Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, January 30, 2009

Review It's Ok Not to be a Seventh-day Adventist part 3

Before I begin my review of Chapter 5 on Ellen White from “The Untold History Its Okay Not to Be A Seventh-day Adventist The Doctrine that Attempts to Repair the Temple Veil” I would like to address something Teresa Beem said in the comments of the previous blog review segment. She commented:

“Remember our audience and I think it will help you understand why we wrote as we did. Many, many former SDAs and general Christians believe the SDA church to be a dangerous cult. We were severely reprimanded by many readers for "concealing" the devilish doctrines of Adventism and not telling the FULL truth of its horrors. We do not share that opinion, but tried very hard to remain objective to both our SDA readership, our former SDA readership and those very few who have never studied Adventism (especially those who consider it a looney cult). I think in the end, you will have to admit that anyone reading the book who believes SDAs to be looney fringe cult will be very disappointed that the book did not support that view.”

So far most of my complaints have been about factual errors. From my perspective if you write a book it should be of factual use to any reader, not made to appeal to a certain reader who already believes a particular point of view. Most people who use the term “dangerous cult” are speaking about a cult that ingests poison or separates by mind control family members. The others who use “dangerous cult” are the judgmental types who believe if you don’t believe as they believe on religious issues you will be lost, as if their ideas dictate who God saves or loses. So my perspective, I will have to grant is different than the authors. That I have higher standards of how a book should impart knowledge is neither here nor there, if a book says it is giving us the untold history I want that history to be accurate and not be simply an untold history because it never really happened.

As I begin my review on the Ellen White section I will begin by mentioning something that I learned from the book and relayed recently on the Spectrum blog. A footnote in chapter 4 gave us a portion of the following Ellen White quote:

Examination of Candidates The test of discipleship is not brought to bear as closely as it should be upon those who present themselves for baptism. It should be understood whether they are simply taking the name of Seventh-day Adventists, or whether they are taking their stand on the Lord's side, to come out from the world and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing. Before baptism there should be a thorough inquiry as to the experience of the candidates. Let this inquiry be made, not in a cold and distant way, but kindly, tenderly, pointing the new converts to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Bring the requirements of the gospel to bear upon the candidates for baptism.

One of the points upon which those newly come to the faith will need instruction is the subject of dress. Let the new converts be faithfully dealt with. Are they vain in dress? Do they cherish pride of heart? The idolatry of dress is a moral disease. It must not be taken over into the new life. In most cases, submission to the gospel requirements will demand a decided change in the dress. (Testimonies to the Church Vol. 6 1900 page 95)

Like most Adventists I have wondered why we have baptismal vows other then belief in God and acceptance of Christ. Well there it is Ellen White’s instructions though I doubt any of you have ever been examined about your dress. It was indeed a big deal to Ellen White, not to many people today but it presents the precedence that some pastors use to refuse to baptize people till they stop smoking etc. (Later on page 95 there is a little more on Ellen White and Baptism in the book ) the book said:

“The remnant held high standards for admittance. You must place church membership before almost anything else in life.” (page 59)

As you can see with Ellen White’s quote it is not simply church membership. Ellen White certainly espoused the puritan characteristics applying the meaning to simply church membership is slightly myopic. Her view was that you had to do those things to be part of God’s kingdom whether an Adventist or not. It is a type of legalism and that is how this information could have been used, benefiting both Adventists and non Adventists but it is simply used to show that Adventists had high standards. Something you would find in most 1800’s writers such as D.L. Moody etc.

The first part of chapter 5 is mostly history on Ellen White, childhood, marriage, children, and illness. Nothing new there, not terribly useful unless one wants to apply subjective psychoanalysis to her. The authors write on page 84:

During Ellen’s final years, serious doubts arose about the Testimonies. Adventists became more and more convinced that her visions were not from the Lord. From her house in California she defended herself: "For 60 years I have been in communication with heavenly messengers, and I have been constantly learning in reference to divine things."199 However, the Adventist leadership began to back down as to the extent of the inspiration of Ellen’s writings. She had written earlier in her life that every word was from God. Now the denomination was promoting a kinder, gentler Ellen whose visions were not to be taken so literally and were now considered concept-inspired.

Did you notice the reference to the sentence in bold above? If that had been the case then When Walter Rea’s book the White Lie came out in the early 1980’s the church would have had no rebuttal at all. The plagiarism that Canright wrote about in the 1880’s would have devastated the church and Ellen White. So here we see something of amazing importance claimed with not a single footnote or quote to back it up. There is no case even in her insistence upon it all being from God that that she indicates every word was from God. That is pretty much a claim to verbal inspiration. Certainly something that some Adventist did believe just as some Christians believe it for the Bible but it is not that easy to pin such an idea as directly from Ellen White. Again in an objective book make the case, use the quotes and draw your conclusions.

Chapter 6 deals with analyzing Ellen Whites writings. I liked the section going over Ellen Whites failed prophecies. It is cursory and certainly more should have been added. Some material such as referring to letters from a friend saying that Ellen predicted certain dates for the second coming are not overly credible, as they may just be repeating what the other Adventist predictions were and assigning them to Ellen White. In any case to be objective we really need to go by what she wrote rather than one person’s recollection.

There is a section on Ellen White saying not to say “I am saved”, not terribly important as it is/was a common Arminian view. Of course if you believe you can lose your salvation it is not terribly useful to say you are saved. This is a big thing for Calvinists but not for Arminian Christians.

