Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Present Truth Propaganda

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination retained the doctrine of “Present Truth" from the Millerite movement. To the Millerites "Present Truth" was the soon second coming of Jesus and destruction of the earth which they later determined to be scheduled for 1844. Early Adventist pioneers like Joseph Bates held that the “shut door” teaching that Ellen White once also taught was similarly "Present Truth". Christians outside of the Adventist denomination also hold to their beliefs as "Present Truth" as in the set of sermon titles of Charles Spurgeon. The term is applied to ideas believed to be given by God to any group especially for their time or stated as follows on the website Heaven Dwellers:
“In each of God's ages and dispensations there has been truth generated from God that was peculiar and particular to that age or dispensation to which it pertained. By that we mean that in each age God made known a truth which related directly to the calling that then stood before God. It has ever been the responsibility of God's people in each age and dispensation to distinguish "Present Truth"…”
We may think of a few biblical examples of “Present Truth” which would be specifics to a particular situation. Israel was told to return from their false religious practices and seek justice, mercy and repentance. Those would be specific to the general truth, that truth of returning to following God. Justice and mercy would be the enduring truths, the "Present Truth" was the particular application of the need for the general truth. Another example might be the specific requirements for the city of Jerusalem when they attempted to re-establish Sabbath observance.

Let's look at the application of "Present Truth" used by Joseph Bates in regards to the shut door theory of early Adventism. (The shut door theory as held by certain Millerite Adventist between 1844-1854 maintained that Miller gave the final call for salvation and those who did not accept his message were lost. The theory was abandoned when they decided the cleansing was of the sanctuary in heaven and not a cleansing of earth.)
“Why this third angel's loud cry about the commandments of God, because the fourth one, which had been trodden down for many generations, is to be restored and kept as the commandment requires. The second angel's message and voice from heaven required God's people to leave the churches. The seventh-day Sabbath could not, nor can not now be restored there. It is to be done in the Philadelphia state of the church, and no where else. This is the "Present Truth" in the commandments in the Ark of his Testimony. The "Present Truth" in this is: That the master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and now stands beside the Ark containing the commandments. The ""Present Truth"," then, of this third angel's message is, The Sabbath And Shutdoor.” (See also the picture on the Chart. ) An Explanation of the Typical and Anti-Typical Sanctuary, By the Scriptures. With A Chart Revelation III:
The problem with "Present Truth" is that it often takes general truth and distorts it to support the presuppositions of the times. The general truth is that at some time Christ will return and the opportunity for decisions will end. The "Present Truth" of the shut door meant if one had heard Millers exhortation and no longer believed them they were lost. "Present Truth" became a term to make their beliefs appear to have more import then they would have if they were simply acknowledged it to be predictions or suppositions.

"Present Truth" took on the most peculiar incarnation: that is propaganda for a particular belief. If you and others believed it and it was a contemporary belief it must be true and God must have given it to you to perceive. It is now a powerful tool to tell people that you have some unique truth, not some old truth that everyone else could have from reading their Bibles, but a particular truth that is special for your time and place as a special gift from God to you and your church.

Adventism has taken "Present Truth" farther in that nothing can contradict "Present Truth", because once held it stands forever. P. Gerard Damsteegt writes:

“New light will not manifest itself in a form that is altogether different from the light the church already possesses. It will take the form of a further advancement of "Present Truth". It is a fuller, clearer, and brighter unfolding of the old truth. There will be harmony with the theological landmarks, the Spirit of Prophecy, and historicist principles of Bible interpretation. Thus it will not replace, substitute, radically change, or tear down the foundations of Adventist faith and practice.” (Seventh-day Adventist Doctrines and Progressive Revelation © P. Gerard Damsteegt Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 2/1 (1991): 77-92)

Thus the propaganda of "Present Truth" becomes institutionalized. "Present Truth" becomes a euphemism for Adventist beliefs. If we (or the Adventists pioneers) believe it, it was or is called "Present Truth." This institutionalization becomes very much like the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and tradition becoming equal in authority to the Bible and dictating how the Bible must be interpreted. “Present Truth" becomes the theological landmarks. Thus, traditional Adventism has placed itself as the holder of “Present Truth” from an America of the late 1800’s which now is seen as “landmarks” that cannot be changed.

