Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Adventist Myth of the Bible Only

John McLarty has an interesting article on Adventist Today entitled, Answering Fundamentalists. It has a couple of problems however. The first is the definition of fundamentalist. He follows the same definition that the makers of the Last Generation Movie used. His definition is:

“…In this sermon, when I speak of "fundamentalists" or "fundamentalism" I have two dominant characteristics in mind. First, is a radical commitment to a single text as the only source of authority? In Christianity, this is exemplified by the slogan, The Bible and Bible Only. Or the bumper sticker, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." The second characteristic of fundamentalists is their belief that the best religion is that which is most similar to the pure, authentic religion of their spiritual forebears…”

It is that first characteristic that is the problem. Because no matter how you look at it, it is simply not true. The Bible is not their only source of authority. The second characteristic is however the most revealing of the Fundamentalist. Tradition is the source of the fundamentalist’s authority. That tradition is then read into the Bible and once incorporated it becomes their truth and the truth that they declare they find in the Bible.

There is a simple example that we can use to demonstrate this fact. I wrote about the subject in regards to Jimmy Swaggarts study Bible. Here is the example from that article, (Swaggart’s commentary in red):

“Consider what he says: even though the Lord had explained to the First Family the necessity of the Sacrificial System, that is if they were to have any type of communion with God and Forgiveness of sins. There is nothing in the Genesis account about anyone explaining a sacrificial system to Adam and Eve or Cain and Abel. To back up his false statement or at best his assumption stated as fact he says: There is evidence that Adam, at least for a while, offered up sacrifices. Really? Where is there any such evidence?”

Growing up Adventists it was always assumed that Adam and Eve offered Sacrifices, why we even have paintings on our Sabbath school Quarterly of the offering of Adam and Eve.

We don’t get that from anywhere in the Bible, we do get something similar from John Wesley who was the founder of Methodism and had a major impact upon Adventist theology through Ellen White, a former Methodist, and no doubt other Adventists pioneers. Here is what Wesley notes on the Bible says:

3:21 These coats of skin had a significancy. The beasts whose skins they were, must be slain; slain before their eyes to shew them what death is. And probably 'tis supposed they were slain for sacrifice, to typify the great sacrifice which in the latter end of the world should be offered once for all. Thus the first thing that died was a sacrifice, or Christ in a figure.”

It is now a common belief among Christians particularly Fundamentalists. Yet it can not be found in the Bible at all. It is inserted into the story and used from there on as evidence for several other subsequent ideas.

A similar example can be illustrated in Isaiah 14 and the funeral dirge of the Prince of Babylon called Lucifer in the Latin and carried over into the King James Bible. Lucifer through  teachings of some early Christian leaders in the 2nd and 3rd century became equated with Satan, but that is not found in the Bible and it is not found in the beliefs of the Jews. (see Who is Lucifer or Satan Mis-identified).

As you can see those are simply two examples where non-biblical ideas are accepted and inserted into the Bible.

The rest of John McLarty’s article deals with the idea of the Bible and the Bible only. Because this is what Fundamentalist have told themselves that they believe. McLarty shows some examples where people from Adventist backgrounds hold to some differing beliefs while each one claims that they accept and follow the Bible and the Bible only. The truth is that in the cases and the people he mentions not one is really following the Bible and the Bible only. Because it is a fiction, it does not exist. We simply cannot tear ourselves away from all the traditions that infiltrate the Christian religion. Some of us have tried for years to remove from our thoughts the ideas that previous traditions have inflicted upon us only to learn of some more hiding in our interpretations or in the interpretations of people we listen to or read. It is a constant noise in Christianity and it magnifies with each passing generation.

Within Adventism itself the problem is amplified because we have incorporated a vast amount of additional writings that we refer to as the “Spirit of Prophecy”. As one Anti-Adventist fundamentalist website says:

“… The proper scriptural rule is: "The Bible, and the Bible only, as the rule of faith and practice." Seventh-day Adventists do not abide by this rule, but add to the Bible the writings of Mrs. White, and make them superior to the Bible;”

Some may argue that Adventists don’t make the Spirit of Prophecy superior to the Bible but that it is an authoritative addition to the Bible cannot be argued. Hence if you do a Google search of the term "Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy" you get 31,800 hits. We heard it recently from the new President of the Adventist church Ted Wilson who said:

“When we are transformed by His grace, we will preach, teach, and witness to
the straight message from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy in a humble, loving, winsome manner.”

“I praise the Lord that Nancy and I were both raised by godly parents. In neither of our homes did we ever hear one disparaging word about the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy. We were both brought up to fear the Lord and reverence His Word.”

It is such a common term in Adventism I don’t even see why an Adventist would make the claim that we find in this Adventist World article by Kwabena Donkor

At a time when creeds had a strong hold on churches, Ellen White was instrumental in encouraging the church to stand by the Bible as the only source of faith and practice. She was firm on the principle of “the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines, and the basis of all reforms.”2 This commitment to the primacy of Scripture that permeated the thinking of the pioneers continues to be emphasized in Adventist thinking today.”

If you think of some of those reforms of the nineteenth century, Health Reform (Alcohol Temperance, Tobacco Temperance), Dress Reform even Abolition of slavery; are these really ideas that are from the Bible and the Bible only? The answer of course is no they are not reforms predicated on the Bible they are reforms that one can find a few texts that may say something that the reformer will use but they are not developed from the Bible and the Bible only. Remember also that these reforms though we connect them to Ellen White were common among the reformers of the nineteenth century.

Adventist still hold to a lot of the old Puritan beliefs, some of which some of us grew up with. The idea that one should not go to theaters, the idea that one should not play a game or go swimming on the Sabbath. These were Puritan beliefs established hundreds of years before Adventists even existed and none of which are Bible and Bible only beliefs.

The problem is that we can and people do read all kinds of things into the Bible and then pretend that they have gotten their ideas out of the Bible. Fundamentalists deceive themselves and deceive others by proclaiming that their accepted views are the truth and their accepted views are the products of the Bible and the Bible only. It is this deception that produces the intolerance and the absurdities that predominate the religious thinking of Fundamentalists. It is not their respect for the Bible that is the problem it is their disrespect of the Bible, their ability to shape the Bible to their traditions that is the problem.

Unfortunately it appears that the fundamentalist deception is in the midst of resurgence in Adventism today if the appointment of our new President is any indication and I am certain it is a pretty accurate indication.


Anonymous said...

I liked McLarty's article very much. But, you raise excellent points. I hadn't realized until you said it that the Bible didn't mention Adam sacrificing. Those old Bible Story pictures are embedded in my mind! Amazing. Maybe some of this stems from the Cain and Abel story and the fact that Abel was asked to offer an animal?

Ron Corson said...

Abel was never asked to offer an animal according to the Bible story. That is another instance where ideas are inserted into the story.