I read an individual’s review on which mentioned this section of the book where the authors state on page 96:

Spiritual Gifts is Ellen White's account of the fall of Satan to the close of the millennium 241 Volume 1 records that Satan was "driven from heaven.... Then he repented and wished to be reinstated again in heaven”242 Ellen claims God refused. So Satan and deceived angels "repented, wept and implored to be taken back into the favor of God. But no, their sin, their hate, their envy and jealousy, had been so great that God could not blot it out." She asserts that it was only after Satan realized God would not be moved and he would not be taken back that Satan's "malice and hatred began to be manifest."243 To her Satan was in reality a repentant victim and God's mercy was not big enough to cover his sin.

While this entire account is fiction, it is not Biblically derived and as such should be held to be extremely questionable the authors make a good point one that reading this section of Ellen White should really bother Adventists. Ellen White wrote:

After Satan was shut out of heaven, with those who fell with him, he realized that he had lost all the purity and glory of heaven forever. Then he repented and wished to be reinstated again in heaven. He was willing to take his proper place, or any place that might be assigned him. But no, heaven must not be placed in jeopardy All heaven might be marred should he be taken back; for sin originated with him, and the seeds of rebellion were within him. Satan had obtained followers, those who sympathized with him in his rebellion. He and his followers repented, wept and implored to be taken back into the favor of God. But no, their sin, their hate , their envy and jealousy, had been so great that God could not blot it out. It must remain to receive its final punishment. (Spiritual Gifts Vol. 1 page 19)

The problem here though is that as the authors do point out Ellen White wrote so much that you can often find duplicates and slightly different versions in many places in her writings. So which part is correct are we supposed to somehow combine them to create harmony out of conflicting details? We do that with the Bible but the Bible, as with the gospels, is taken from different people, we really should not have to do that with the works of one author. In this case the reviewer on is a bit wrong. In this case Ellen White is woefully wrong, notice the final sentence in this parallel quote from Ellen White in the Signs of the Times 1879 -01-16.007:

Satan trembled as he viewed his work. He was alone, in meditation upon the past, the present, and the future. His mighty frame shook as with a tempest. An angel from Heaven was passing. Satan called him, and intreated an interview with Christ. This was granted. He then related to him that he repented of his rebellion, and wished again to enjoy the favor of God. He was willing to take the place which had been assigned him, and be under Christ's command. The Son of God wept at Satan's woe, but told him, as the mind of the Father, that this could never be. Heaven must not be placed in jeopardy. The peace of Heaven would be marred, should he be received back; for sin originated with him; the seeds of rebellion were still within him. He had no occasion for his course, and he had not only hopelessly ruined himself, but the host of angels also, who would still have been happy in Heaven had he remained steadfast. The law of God could condemn, but could not pardon.”

A couple of chapters on Ellen White are really easy pickings in my opinion: the fatal flaw of Adventism. In this particular statement however we see not only Ellen White’s absurd view about what happened in heaven but we see the absurd view that predominates Christianity; the Penal Substitutionary view of the Atonement. God could not forgive, someone had to die, so that God’s law could be satisfied, even if the penalty was paid by God through His innocent Son (literally God Himself in my view). The idea that God can’t forgive hid behind the excuse of a “law” as if the law is somehow outside of God. Just think how quickly any Christian would see a statement as false if it said: “God could condemn but could not pardon”.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Review It's Ok Not to be a Seventh-day Adventist part 2

It's Ok Not to be a Seventh-Day Adventist by Teresa and Arthur Beem review Part 2. Part 1 follows this article, again it is a blog thing, If you want to begin with part 1 click here or page down to the next article which is part 1.

Most all books that write about Adventism begin with William Miller and the Millerites. They are an important link in the beginning of Adventism. The book delve into the history of Miller and the Millerites in chapters 2-4. The history while short is written in an interesting manner which is important because it appears to me many people pay little attention to history. History tells us a lot about ourselves as well as our forefathers. In this case the 1800’s spirit of revival and fanaticism which was present in much of America as well as England. The book relates some of the fanaticism of Millerites, the behavior that got many of them kicked out of their respective churches and it covers the heartbreaking results of the great disappointment, the insanity and suicides and the animosity that people felt toward the deceived Millerites before and after 1844.

Unfortunately the authors again lose objectivity when relating the historical information, choosing to ignore the actual feelings of the Millerites and ignoring why they did what they did. That is just as important when dealing with history as the dates and names of people. Here the book falls short. The books states in chapter 2 page 36:

Each church service they disrupted to spread their message of “repent for the hour of Judgement [sic] is at hand” brought expulsion and new cries of victimhood. Millerites saw themselves as “saints” and the masses who rejected them “manifested the spirit of Satan in their opposition to the message” They claimed the reason the mockers and scoffers rejected their message was because “Evil angels urged them on to harden their hearts and to reject every ray of light from heaven, that they might be fastened in the snare of Satan” 60 [ Footnote to Ellen White Early Writings page 238]

The Millerites exhibited little of the love or spiritual fruits for which an authentic movement of God is to be recognized. The midnight cry was to them, God “separating a people from the world , to purify, make white and try, and thus make them ready for the coming of the Lord” 61 Yet in their proclamation of Judgment to the world, they gave Jesus Christ and his gospel peripheral treatment.

That would have been a good place to use all of Ellen White’s quote to show how it was their pious concern to live holy lives for God that lead them to make the harsher statements. How things connect to the gospel is always a very subjective thing. You can make most anything fit into what you think the gospel is. To say that the idea of judgment has nothing to do with the gospel is not very accurate to the Biblical literature. The writer cannot simply ignore the Methodist, the Puritan traditions the proceeded the Millerites and expect that those ideas were not somehow incorporated into the actions of the Millerites when they review their history. Even with the call to repentance in the first paragraph it is clear that they were trying to convey their understanding of the gospel as well as the necessity for repentance to meet their Lord. When looking at the history it is also important to realize that this was predominately a Christian country most people where raised in Christian homes with some knowledge of Christian concepts, it may have only been cultural but it was not the great melting pot of religion that we see in America today. There were certainly pockets of non Christian religions, such as Native Americans and immigrant Chinese but the Millerites did not seem to calculate past their local situations. They did not seem to think about the vast world and how Christianity had not penetrated large areas yet.