This traditional view of "Present Truth" is now arrayed against the Progressive Adventist view. (“Progressive Adventism” should not be confused with the unfortunate mixture of progressive or left wing politics and theology that so characterize the dialogue in some circles.) The Progressive Adventist seeks to learn how and when to reinterpret beliefs to maintain a reasonable theological view. It holds that "Present Truth" is progressive truth -- it is a new truth or a revised understanding of an old truth for this time or situation. For example at one time Ellen White condemned the use of bicycles for their impracticality and expense while today they are practical, good exercise, better for the environment and far cheaper than many forms of transport. Thus even if something was assumed to be divinely inspired instruction, with time and change the instruction is no longer valid, the general truth of not wasting ones money remains true but the "Present Truth" of a past age does not apply today. Most traditional Adventists understand this example. But they will not apply the same reasoning to what they consider an Adventist landmark doctrine. “Present Truth” will instead be used as propaganda to prop up a potentially irrelevant or discredited older understanding.

Besides being stuck with paradigms now 150 years old the emphasis on being the special recipients and defenders of “Present Truth” fosters the remnant triumphalism that is both offensive to others and in some instances just plain silly.

The rediscovery by Adventists of the Sabbath was “Present Truth” to them. But, somehow when the Seventh-day Baptists taught it a hundred years earlier it was not “Present Truth?” It makes little sense until we realize the value was in the perception that we Adventists had something special and of greater truth value than anyone else: “Come and get it, new and improved, now with 50% more truth.”

“Present Truth” is a fiction, a meaningless term whose only value lies in its advertising potential.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Death of Adventist Media

Not long ago a couple of alternative Adventist media publications announced that Walter Veith was being accused of Antisemitism. No source of the accusation was given and no context of the actual statements were given just a couple of words.

Here is how Spectrum reported the accusation:

Because it is not clear who complained, Walter Veith has falsely lashed out at Spectrum and another independent Adventist magazine in Germany, EANN, edited by the former Euro-Africa Division communication director. EANN published an article, "Veith's dangerous game with the Jewish question - a disturbing fact-check" on Veith's talk titled "King of the North-Part 2." In it Veith, a noted conspiracy theorist, mixed interpretations of the Bible with theories about Jesuit and Masonic roles in the Holocaust, offensive language about "little yellow cloth" and "herding" of Jews and a positive citation of Benjamin Freedman, a "professional antisemite" according to the Anti-Defemation League.

Here is the original statement and first accusation of the Antisemitism from EANN (Independent Journal of Religion, Church and Society) as translated from German by Google translator:

Reason is the opinion of the lecture "king of the north", Part 2, by Dr. Walter Veith, an Adventist from South Africa, on 20 October 2012 in Nuremberg held and was also webcast. "In it, he defended the thesis that Freemasons and Jesuits had used the Nazi era, the Jews finally get to Palestine to Christianity get distracted from the real biblical statements and misled," said the statement. Embedded in this "conspiracy theory" approach using the speaker terms, such as "Verherdung" of the Jews in the sense of cooperation and bustle. He also plays down the Star of David as a "yellow handkerchief". "We believe that such designations antisemitic discriminatory and get a criminal trivializing the Nazi reign of terror, very close."

That either of this two publications ran with this story shows just how journalistic inept Adventist media has become, there is definitely a story here but they are not reporting it. I would go so far as to say it is inept on both the right and the left leaving us with no viable source of Adventist news. The EANN report lists a couple of words and the subjective view of the writer that the word are somehow Antisemitism. In fact the EANN article does not even list an author. Apparently the rumors were enough to get an official banishment for Veith in Germany. Where apparently rumors are enough for the church to condemn whether or not the government finds anything out in their investigation. But “herding” and “yellow handkerchief” in regards to historical actions of the Nazi's is enough to be accused by fellow Adventists of being anti-Semitic.

I have little agreement with Walter Veith on probably any of his beliefs. But that does not give anyone cause to report such completely subjective personal views as if they were facts. That this is what has become of the Adventist media is in my view one of the reasons that the church is so fractured. People have no objective source of information about the happenings in their own church. This story has been ongoing for about a month now and it has never even been mentioned by Adventist News Network (ANN). No mention of Veith's ban from German Adventist churches either.

What this means is that Adventism has no reliable source of church related news. What news we do get is often biased and poorly reported like that from EANN and Spectrum and Adventist Today.

