The Adventist church has it own code words and like most code words you need to be in the know to understand what is being said. It is rather sad because when you use code words you are using words that are meant to exclude the real meaning of what you are saying. Instead the code is given and as a replacement or place holder for a particular thought. Sometimes there is general agreement about what the code word is and sometimes there are varying views. Variations of course destroy the whole attempt at using a code word because it then becomes whatever anyone wants the code to mean. This is why code words are such a foolish idea in any open conversation.
Yet Adventism fills it's literature and conversations with code words. For example some Adventists code words are: Present Truth, Spirit of Prophecy, Pen of Inspiration, Three Angels Messages, Third Angel's Message, the Truth, the Investigative Judgment, Judgment Hour, the Remnant, the Great Controversy, and the one I am going to talk about today: Primitive Godliness.
I don't mean to be too hard on Adventism for the use of code words, it is likely all religions use them. The short hand to imply broader messages in a limited use of words. As religion in general has become more and more confused it needs more and more code words to attempt to make sense of its beliefs. This then presents us with the oxymoron of Primitive Godliness. Primitives really never had a good conception of God...any God. Nor did they really follow after their gods in any particular way. What we know about their practices especially in Christianity is found mainly in references made in the Bible. When people don't have a lot of data it is easy to adjust the data to fit their own assumptions.
A few days ago over on the Spectrum website the following comment was made when someone was asked to explain what Primitive Godliness would look like today:
Read in "Great Controversy" her description of the revival and reformation that took place among believers just before the Great Disappointment in 1844. That should give you some idea of what is meant by "primitive godliness." Or read about the early church in the book of Acts. Better pass over the part about Ananias and Sapphira. "Progressives" might consider that incident to have been extremely judgmental on the part of Peter.
These people were focused on Jesus as the center of everything. and they were consumed with spreading the gospel. They weren't hung up on petty things like WO.[Women's Ordination] They weren't trying to tear apart the Scriptures, like so many "progressives" are today.
The question could be asked where these people really focused on Jesus as the center of everything? Most of those people in 1844 had a pretty limited idea about who Jesus was. As the later controversy between the Semi Arians and the Trinitarians played out in the Adventist church it is hard to see them being centered on Jesus. But many did stop their farm work to tell people that Christ was returning on a particular year and then even a particular day and then many set another day a year later to try again.
The New Testament writers like Paul and Peter clearly thought the second coming was going to be in their lifetimes as well. Perhaps that should be the hallmark of Primitive Godliness? Adventists get the term Primitive Godliness from Ellen G. White and she never bothered to define her meaning. As with many who claim prophetic ability vagueness is often their best friend. So the term has been defined by her followers. As the above comment writer may think that the people before 1844 were good Bible students, most today would say they used proof text methods and verses taken out of context. But then maybe that is the hallmark of Primitive Godliness? Anyway they were proven to be wrong just as the New Testament writers were proven wrong in their expectations. But at least they were not given their expectations as prophecies or truth. Though I suppose some might disagree with me on that and say that since the whole Bible is the Word of God it is all prophecy and all truth and no human feeling and expectations enter in to it. Though if they did that then they would have signaled the death knell of Christianity as one could say their prophecies were proven false already why accept anything in the book at all. That might be another hallmark of Primitive Godliness, people who don't think about what they are saying by making claims that are proven false.
One writer on Adventist Online tells us his view of Primitive Godliness after quoting Ellen White he writes:
This primitive godliness includes the reversal of many of the trends in the social structure where roles have been confused and changed from the way God established them.
Men need to take up their God given responsibilities to be the spiritual leader in the home, both by precept and example and women must allow this to happen and not usurp their position.
Women need to learn to submit to their husbands in the Lord. They need to be a “helpmate,” one who stands beside their husband, not attempting to compete or be a back seat driver.
Children need to learn to be obedient to their God fearing parents. Children are to learn from their parents and not attempt to rule the home. Yes, parents need to listen, but always remember that they are accountable for their opportunities to learn from experience and to guide the inexperienced feet on that pathway of life.
All this is part of the “primitive Godliness” that we must posses to be ready for Jesus to come. Does it go contrary to popular and cultural ways? Yes, many times yes.
Even with his usage of Primitive Godliness he only says that his list is part of the things that make up Primitive Godliness. A person is usually pretty safe in defining things with only parts of the definition, the person is rarely really wrong that way. I can say that part of the definition of the United States is that the people speak English. I could also say they speak Spanish or most any other language because there is probably some person in the U.S. that speaks that other language. Being a part of a list is really not a good form of definition. But if you can connect to something with your particular emphasis, well that is the ultimate use of code words.
That is really what this is all about, making your ideas sound authoritative because they are connected to an authority, the Bible, in Adventism Ellen White, or simply to the common terms of your chosen religion. Even if the person using the term can't really define it there is power in the term. In fact why not test my opinion on this by simply going to the Adventist church and asking them to define Present Truth or Primitive Godliness, see what kind of answers you get. Or my personal favorite which was to ask someone the definition of the Great Controversy to which I was once answered read the first three chapters of Ellen White's book Patriarchs and Prophets. Which I encourage anyone to do if they think that Ellen White does not contradict the Bible, well not contradict as adding all kinds of things to the story is not a contradiction unless you take the Bible story as a complete story with all things necessary for ones salvation, then contradiction works well.