Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Great Controversy, if it only worked

There is an interesting conversation over on the Spectrum Blog under the article written by Herbert Douglass entitled The Great Controversy.

The conversation in the comments is not between others and Mr. Douglass but with the various views set forth on this unsatisfactory notion of the place of evil in the world if it is ruled by a loving God. Adventist have long thought they had the answer with what they often call the Great Controversy Theme or Motif. Though it is exceedingly rare to find anyone actually spell out what they mean by the Great Controversy theme or motif. Herbert Douglass does spend a small portion of his article describing what he believes the GCT (Great controversy Theme). He sums it up as freedom. God's love demands the gift of freedom because love only exists in the reality of freedom to choose.
The central issue in the Great Controversy between God and Satan is “freedom.”  Over that mysterious word, that word that has summoned unspeakable courage, honor, and unselfishness in its defense, the well-being of the universe has been wrenched and jeopardized.  Why did God risk all on freedom?
The problem I see with the GCT is that it requires us to make concrete, mythological Biblical stories. In this case Herbert Douglass mentions both Eden and Lucifer. Lucifer by tradition being Satan rather then the metaphor for the king of Babylon actually found in the Bible in Isaiah 14. Thus the foundation of the GCT is based upon what to many seems an allegorical creation story of Eden in perfection and metaphor's about one in a series of opponents of Israel in the book of Isaiah. The foundation therefore is a bit weak. But what about the overall philosophy of freedom and love being the root cause of evil.

That sounds bad doesn't it, but that is what this theory says. Because of love God gives the freedom to people to do whatever they want. So people can choose to be cruel. This theory does not explain how diseases and pathogens infect and shorten our lives, nor why the animal may stalk and kill the child on the edge of the village or why the storm or famine causes desolation. So the GCT is not really even that specific on what evil is. A literal reading of the book of Genesis does not let God off the hook for such things. God curses the ground and then with a flood because man is wicked he kills off everything but what is put in the ark. Yet somehow the GCT is all about love and freedom.

If one were to hold to the literal Eden story then when the two people disobeyed God they started events rolling that could not be stopped until billions were affected. Instead of God explaining to them about choices and consequences and that there was an evil being God had created and allowed the freedom to lie and deceive about anything and everything and that there were such things as facts and that God could in fact present a case for why His ways were better. He cursed them and kicked them out of Eden. Which kind of throws the whole love and freedom thing on the bonfire pretty early. It is rather like your 3 year old disobeying you and you kick him out of the house. Do you really think anyone is going to believe that what you did was out of love?

Herbert Douglass actually acknowledges this problem in his article when he writes:
The risk of granting freedom was not only that God should have a forever heartache.  He would also put Himself on trial. He became One charged with the meanest, most unfair accusations that could be leveled against our Holy Lover.  For millennia, it has seemed that Satan with his accusations has been winning.  More people, it seems, have believed Satan’s lies about God than those who have had faith in His Word, His promises, His trustworthiness. All this trading sad, self-destructive independence for genuine freedom will be covered in lessons to come.
Sounds like because of the rash act of not talking about the problem but kicking them out of Eden God opened Himself up to even more charges. So these people through the millennia don't know the truth of the situation yet somehow they are supposed to now judge God Himself as if He is on trial. They can't tell the difference between true and false yet they are supposed to judge God! Fat chance. Perhaps if God gave them all the data they need to judge, reveal to them the complexities of history and the very thought process of God maybe they could make some kind of judgment, though we have to assume then that what God grants them in knowledge is in fact true and if the question is what God says is true then we being dependent upon God for all this information are back to square one, why believe what He says or shows. Maybe He is just manipulating us?

I wish there was some unified theory of Evil and God. But there is not. Is a volcano evil or a prion or virus? Or are they part of a natural scheme to maintain an indefinitely functioning life cycle of an entire planet filled with life. That is what I tend to think, but then I don't subscribe to the literal nature of the Genesis stories. If those things are the results of curses by God...then the GCT just does not work at all. But like any theory there is elements of truth in the GCT. People do choose to love and they do chose their actions. Those actions will be good and evil. Sometimes evil may even cause something good to happen and sometimes good might in some way promote evil. So we can't simply disregard the importance of freedom. But as with any religious teaching there will be those who disagree and they will even abandon freedom. God did it, such as good old Calvinism, God chooses some to be saved and some to be lost.