Veith denies the charge saying in part:

Dear Brethren in Germany

I wish to briefly respond to the allegations of anti Semitism during my recent visit to Germany.
Let me assure you brethren that I am not by any stretch of the imagination an Anti Semite. Indeed, any form of racism is abhorrent to me and having grown up in South Africa I have firsthand experience regarding this issue and have been an ardent campaigner against racist injustice all my life. Also, as South African, I was probably not attuned to the hypersensitivity of the current German nation regarding the injustices perpetrated on the Jews by the N a z i regime and my comments have thus been misinterpreted. As you well know, German is not my first language and I believe that some of the supposed statements regarding belittling remarks such as “gelbes Tuechlein” stem from my linguistic inadequacy in this department and certainly not from malicious intent as some hope to surmise. Moreover, the treatment the Jews received in Germany and for that matter from many other nations as well can only be described as diabolical and there was certainly historic ‘herding’ involved to the shame of all who practiced it. Moreover, ‘herding’ is the modus operandi of Christ’s adversary, who is herding the whole world into a collective mindset which will result in the final persecution of God’s antitypical Israel. This is not a conspiracy theory but a prophetic reality and the Spirit of Prophecy warns that if we associate with those who war against Christ we will soon come to see matters in the same light as they and lose our discernment. I plead with you dear brethren to note the serious times we are living in and heed the warnings that God has so graciously given us through the Spirit of Prophecy.

Adventism has long had a conspiracy theorist mindset, it is no wonder that Veith has the same and he defends himself by the selection of quotes from Ellen White. As most SDA traditionalist do. His defense is damaged by the victimization he sees as his lot, though in this case he is being victimized by rumor and poor reporting and likely even false reporting. I say false because when you really have a case you are able to give the context and the statements. When a report does not have those then they likely have no facts either. There are actually politically liberal websites that exist by taking quotes out of context and editing things to make them appear quite different from the reality and these sites are often read by those in charge of Spectrum at least. It is often noticeable in their articles as well.

We are in the information age but sadly we are finding that information is so often twisted and biased and so contrary to the facts that people don't know what to believe and far too often make poor assumptions about what to believe. Choosing sides instead of acting upon facts to make informed decisions.

I do doubt that my little article with a plea to actual reason and facts will do much good. As propaganda has taken the place of knowledge. But I will put it forward and next week demonstrate how propaganda is often pretended to be present truth. We as a church are not really growing in knowledge and reason and that is why I don't think there is much future in the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Update: 12-22-12-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Just today I see over on the Spectrum Website more journalistic malpractice. They complain about a Ugandan SDA leader. They begin with the following:

..."As is part of the church's offical statement and was also happening behind the scenes, there were attempts to discredit the New Vision report. The church states: 
Recent comments in the Ugandan newspaper New Vision attributed to the head of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in East-Central Africa do not convey an accurate representation of his intentions or the voted position of the church regarding homosexuality. . .

The newspaper reports suggest that Pastor Blasius Ruguri fully supports the proposed legislation before the Ugandan Parliament that may include incarcerating and even executing people for same sex intimate contact.

In response to those reports, pastor Ruguri today said, "It is unfortunate that the media took the liberty to extend my statements to suggest what I did not say or imply. I have never seen that bill. Mine was a general statement to disapprove of homosexual practice and behavior.
Ruguri might want to work on his communication skills since he appears to have misled another reporter for a different newpaper on the same day. (This has not been reported until now.) ..."
Yet in fact there is no anti-homosexual bill written yet as the Huffington Post reports: 
Parliamentarian David Bahati said the bill, which is expected to be voted on next month, had "moved away from the death penalty after considering all the issues that have been raised."
"There is no death penalty," he told The Associated Press.
Bahati said the bill now focuses on protecting children from gay pornography, banning gay marriage, counseling gays, as well as punishing those who promote gay culture. Jail terms are prescribed for various offenses, he said, offering no details. The most recent version of the bill hasn't been publicly released.
In 2009, when Bahati first introduced the bill, he charged that homosexuals threatened family values in Uganda and that gays from the West were recruiting poor Ugandan children into gay lifestyles with promises of money and a better life. He said a tough new law was needed because a colonial-era law against sodomy was not strong enough.
The bill, popular among many in Uganda but condemned abroad, has been under scrutiny by a committee whose members now say they are ready to put it forward for a vote. One of the members, Krispus Ayena, said Friday that some parliamentarians spoke strongly against certain provisions in the bill as well as the death penalty itself.
"There was a dissenting voice in the committee," Ayena said. "They argued very forcefully that we should not do a thing like that: to regulate what goes on in bedrooms. First of all, is it practicable to regulate that? And there are those who say this is very oppressive."
The bill's original wording proposed the death penalty for cases where HIV-infected homosexuals had sex, where gay people had sex with minors or the disabled, and where gays were discovered having sex for the second time. Bahati said at the time that these offenses amounted to what he called "aggravated homosexuality."

Then you read the comments and you see how people fall into line not knowing any facts because the original article did not give a balanced view but assumed the lying of the Adventist official. It is sad that such political agenda's can so distort actual news reporting. But it is goes on constantly. Just know you can't trust these people...and that is the saddest part as if there is anyone you should be able to trust it is a Christian. My advice to these organizations: deal in facts and then in a separate article deal with you interpretation of the facts. Don't merge them together.