold on earth, a battle between good and evil, etc. I mean, it was our cosmic world view perfect expressed.

We as Adventists very often refer to the Great Controversy yet in the main we never define it. I once asked a discussion group how they would define the Great Controversy and about the best answer they could produce was to read the first 3 chapters of Ellen White’s book Patriarchs and Prophets.

Recently I came this description of the Great Controversy from the online Google book Historical Dictionary of Seventh-Day Adventists by Gary Land. The online book does not finish this section but what it says is helpful.

Great controversy. Phrase used by Seventh-day Adventists to refer to the cosmic conflict between God and Satan. In the second edition of his pamphlet The seveth-day Sabbath, a Perpetual sign (1846), Joseph Bates introduced the basic sabbatarian Adventist understanding of history when he argued that God’s faithful remnant, who keep the seventh-day Sabbath, are at war with the beast whose mark or sing is Sunday observance. Ellen G. White gradually developed this concept into a theological perspective that encompassed all existence, both physical and spiritual. Based on a vision she experienced on March 14, 1858, she began describing her understanding of history in Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels (1858), Which covered events from the fall of Lucifer in heaven to the recreation of the new earth. In Spiritual Gifts, vol.3, Important Facts of Faith in Connection With the History of Holy Men of Old 91864) she discussed biblical history from the Creation to the giving of the Ten Commandments; volume 4, Important Facts of Faith: Laws of Health and Testimonies (1864), continued her account to the time of Solomon and briefly examined the first advent of Jesus. She later expanded these works in The Spirit of Prophecy, 4 vols. (1870-84), each volume of which carried the phrase “Great Controversy” in its subtitle. Her final reworking of this material appeared in the “Conflict of the Ages Series,” which included Patriarchs and Prophets (1890), The Story of Prophets and Kings (1917), The Desire of Ages (1898), The Acts of the Apostles (1911), and the Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan (1888).

As her ideas ultimately developed, White explained history as a trial in which Satan charges that God is unfit to rule the universe. Fallen human beings, as well as unfallen angels and inhabitants of other worlds, comprise the jury that observes how the consequences of Satan’s rebellion work themselves out within earthly [end of page book preview]

The first thing I noticed about the above is that the Great Controversy is developed from two things; Joseph Bates belief that Sunday observance is the Mark of the Beast and then Ellen White’s vision on the fall of Satan who she identifies as Lucifer. The fall of Lucifer goes back to the third century A.D. based upon the interpretations of Tertullian and Origen. For more on the history of the Lucifer myth click here.

Amazing Facts is in the process of creating what they call the Cosmic Conflict Project.

A Christian Documentary

Amazing Facts will be producing a high definition documentary mini-series that will bring to life the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Beginning with the fall of Lucifer in the glorious courts of heaven, viewers will be taken on a journey through time to view highlights in this cosmic struggle. The war between Christ and Satan over the souls of men will be the focus of this ground breaking production.

Unfortunately just as Amazing Facts thinks they are producing a Documentary many Adventists think that the fanciful interpretation we call the Great Controversy is also fact. It is not. As a means of demonstrating the fanciful elements of what is put forward as the Great Controversy take a look at this short presentation For a Large-exciting 24mb view
Or the YouTube version

The Bible certainly presents a conflict between good and evil but much of what we take as the Great Controversy is not present in the Bible. The reference to Lucifer in the Bible is a reference to the prince of Babylon, there is nothing in the Bible about Satan being jealous because God created man but did not invite Satan to be in on it or that Satan (or Lucifer) was upset because the Son (pre-incarnate Jesus) was seemingly raised in authority because he and other angels did not understand that the Son was one in divinity with the Father. You can read the following examples of the Great Controversy view which is heavily influenced by Ellen White’s speculations found in the book Patriarchs and Prophets. Think about where you would find such things in the Bible.

Not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he ventured to covet homage due alone to the Creator.

And coveting the glory with which the infinite Father had invested His Son, this prince of angels aspired to power that was the prerogative of Christ alone.

In heavenly council the angels pleaded with Lucifer.

To dispute the supremacy of the Son of God, thus impeaching the wisdom and love of the Creator, had become the purpose of this prince of angels

Before the assembled inhabitants of heaven the King declared that none but Christ, the Only Begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will.

While claiming for himself perfect loyalty to God, he urged that changes in the order and laws of heaven were necessary for the stability of the divine government.

And there are far more examples such as the idea that Satan claimed that no one can keep the law of God, which if you think about it there would have been many angels that would have proved Satan wrong long ago but because the claim is made by the Great Controversy view many Adventists have taken to believe in last generation perfection so that there will be some humans that prove that man can really keep the law of God. So when you hear the Great Controversy view, be sure and ask just what do they mean. Is it merely the struggle between good and evil or do they mean a host of fanciful speculations made by old traditions drawn together by the visions or supposed visions of a nineteenth century prophet. If those things were so important for the Christian church to believe why would they not be relayed in the Bible, why would they wait till 1800 years after the writing of the New Testament?

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