Chapter 3 “1844: Look Up For Your Redemption Draweth Nigh” recounts the devastation of the Great Disappointment. The chapter is pretty good again however like the previous chapter on William Miller the authors seem to hold Miller as a prophet or at least that his calculation of the return of Christ was a prophecy. Page 49 begins:

“Was Miller Another Jonah?

Adventists argue that Miller’s prophecy about 1844 was like Jonah’s.101 It was a conditional prophecy; its fulfillment resting on the obedience or disobedience of its audience. But are the two scenarios alike? A comparison shows that Miller denied God had commanded him to preach; Jonah was commanded. Nineveh was spared because of the genuine repentance; the relieved people glorified God. When the people of God repented and listened to Miller, there was only tragedy and disappointment—loss of faith, even suicides. Why would God punish those who had sincerely turned to Him and given all for Him? Miller’s prophecy did not bring glory to God.”

If your like me (someone who grew up as an Adventist) this is the first time you have heard that Miller’s 1844 return of Christ was a conditional prophecy. That is simply not what Adventism teaches. They teach that Miller was right on the date wrong on what was to happen on that date. (interrelates to the Investigative Judgment doctrine). The footnote above is to James White’s book Life Incidents page 188-9. And it does not equate Miller’s 1844 as a prophecy to Jonah. It says:

"And we as much believe that we have done the will of God in thus sounding the alarm, as we believe that Jonah did when he entered into Nineveh a day's journey, and cried, saying, `Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.' Nineveh was not then overthrown; nor has the Lord yet wrought deliverance in the earth, nor the inhabitants of the world fallen.

… "So we believe that this last cry has been a test; and that with our views of duty, we should as much have sinned against God, had we refrained from giving that message, as Jonah did when `he rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord;' that we should as much have sinned, had we refused to give heed to it, as the Ninevites would in refusing to repent at his preaching; and that all who are angry that we have preached a time which has not been realized, are as guilty as Jonah was when he was angry and prayed the Lord to take his life from him, because God had spared that great city."

To James White it is the test of doing what he believes God wanted them to do that is the same, not that Miller is to be compared to a prophet. In some fairness against the many times the book refers to Miller’s interpretation of Daniel and Revelation passages to calculate the Second Coming as a prophecy the book notes that is not how Miller thought. In Chapter 4 “The Remnant Spark Reawakened” page 54 they write:

“Miller publicly admitted that they had been wrong about the prophecy….”I readily confess I was misled in my calculation…” But Miller’s confession was tainted with blame on others:

I confess I have been thus mistaken as to the definite time; but what of that?...I was deceived in the number and character of those who, without study, argument or reason, rejected the (to me at least) glorious news of the coming Savior…I am thankful to God, although much and sorely disappointed, that I never pretended to be divinely inspired. 120

Miller seemed rather cavalier even though his message had cause [sic] widespread despair, death and destruction. He attempted to preach afterward on the soon coming judgement, [sic] but his health failed rapidly. He rejected what became of his movement as it morphed into the different Advent sects, one being the Seventh-day Adventists. He rejoined the Baptist church and died in 1848, just four years after his failed prophecy.”

Here even though the authors are quoting from Miller where he states he was not divinely inspired they twice call Miller’s message a prophecy. Miller was trying to interpret the Bible prophecies he was not making a prophecy. His prediction was based upon the interpretation he made of the Bible passages it was not however a prophecy as in a God given message. The book is amazingly negligent in not recognizing the lasting change that Miller’s message did for Christianity. It moved the majority of Christian denominations away from the post millennial view to the pre millennial view of the Second Coming. A massive shift from the idea that the world would get better and better till it had a 1000 year reign of Christianities dominance and prosperity at the end of which Christ would return. To the view that Christ could return at any time to rescue His people. The immanent return which now is held by most fundamentalist and Evangelical churches. Certainly not solely due to Miller, but a convergence of thought between Edward Irving in England and Miller’s Preaching in the U.S certainly popularized the concept once again. It is to that immanent second coming that Miller’s quote above is addressing. What the authors see as blame for others is his concern against the post millennial view which he thinks violates scripture. What Miller actually says without the ellipses follows, the material in red is what is quoted in Beem’s book:

During the warm months he attempted no public labors; and his pen, even, seems to have lain idle. The next communication received from him was published in the Advent Herald of September 9, 1846, as follows:

"DEAR READER:- Permit me to address you once more, by calling your attention to the great events which the word of God declares are soon to come to pass, that I may faithfully perform my duty; and that you may be able to answer, in that way which will be satisfactory to your own soul, in the day when God shall judge the secret thoughts of men by Jesus Christ.

"In my former communications to you on this subject, - which is near my heart, fills my soul at times with indescribable joy and consolation, and is big with the hope of soon, very soon, coming into possession of immortality and eternal life, - I readily confess I was misled in my calculations; not by the word of God, nor by the established principles of interpretation I adopted, but by the authorities which I followed in history and chronology, and which have been generally considered worthy of the fullest confidence. And I fear many of you have been blinded to your own interest, which may be of eternal consequences to you, by hasty expressions of full confidence in these authors, before I had carefully and more extensively examined the subject to which I had, in the simplicity of my heart, called your candid and serious attention.

