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”.

1 comment:

JimMiles said...

A well-written, fair and helpful (if the authors had followed your advice) review. As per your usual-- thanks for taking the time to do it.
-Jim Miles