Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, January 29, 2010

Brad Cole's fanciful explaination for Haiti's disaster

Both Adventist Today and the Spectrum Website referenced an article by Brad Cole in regard to Haiti and Steven Wohlberg’s recent comments so I finally got around to reading Dr. Cole’s article. It is to say the least a sad commentary upon the way some Adventists use and misuse Ellen White and the Bible to support themselves and negate others. A very interesting case study because of how Dr. Cole edited out Wohlberg’s reference to the Ellen White quote which Wohlberg used as his supporting idea. Notice what Dr. Cole says:

The fact is that more than half of Haiti’s 9 million inhabitants practice Voodoo, Haiti’s dominant religion, and that some of the grossest forms of immorality are rampant. Significantly, much of Haiti’s dark Voodoo previously migrated to New Orleans--a city mostly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina….Evidence indicates that Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, fits the category of a city ‘full of transgression, and sinful in the extreme.’ On January 12, at 4:53 pm, it was virtually ‘destroyed’ by an earthquake. On the morning of August 29, 2005, New Orleans experienced its own disaster from the sky.

Dr. Cole makes no attempt to cite the quotation that Wohlberg uses when he says: ‘full of transgression, and sinful in the extreme.’ He linked to the Adventist Today news article which used the Ellen White quote but in his response he seems to have forgotten why Wohlberg says what he says. It is because Ellen White says God will destroy things:

"I am bidden to declare the message that cities full of transgression, and sinful in the extreme, will be destroyed by earthquakes, by fire, by flood. All the world will be warned that there is a God who will display His authority as God. His unseen agencies will cause destruction, devastation, and death." Evangelism, p. 27

Dr. Cole continues:

Should we be concerned with this statement? I believe so. One of the fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists is the concept of a great controversy between God and Satan, and that this controversy revolves around God’s character. Ellen White’s “Conflict of the Ages” series highlights the actions of God and Satan from the beginning of the rebellion in heaven, to the events of Gethsemane and the Cross, and to the final end of sin and sinners. It seems to me that to leave Satan entirely out of the equation in an event that ended the lives of so many is a sad omission and puts God in a very bad light.

It seems that our natural instinct is to believe that bad things happen as a result of God’s punishment for sin. Several years ago I heard the story of an entire family who was killed in a car accident while on their way to church. At the funeral people were discussing how something like this could happen until finally it was suggested, “There must have been an Achan in the car.”

Our natural instinct? Wohlberg introduced it not with our natural instinct but with reference to his authoritative prophet. Wohlberg is aside from following Ellen White following the Old Testament concept of God as destroyer. After all if you are of the presupposition to take the Bible literally as so many fundamentalists and traditional Adventists do then God does a lot of punishing with death disobedient or non Israelite people.

Dr. Cole then writes:

This concept is frequently addressed in the Bible as well. When Satan left God’s presence to punish Job and his family, the servant who witnessed the destructive event (that we know was caused by Satan) exclaimed, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them” (Job 1:16). When the “friends” of Job came along, they also could only make sense of his fate by invoking God as the punisher for some sin that Job had committed. It isn’t until the end of the book that God comes on the scene to direct Job’s attention to a beast called Leviathan who had these descriptive attributes:

It is striking how many people get their theology from the book of Job. Satan there is not used about the person we later came to call as Satan and the satan in Job is not seeking to punish Job but to test him to see if he can remain righteous. Satan in Job is acting not on his own but on the authority of God:

But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:11-12 NIV)

Dr. Cole then takes a page from the colorful early Christian Father Origen to whom much of the credit for the Lucifer myth goes, by trying to pretend that Leviathan of Job 41 is Satan. The idea that Origen held but even though the Christian church accepted the Lucifer as Satan part they generally did not accept Leviathan as Satan.

Cole continues:

Elsewhere in scripture, this same beast is described with these words: “On that day the LORD will use his fierce and powerful sword to punish Leviathan, that slippery snake, Leviathan, that twisting snake. He will kill that monster which lives in the sea” (Isaiah 27:1 GW).

How many other “slippery” and “twisting” snakes does the Bible describe? What we see in the book of Job, one of the earliest writings in scripture, is God beginning to paint the picture of a proud enemy who is responsible for suffering.

In Isaiah 14, Satan is described as being unveiled for who he is which prompts the surprised response:

To begin Isaiah 27:1 is a reference to a mythological creature. As the Expositor’s Bible Footnote reads:

1 liveyathan (liwyatan, "Leviathan") appears in several OT passages Job 3:8; Pss 74:14; 104:26), where it is clear that a great sea creature is being described. Most scholars consider the creature described under that name in Job 41:1-9 (40:25-29 MT) to be the crocodile. The implication of a plurality of heads in Ps 74:14, however, certainly suggests a mythical creature; and the term as used here is normally linked with Ugaritic Lotan, the chaos monster destroyed by Baal in the Canaanite creation myth. As indicated in the commentary, the use of such a term does not imply acceptance of Canaanite mythology but simply the knowledge of it, so that the term may be applied figuratively to monstrous enemies of Israel and of God.