"The testimony of historians, as to the dates of events, cannot affect the testimony of the word of God, that, at certain periods from these events, his promises shall be fulfilled. They may fail, but his word cannot fail. I confess I have been thus mistaken as to the definite time; but what of that? Will you or any man dare to take the ground that, because Mr. Miller or any other man made a mistake, the word of God is not true? No, no. There would be nothing in that worthy of being called an argument.

"But, above all things else, I was deceived in the number and character of those who, without study, argument, or reason, rejected the (to me at least) glorious news of the coming Saviour. Neither did I suppose that a man or woman could have been found on the habitable earth, who loved the Lord Jesus Christ and believed the Bible, that would reject the Second Advent or the redemption of the body; the final salvation of the soul, or the inheritance of eternal life, at the appearing of Jesus Christ. Yet facts warrant me to say, I find more than one-half who profess Christianity denying one or more of these fundamental pillars of the Christian hope.

"I am thankful to God, although much and sorely disappointed, that I never pretended to be divinely inspired, but always directed you to the same source from which I obtained all the information I then had and now possess on this glorious and heart-cheering subject. [You will notice in Beem’s quote they end the sentence after inspired.] Let me, then, exhort you, kind reader, by the value of truth, by the worth of your own soul, and the love of life everlasting, to examine your Bible on the coming of Christ, the redemption of the body, the salvation of your soul, and the everlasting inheritance. Lay by all prejudice, all opinions not founded on the plain and clear declarations of God's word; keep close to that rule which will thoroughly furnish you, and make you perfect in every good work; examine for yourselves; let no man deceive you in these days of deception, when the devil has come, deceiving, if possible, the very elect. Now is the time for you to exercise the `sober second thought;' a good time for you to come over on the side of truth, to choose the good, and refuse the evil. I beseech you do not say, `Nay, I will not examine!' Do not say, `I am well enough off, and I have got the truth!' Perhaps you have; if so, it will not hurt you to reexamine, for every reexamination only makes the truth the brighter, our evidence more clear, and our love for the truth more fervent; it helps to establish our faith and hope, and keeps us from wavering. (Sylvester Bliss, Memoirs of William Miller page 350-51)

One sentence and two partial sentences from three separate paragraphs; placed together, used to pretend that Miller was cavalier and blaming others. These are critical errors in judgment by the authors, quotes need to be used in context, and the use of ellipses should not be to avoid important parts of the original author’s intent but used to avoid having to include extraneous material. Certainly you don’t put a period where the original was just a comma and not indicate that the sentence in fact continues. The authors follow the above quote by mentioning that according to a letter to the editor of a Newspaper that Miller was charged with financial misconduct. Really a letter to the editor? Might be an interesting bit of trivia but letters to editors are notoriously irresponsible, as much today as they were in the 1800’s. If space is so important to the authors of this book, they should give better context of quoted material and less space to rumors.

As someone who has done some research on just when did the Adventist coin and start accepting the idea of the Investigative Judgment I was disappointed that this book does not deal with the concept very well. Many Adventist know that James White did not accept the doctrine for years yet the book makes it appear as though it was instantly accepted. The book writes on page 56:

“Hiram began spreading the “Sanctuary Doctrine” and an expansion of it called the “Investigative Judgment” in his Adventist magazine Day Dawn. In it, he more fully explained that Christ’s atonement on the cross had not been complete. Christ’s second step to our salvation was that He was to review the records in heaven, located in the holy of holies, and begin the process of judging mankind. In 1844, Christ started the judgment of the godly dead and was working up to those living in the present. “

No footnote is provided to this statement or any quote from Edson’s Day Dawn magazine. Which leaves us with very little written material on the origin and incorporation of this peculiar Adventist doctrine. The best I have seen was an article from the Adventist Review that was printed in the appendix of Dr. Desmond Ford’s dissertation Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment You can read the document posted on a discussion forum here. Some good research would have been very welcome in Beem’s book, unfortunately little is supplied and what there is, I think is is questionable on this issue.

The next section will deal with the chapter on Ellen White. As the reader can tell I have already noted enough problems with this book to cause most Adventists to reject it out of hand. I hate to see that happen but I am certain it will if the book continues to be published and distributed without revision. I am sure this is not the kind of review the authors expected from me but I hope that they will consider my comments carefully. I understand the need to write persuasively but more important than being persuasive is being truthful and accurate. When a writer has some important things to say it is important that they don’t allow poor research and/or documentation to poison their work.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Review It's Ok Not to be a Seventh-day Adventist part 1

The authors of a new book entitled It's Ok Not to be a Seventh-Day Adventist by Teresa and Arthur Beem asked me to review their book. They were kind enough to send me a copy, which is kind of a prerequisite for me as I don’t buy a lot of books and certainly I don’t buy them to review. After reading this you may realize why I don’t review a lot of books. In fact I am going to have to review this book in sections because I have several things to say about it and instead of waiting to finish the book I am going to start while things are fresh in my mind.

Right now my opinion is that this could be an important book after it is revised. I would probably think up a new title also.

To begin with there is such clear animosity against Adventism in the Preface that the book is going to be difficult for any Adventist to read further. On the cover above the title the book says “the untold history”, surely the authors don’t want only non Adventists or Ex-Adventists to hear the untold history, so why make the book’s Preface so antagonistic? On page xii of the preface the book states:

The Seventh-day Adventist church is becoming more than just an inconsequential heterodox group. Adventism is quietly cutting a wide swath across believers, causing many people to fall prey to its false teachings.

In Seventh-day Adventism evangelism, the church seeks mainstream status yet its doctrine is not mainstream. The overall thrust of their mission is aimed at people who are already Christians and their ministry is not simply gospel-oriented but focuses on obscure biblical prophecy. Adventism can be confusing because the people can be generous and charitable, so their dogma is assumed to be benign. Unfortunately, the kindness of the members does not reflect the kindness of the doctrines. This church has an eccentric history and culture based in strange, even disturbing doctrines.