The real question when one searches for reasons to understand God and evil is going to come down to what will your theory do for you and others in the here and now. That unfortunately is a judgment call for each individual. However much we may want to declare our truth, we are ill prepared to document the evidence for our truth. We don't like that, we want to think we have special truth that we can share and of course the other religions and denominations and philosophies have the same desire. It is uncomfortable to actually know so little. But honestly that is where we are.

Feel free to talk me off of this ledge, it is not a nice place to be.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Truth in name only

Anyone who has been following this blog could probably sense that I have been on a path that takes me away from the the feelings of certainty and truth that are claimed for Adventism. The last couple of weeks I have seen 3 different mailing for Adventist programs that set forth to explain the truth of the book of Revelation. It seems that this is a push of either the Washington Conference or perhaps the North Pacific Union. Whatever it is I received these 3 mailing with none identified as Adventist or Seventh-day Adventist or even the Seminary denomination training of the speaker. Who I was assured in all 3 mailings that the speaker was seminary trained. Truth is really important to Adventists, well normally, apparently not when they send out fliers but the pictures of the beasts were there and the provocative titles. Unlocking Revelation's Mysteries, Greatest End Time Signs, Revelation's Star Wars Battle!

I have been to many Revelation Seminars in my lifetime. None were convincing and most all were historically flawed. Flawed history used to explain future prophecy. It never seemed to work out and the concept of guessing the correct method of fulfillment of prophecy seemed to always elude us humans. Just think about it, have we ever once done it. Throughout all Christian denominations have we ever once made and accurate prediction? Even the Left Behind books had the thoughtfulness not to make their predictions, instead hiding the predictions inside of a fictional story. No one does well at predicting the future based upon ancient prophecy.

When we think about this wholly inadequate experience with predictions how do we reconcile it with truth. Adventists have the Sanctuary Truth, the Present Truth, the truth for these last days, the truth about the Bible, the truth about the Sabbath and of course the truth of Revelation. The funny thing about truth is that it should be objective and clear as reality, as indisputable as any fact. But our truth is never like that.In SDA President Ted Wilson's Inaugural GC address he says:
 “Look WITHIN the Seventh-day Adventist Church to humble pastors, evangelists, Biblical scholars, leaders, and departmental directors who can provide evangelistic methods and programs that are based on solid Biblical principles and “The Great Controversy Theme.”'
He prefixes this by saying not to reach out to other Christian groups or thinkers because they have faulty theology. Stay within the Adventist truth is his message. By this technique he claims only the “Historical-Critical method of explaining the Bible” should be used and decries all higher Criticism. Naturally along with this we must literally interpret the Bible and ignore science. What you ask has this to do with truth? The answer is nothing. What it does do is inform the membership to not question the truth as found in Adventism. To leave behind all questions and all knowledge from those not in Adventism. In simple terms it suggest our truth cannot stand unless we have a very narrow fundamentalist Adventist religion. We maintain this by only looking at and studying those who carry the fundamentalist Adventist message.

The other day I received an email to this blog's address which said: “Your website is absolutely devilish.” I certainly don't say all the things that I may believe on this website but it is hardly devilish. Possibly if I was a little more radical in my statements it could be viewed that way and perhaps someday may, but still as of today it is not. What it is however is not safe Adventist fundamentalist viewing and as such it is devilish to a large segment of Adventism.

I however am not content with my version of truth over your version of truth. Mainly because I don't see the truth in the factual non disputable formulation of Adventist truth. It is so much easier to say what is not true than to say what is true. But of course even history is often the record of the winners so maybe we should not even be so certain of that. But what I do know is that knowledge is so much more available today then any other time in history and so are other peoples views and interpretations and ideas. Often just a few clicks away on the Internet. What I therefore know is that we cannot find our surety of truth in comfortable exclusion of everyone else. That is what the leadership of the Adventist church has chosen as their course. It will not work. The questions of truth are far too big and our explanations far to small. The Adventist church has left the building, perhaps they went to the bunker to wait it out. But I don't think I can wait there with them any longer.