Of course Isaiah 14 is not about Satan it is in the series of chapters dealing with the surrounding nations of Israel and is specifically about Babylon: On the day the LORD gives you relief from suffering and turmoil and cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended! (Isa 14:3-4 NIV)

Dr. Cole then tries to show that Satan causes natural disasters, but fails miserably. His best effort is this quote after Jesus heals a woman: Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?" (Luke 13:16 NIV) That diseases were long attributed to demons goes back into the earliest times of humanity and ancient Israel but that still does not indicate that such things as earthquakes and floods etc are caused by Satan.

Returning to the issue at hand Dr. Cole writes:

While we may not be able to say that every disaster is a direct action of Satan, the “powers that rule this world” (1 Corinthians 2:6) are those of Satan’s kingdom, not God’s. When we watch people trying to dig themselves out of rubble, our minds should be repulsed at the nature of Satan’s kingdom rather than reflecting on God as a punisher.

Though he has never made a reasonable case that any natural disaster is caused by Satan he assumes that he has. In fact he moves from the scientific age to the pre-scientific age with his assumption that natural disasters are caused by either God or Satan. Neither of which are true. At best one could argue that the natural laws were set up by God and therefore ultimately they function upon the physics of God’s laws but even that would not attribute such disasters as punishments of God and as Dr. Coles attempts have shown us there is no Biblical reason to grant to Satan the ability to cause a natural disaster, whether it be a rain cloud, flood or earthquake. It is simply not a part of the Biblical record. The stretches that one tries to make it appear that Satan can, appear almost laughable.

Dr. Cole continues:

Satan is the destroyer, not God, and we do great damage to God’s reputation when we label the slaughtered Lamb as the destroyer. It’s true that many see the destructive acts in Revelation as the judgments of God and interpret end time events in that light, but I have greatly appreciated the wisdom of those who see this book not only as a revelation of Christ, but also of the Adversary [he then quotes Sigve Tonstad, Saving God’s Reputation]

This is what is so very interesting. Dr. Cole has completely ignored Ellen White’s statement that Steve Wohlberg built his case upon. He completely ignores the numerous other Ellen White statements of God caused destruction as well as her statements about the plagues and trumpets and seals of the book of Revelation. It is not that he ignores Ellen White for he begins his presentation referencing her and her Great Controversy views. But he has completely ignored the real question which is what do Adventists do with such quotes of Ellen White? After all, the quote that Wohlberg uses is not abnormal for Ellen White. She thought that the 1906 San Francisco was designed by God to close down the Saloons.

In the calamity that befell San Francisco, the Lord designed to wipe out the liquor saloons that have been the cause of so much evil, so much misery and crime; and yet the guardians of the public welfare have proved unfaithful to their trust, by legalizing the sale of liquor. Those who have been placed in positions of official responsibility, and who in the recent past have become thoroughly familiar with the advantages of the closed saloon, now deliberately choose to enact laws sanctioning the carrying on of the liquor traffic. They know that in doing this, they are virtually licensing the commission of crime; and yet their knowledge of this sure result deters them not. (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 1906-10-25.006)

In fact it was God’s destroying angels that wrecked the city in Ellen White’s view:

Retributive Judgments "While at Loma Linda, Cal., April 16, 1906, there passed before me a most wonderful representation. During a vision of the night, I stood on an eminence, from which I could see houses shaken like a reed in the wind. Buildings, great and small, were falling to the ground. Pleasure resorts, theaters, hotels, and the homes of the wealthy were shaken and shattered. Many lives were blotted out of existence, and the air was filled with the shrieks of the injured and the terrified

"The destroying angels of God were at work. One touch, and buildings so thoroughly constructed that men regarded them as secure against every danger, quickly became heaps of rubbish. There was no assurance of safety in any place. I did not feel in any special peril, but the awfulness of the scenes that passed before me I cannot find words to describe. It seemed that the forbearance of God was exhausted, and that the judgment day had come.

"The angel that stood by my side then instructed me that but few have any conception of the wickedness existing in our world to-day, and especially the wickedness in the large cities. He declared that the Lord has appointed a time when He will visit transgressors in wrath for persistent disregard of His law. (Life Sketches of Ellen White 1915 page 407)

As long as Adventists like Brad Cole refuse to deal with the real problem that Ellen White presents they will end up the losers in the battle for a rational religion.


kelvinj said...

So, Ron, what do you propose we do with the "problems" EGW presents?

Ron Corson said...

Re-evaluate our assumptions. Such as the assumption of her authority as a prophet. Even re-evaluate all assumptions about a prophet including Bible prophets.

The fact is we apply our assumptions irregularly anyway. Usually based upon our traditions. We just don't like to admit that we are inconsistent.

There is however such a fear of actually disagreeing with Ellen White that people like Brad who we know disagrees with White particularly on the Atonement yet dances around the disagreements by ignoring the quotes he does not accept and using the quotes he does accept. So the reality of what such people really do and say are completely different from what they claim about their prophet.