So Adventism is not mainstream, ok that is fine but is there something that set’s mainstream apart, does the designation mainstream mean that mainstream churches have no false teachings, no disturbing doctrines or strange beginnings, no personality cults? In the front of the book the authors thank an Assemblies of God Pastor for his inspiration. Their beginning is about as fanatical as the Adventist church, from Brief History of the Assemblies of God:

Seymour had been a student of Charles Parham, who provided the doctrinal framework for the young Pentecostal movement. Parham’s identification in scripture of speaking in tongues as the “Bible evidence” (later called the “initial evidence”) of Spirit baptism became a defining mark of the emerging Pentecostal movement. After students at his Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, began speaking in tongues at a prayer meeting on January 1, 1901, Parham, through his Apostolic Faith Movement, had some success in promoting the restoration of the gift of tongues. While the Apostolic Faith Movement was largely confined to the south central United States, the revival at Azusa Street catapulted Pentecostalism before a worldwide audience.

If you don’t think Azusa street was an excess of fanaticism then you need to read up on the event as well as Charles Parham. For more see Christianity without a Cross on google books. The sad fact is that Christianity has a lot of fanaticism that smooth out into denominations. Martin Luther was not all that peace loving to those who disagreed with him, nor was Calvin and certainly the Wesley’s moved into Holiness movements that probably rivaled the depression that Millerites suffered with their Great Disappointment in 1844. Methodism’s views no doubt stimulated much of the Millerites understanding just as it does Adventist’s understanding. Those are just some of the recent denominations they don’t deal with the fanaticism that preceded them.

So the preface sets up an “us against them” perspective that carries over in the book. Not really a wise method in my opinion. If you are going to deal with something as emotional as religion you had better write as objectively as possible, if you object to a position as you go through the subject objectively deal with it and present what and why you think something is wrong. Some portions of the book do this within the context of reporting the history and that is good.

The book is heavily footnoted which is incredibly important again when dealing with religion, you have to know who said what and be able to check the context since it is so easy to distort statements on religion. The problem here is the book is not footnoted sufficiently. One of the really big problems with this book is that they confusingly use “ibid”. “Ibid. all by itself means that the footnote comes from the same source and the same page as the footnote that precedes it.” The authors use of ibid while technically correct for a small document does not work for a book for example they have a work cited by author and title and page number and then the next footnote says, ibid Knight p. 190-1, the previous footnote is not to Knight, and if you look back you have to go back chapters to find what they are referring to. I still don’t know as I don’t want to waste that much time reading every footnote to find where that book is fully cited. It would be better to cite fully once in each chapter.

Another footnote problem is found with the following quote on Chapter 3 Pillar 1 Ellen G. White pages 81-2:

“Royalties from the sale of Mrs. White’s books began to rise; in fact, she became, as the White estate puts it, “quite prosperous. In terms of today’s money Mrs. White’s income would have been measured in the millions of dollars.” The books footnote then says: “Ellen G. White Published Writings Website”. Just to test that out I Googled “been measured in the millions of dollars” White – and the first citation is an anti Ellen White website entitled. Ellen White . No other citation from any official Ellen White or Adventist site. That is a pretty major error in citation it is also a violation of the statement that began the chapter on Ellen White.

The book introduces the history of Ellen White by saying on page 69:

The following biographical history comes almost exclusively from the Seventh-day Adventist sources, which you can find the information online as the official Ellen White Estate website…” By beginning with such a statement and then quoting from an anti Ellen White site and attributing it to a SDA supported site is pretty sloppy.

In my next post I will continue will some comments about the section of the book on William Miller. I promise to say some more good things about the book before I rip apart some other statements. I am doing this because I want to see this book revised so that it can be effective for the benefit of both Adventists and non Adventists. I think it has potential and communicating with one of the authors, I found they live only 40 miles away from me, so maybe there is a chance.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Continuing misuse of the term spirit of prophecy

As our lesson study guide once again misuses the term Spirit of Prophecy I thought I would present the link to my previous article Misuse of the Term Spirit of Prophecy

It is also interesting to note how the lesson arrives at this. The lesson says for January 21:

The closest parallel to the phrase “spirit of prophecy” in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. There Paul refers to the Holy Spirit, Who gives the gift of prophecy among other gifts (charismata); and the person who receives this gift is called a prophet.

Now, just as in 1 Corinthians 12:28, those who have the gift of prophecy (verse 10 of the same chapter) are called prophets—in Revelation 22:8, 9, those who have the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10) are also called “prophets.”

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’” (Rev. 19:10, NKJV).

“I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God’ ” (Rev. 22:8, 9, NKJV).

The situation in both passages is the same. John falls at the feet of the angel to worship. The words of the angel’s response are almost identical, yet the difference is significant. In Revelation 19:10, the brethren are identified by the phrase “who hold to [have] the testimony of Jesus” (NIV). In Revelation 22:9, the brethren are called simply “prophets.”

What is interesting is how they say that in Revelation 22 the brethren are simply prophets when the verse is actually far more board because it also includes "those who keep the words of this book". The angel in both cases is instructing that God alone should be worshiped. It is the "testimony of Jesus that defines the Spirit of Prophecy since the term is only used once. It is not a parallel with gift of prophecy. If you recall Caphais had the gift of prophecy even while he was plotting to kill Jesus. Which indicates that even if one had the gift of prophecy it does not make that person a prophet.

(John 11:49 NIV) Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! (John 11:50 NIV) You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." (John 11:51 NIV) He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation,

For more please read the Misuse of the Term Spirit of Prophecy

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Substitutionary Dodge

The World edition of the Adventist Review had an interesting article entitled: It Is Finished Why did Jesus have to die?By Rolf Pohler It is meant as an article on Adventist Belief number 9. What is most interesting to me is what the article does not say. It gives the standard propitiation argument as if the early church used that word and combines that with the standard Substitutionary theory. Then it explains that God does not need to be propitiated because He is on our side and then instead of answering why the propitiation idea and substitution are needed it asks a series of questions and never answers them.

The real mission of Jesus was therefore “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:5 f.; 1 Peter 1:18 f.). His perfect obedience and substitutionary sacrifice liberate us from our guilt; we receive forgiveness and a new life (Eph. 1:7; 5:2; 1 Peter 2:21 ff.; Heb. 9, 10). The prophet Isaiah had already prophesied that the “servant of God” would give His life as a sacrifice for our guilt. “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5; cf. Dan. 9:24).

But that doesn’t mean that Jesus was trying to placate an angry God and move Him to be benevolent toward us. After all, it was the Father Himself who sent His Son into the world “that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9 ff.). It was not necessary to win God over for us; He already was on our side. God does not love us because Jesus died for us; Jesus died because God loves us. God’s love is the reason and source, not the result or effect of the atonement.

But what was it then that made atonement and satisfaction—and therefore the death of Jesus—necessary? [emphasis supplied] Is it the profound disgust that God, the Perfect and Holy One, feels for all injustice? Is it the disregard for His just and holy law (Rom. 7:12)—the reflection of His character—that must be punished? Do we feel something of the same indignation—indeed, the “righteous anger”—that God feels in the face of the million-fold presence of sin and appalling injustice (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18 ff.; 1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 6:16 f.)?

You may think that he goes on to answer those questions but he does not. If we analyze his statements we see that he arrives at Substitutionary sacrifice by interpreting the writer of Isaiah referencing a part of Isaiah that the New Testament never repeats. He does use the part of Isaiah that was repeated in 1 Peter, by His stripes we are healed. But Peter does not use that in a Substitutionary sense:

(1 Pet 2:23 NIV) When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet 2:24 NIV) He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pet 2:25 NIV) For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

So the author supplies no New Testament evidence for the substitution idea even though the New Testament writers used Isaiah quotes in reference to Christ. No New Testament writer used the ones about it pleasing God to crush the person referred to in Isaiah (Isa 53:10). Peter supplies some of the sins that Christ had to bear in his body as they hurled insults at Him while they proceeded to kill Him on the tree.

Now let’s look at the question the author first asks: But what was it then that made atonement and satisfaction—and therefore the death of Jesus—necessary?

He does not answer his question but begins with what appears a non-sequitor, he says: Is it the profound disgust that God, the Perfect and Holy One, feels for all injustice?

When one looks at the crucifixion it is hard to see any justice there. How would that possibly lead to atonement and satisfaction? It makes no sense to even ask that question.

The author then writes: Is it the disregard for His just and holy law (Rom. 7:12)—the reflection of His character—that must be punished? Ok where would that have been punished in the life of Jesus, again it makes no sense.

He concludes his non-answers with: Do we feel something of the same indignation—indeed, the “righteous anger”—that God feels in the face of the million-fold presence of sin and appalling injustice (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18 ff.; 1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 6:16 f.)? At least here he acknowledges that the cross was not justice and that sin is appalling. But it does nothing to answer his original question.

I can’t help but think that this is a small victory for the forces of reason against the fallacy of penal/Substitutionary atonement theory. We have argued for a long time that there is no need to appease God and here a Substitutionary proponent agrees and then can’t answer what the atonement is if it is not appeasement of God or God’s law. It seems to me an acknowledgement that the logic of their position is lacking and in order to hold the party line of the church and the fundamental number 9 he has to dance around the issue by asking the important question and then obfuscating with additional questions which do nothing to answer the original question.

The sad fact is that most people reading the article won’t see the obfuscation they won’t even see that he does not answer the most important question, so we have to point it out to them. We should ask them why he does not answer his most important question the question that is at the heart of our fundamental belief no.9 when the article is supposedly explaining that belief. But be prepared for some rather illogical answers.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ellen White's view of her inspiration

The Lesson Study Guide for lesson 5 begins with a reference to the following letter from Ellen white published well after her death in Selected Messages. The following is from the Ellen White notes attached to the lesson website:

Ellen G. White, Selected Messages Book 1, p24

A Letter to Dr. Paulson St. Helena, California June 14, 1906 Dear Brother: Your letter came to me while in southern California. For some weeks the consideration of matters connected with the development of our sanitarium work there, and the writing out of the views given me regarding the earthquake and its lessons, have taken my time and strength. {1SM 24.1}

But now I must respond to the letters received from you and others. In your letter you speak of your early training to have implicit faith in the testimonies and say, "I was led to conclude and most firmly believe that every word that you ever spoke in public or private, that every letter you wrote under any and all circumstances, was as inspired as the Ten Commandments." {1SM 24.2}

My brother, you have studied my writings diligently, and you have never found that I have made any such claims, neither will you find that the pioneers in our cause ever made such claims. {1SM 24.3}

In my introduction to The Great Controversy you have no doubt read my statement regarding the Ten Commandments (p. 25) and the Bible, which should have helped you to a correct understanding of the matter under consideration. Here is the statement: {1SM 24.4}

"The Bible points to God as its author; yet it was written by human hands; and in the varied style of its different books it presents the characteristics of the several writers. The truths revealed are all 'given by inspiration of God' (2 Timothy 3:16); yet they are expressed in the words of men. The Infinite One by His Holy Spirit has shed light into the minds and hearts of His servants. He has given dreams and visions, symbols and figures; and those to whom the truth was thus revealed, have themselves embodied the thought in human language. {1SM 25.1}

"The Ten Commandments were spoken by God Himself, and were written by His own hand. They are of divine, and not human composition. But the Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man.

The first reaction I had to this quote in the lesson was why did not she answer the man’s question? In other words why not say that “no don’t take everything I say public or private as being inspired” or “yes it is all inspired”? Why dodge and go to the argument that the Ten Commandments were written by God’s own hand. Because clearly those 10 commandments, as they were recorded in the Bible, are not the words written by God. Anyone with a bit of knowledge knows that there are in fact two versions of the 10 commandments respectively recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Most Adventists are more familiar with the Exodus 20 version but it is the Deuteronomy 5 version that says it was written by the hand of God :

(Deu 5:22 NIV) These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.

But of course we don’t have anything actually written by the hand of God; Nothing in the Bible and no stones inscribed by God’s hand. What the lesson does have is a letter from Ellen White used to tell us about inspiration. The question that Dr. Paulson asked Ellen White is just as important today as it was then. Here is the question Paulson asked from his letter to Ellen White:

As far as I know, my father and mother were the first Sabbath- keepers in Dakota. I was from my childhood taught implicit faith in the Spirit of Prophecy. As I grew up I began to undertake a deeper study of the Testimonies. In Testimony #31, page 63, I read more than twenty years ago these words: "I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision -- the precious rays of light shining from the throne." From this and somewhat similar statements I was led to conclude and most firmly believe that every word that you ever spoke in public or private, that every letter you wrote under any and all circumstances, was as inspired as the ten commandments. I held that view with absolute tenacity against innumerable objections raised to it by many who were occupying prominent positions in the cause. A little over six years ago a difference arose between me and a very dear friend of mine on this very point, for I saw he did not take absolutely this view. I wrote him an eight-page letter; told him that he and I would have to part company, as I stood absolutely on this ground.

We find also that this implicit faith in Ellen White was not restricted to just Paulson. A letter from Merritt Kellogg says 1906 :

"I attended the camp meeting from first to last. It lasted ten days. The ministers who preached, were Knox, President of Cal. Con. Cotterel, Geo. Thompson, member of the Gen. Con. Committee, Haskel, Corliss, Gardner, and Mrs. E. G. White. There were a number of other ministers present I think! This was the best camp meeting I ever attended, although Thompson and Haskel each preached one Sab in which the Battle Creek rebellion was the issue. Sister White also referred to it several times in her discourses.

Haskel took the position that the Sabbath is the test for the world and Mrs. White's testimonies the test for the Church. He even affirmed that they who reject the testimonies of Mrs. White cannot be saved. Thompson had most to say about the position occupied by A. T. Jones. Sister White's remarks were against the idea of having the S.D.A. send their children and youth to B.C. to be educated.

The sentiments at the campmeeting were not an isolated incidence, here is an excerpt from a letter to Kellogg:

"Poor Canright, where is he? If ever I pitied a man, I do him. He looks to me like a poor, seedy, used up old man, and he thought he was going to do grand missionary work . . No man in the Cause, believing . . as you have believed, can take your stand against what the Testimonies say and maintain your spirituality." -G. I. Butler, Letter to J. H. Kellogg, dated August 12, 1904.

There seems to have even been a time in Adventism where Ellen White was viewed more on the verbal inspiration level. Listen and/or view the presentation of Craig Newborn linked below:

A Path to Disengagement This presentation explores some of the factors that contributed to the ever-increasing disengagement of many Seventh-day Adventists from Ellen White. Particular attention is given to how belief in verbal inspiration by many Seventh-day Adventists negatively impacted Ellen White’s image as a messenger of the Lord and contributed to misunderstanding and misuse of her writings.

Apparently what we can infer from Ellen Whites letter to Paulson as well as the practices of the White Estate is that indeed Ellen White’s private letters are just as inspired as any of her published works. And we should just be thankful that the White Estate puts out these letters in the form of books like Selected Messages so that we can hear the words of God. Of course that leads us to wonder what more words of the God the White Estate has in their possession and why God granted them the position of gate keeper to the words of God? A problem we would never have to worry about if we just accepted Ellen White as we do any other pastoral writer. But maybe she does not allow that view by her own comments, unless she was just a bit carried away by the fanaticism around her; historically a very real possibility.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Ellen White's view of Inspiration contrasted to Stowe

As this quarter our Lesson Study guide is largely dealing with inspiration with particular emphasis upon Ellen White. Today I will look at perhaps Ellen White’s most famous and certainly most popular quote on inspiration.

Ellen G. White
Manuscript 24, 1886    

It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God.-- Manuscript 24, 1886 (written in Europe in 1886). {1SM 21.2}

I did not realize till just now that this quote was never published in her lifetime. It was not published until the book Selected Messages volume 1 was published in 1958. Only recently did I learn that her statement above is substantially borrowed from Calvin E. Stowe’s book Origins and History of the Books of the Bible (1867) Thanks to an article on the internet entitled: The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia (Denis Fortin & Jerry Moon, co-editors, publication forthcoming in 2006, Review and Herald) we have the comparison of Ellen White and Stowe’s words. The underlined words are the ones which Ellen White borrowed.


It is not the words of the Bible that were inspired, it is not the thoughts of the Bible that were inspired; it is the men who wrote the Bible that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words, not on the man’s thoughts, but on the man himself; so that he, by his own spontaneity, under the impulse of the Holy Ghost, conceives certain thoughts and give utterance to them in certain words, both the words and the thoughts receiving the peculiar impress of the mind which conceived and uttered them, and being in fact just as really his own, as they could have been if there had been no inspiration at all in the case. . . . Inspiration generally is a purifying and an elevation, and an intensification of the human intellect subjectively, rather than an objective suggestion and communication; though suggestion and communication are not excluded. The Divine mind is, as it were, so diffused through the human, and the human mind is so interpenetrated with the Divine, that for the time being the utterances of the man are the word of God. (19-20)

The site which offered the comparison when on to say:

A second example compares Ellen White’s thought on the doctrine of inspiration in her Manuscript 24, 1886 (published in 1SM 19-21), a manuscript that Seventh-day Adventists have referred to extensively to understand her view of her inspiration, and Calvin E. Stowe’s Origin and History of the Books of the Bible, Both the Canonical and the Apocryphal, Designed to Show What the Bible Is Not, What It Is, and How to Use It (Hartford, Ct: Hartford Pub., 1867), 13-20. In this case one critic has argued that she did not simply take fine language and historical information from other authors, but ideas as well (Spectrum, Autumn 1971, 73-84). However, a careful comparison between White and Stowe reveals a different perspective. “We have evidence of her writing most of the ideas which are common to her and Dr. Stowe at a time prior to the writing of this manuscript. Indeed, some of these references antedate any possible awareness on her part of Dr. Stowe’s book. In addition to the common theological material, there are several points at which the two authors diverge or have distinctively different emphases” (David Neff, “Ellen White’s Alleged Literary and Theological Indebtedness to Calvin Stowe,” [unpublished paper, Andrews University, 1979, CAR], 25).

In this second example, much more than in the first one which dealt mainly with historical information and background, Ellen White’s thought and theology are clearly different from Stowe’s on the concept of inspiration. Note that at the end of the passage Ellen White leaves out key words from Stowe’s text which would have pointed her theology of inspiration in a different direction.

What I found interesting here is that because Ellen White is less specific for some reason that is interpreted as meaning that she was going in a different direction then Stowe. In the article ELLEN WHITE AS A THEOLOGIAN by Gerhard Pfandl offers a similar thought when he says:

Although using largely Stowe’s wording Ellen White’s theology is significantly different. She understood inspiration to apply to the thoughts of the writers, which Calvin Stowe denied. Ellen White believed only the words receive the impress of the human mind, Calvin Stow taught that the thoughts also receive the impress of the human mind.

David Neff, who has made an extensive study of the parallels between the Ellen G. White material and Calvin Stowe’s book, came to the conclusion that “there are significant differences between the theories of revelation presented by Dr. Stowe and Mrs. White” and that “there is sufficient evidence to conclude that in this manuscript Mrs. White was not appropriating another man’s ideas.”1

When you read Stowe’s quote it is not so easy to say that Stowe denied inspiration to the thoughts of the writers. In fact I would say it is a completely false statement. I don’t know how they must interpret the statement: “under the impulse of the Holy Ghost, conceives certain thoughts and give utterance to them in certain words…” David Neff is cited as a source but it is from an unpublished manuscript entitled “Ellen White’s Theological and Literary Indebtedness to Calvin Stowe” (Unpublished manuscript, Ellen G. White Estate, DF 389-C). Though it is referred to by both articles linked above it is not available so it is hard to say if it has merit or not. David Neff is now an Editor in Chief at Christianity Today, looking at his blog I don’t expect he is any longer a Seventh-day Adventist, I would expect if he was he would be pretty famous in Adventism.

I don’t know if the significant differences between Ellen White and Stowe were presented in the 29 page paper and unfortunately even in this age when such texts could be readily supplied on the internet the White Estate does not post much information.

Since I don’t care too much about the borrowing issue since most Adventists already know that she borrowed pretty extensively I am more concerned with how Adventists think Ellen White really differed from the more specific source from which she drew.

Referring back to the Moon and Fortin article they write:

Assigning levels of literary dependency to this example is difficult because although the words are the same, the theological thought is not. What is striking in this example are Stowe's words and thoughts she left out. Had Ellen White simply copied Stowe’s words without thinking carefully through their ramifications, she might have adopted a theology of inspiration similar to that later developed by theologians such as Karl Barth or Emil Brunner. Stowe advocated a theory of inspiration in which the subjective elements of the prophet are predominant and in which inspiration is an encounter between the divine and the human. There is no actual transmission of objective information between God and the prophet.

If you look up what Karl Barth thoughts on inspiration you see just how complex these things are. You can read about Barth’s view of inspiration here.

What troubles me about all this is that it appears that because Ellen White was less specific than Stowe people feel free to interpret what she meant however they want. The “they” in most of these cases is going to be the leadership of the Adventist church.

I like Stowe’s explanation how else can we explain why prophets can be so off the mark some of the time. What they say is sometimes inspired and sometimes simply what they think. It is up to God’s Spirit to influence the hearer on the other side of inspiration to determine what is inspired from what is not. (read the article on Barth and inspiration to understand that dynamic a bit more).

This leads me to the question of how does our church leadership differentiate Ellen White’s view from Stowe’s and yet feel completely free to take sections from Ellen White’s personal letters and unpublished materials and make compilations out of them as if they are meant to address the larger community. Stowe says that the inspiration is subjective and the Adventist leadership is saying the inspiration is objective yet they take subjective material from personal letters and compile it and call it objective. Something is not quite right there.

Sorry this got so long, it will certainly supply you with enough material for an interesting Sabbath.

Update: Thanks to David Neff he has supplied us with his paper ELLEN WHITES THEOLOGICAL AND LITERARY INDEBTEDNESS TO CALVIN STOWE

Since his paper seems to be meant as a response to a paper in Spectrum I have included the link to the spectrum article since Spectrum has done us the great service of placing their old articles online. The article "Ellen White's Literary Indebtedness by William S. Peterson"