Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lessons in how not to attack the great controvesy motif

Spectrum online has an interesting article by Alex Carpenter which to my mind speaks of the failure to separate theology from political ideology which tends to harm both views. For theology even if the writer is on the right track his thesis will be derailed because of foolish comments that have nothing to do with the theological subject. This is the case for Alex when he writes in his article Bloggin' the 28: The Great Controversy:

I hate to say it, but sometimes I'm not sure which side our existence helps out. I could see Satan pleased with millions of people thinking they are on God's side because of what they believe metaphysically while doing little to alleviate the physical horror around them. One of the weirder examples of this are those opposed to women's ordination and gay marriage. Here we have self-proclaimed and very sincere followers of God fighting to NOT allow more pastors. Huh? And fighting to NOT allow people who want to publicly commit to each other, sometimes even in church. What? It's almost humorous it is so backward. I'd laugh if it weren't so painfully true over and over and over again.
As if the view against homosexual marriage is because people don't want the homosexuals to publicly commit to each other. Which is sort of like saying the reason for a U.S. trade embargo to Cuba is because they make has nothing to do with anything It is a complete distortion of the opposing point of view.  Thus also doing damage to his political objective by use of fictional arguments of the other side. You can tell as he continues that he does not really have any facts to support himself as later he writes: 

Within this ancient language there is an echo of the moral paradoxes we see today. Those condemning marriage equality to save marriage are, in a very real way, destroying marriage for others. Those fighting against ordaining women to save the church actually weaken it by limiting full participation by more than half its members.

Condemning the redefinition of marriage does not in any way destroy marriage, the statement above has no backing...he is unable to tell the reader how either one of his two targets destroys anything they are merely gratuitous assertions. Though one could say that he attempted on the women's ordination to give some kind of reason. The fact is that even if a woman cannot be an ordained Pastor does that limit full participation? As if full participation is found only when one goes to seminary and becomes an ordained Pastor. Such logical fallacies defeat his purpose because they can't support the argument and can be easily shown to be irrelevant to his argument.  Which is something that John Osborn did in the comments section.

John Osborn
Linking each of the 28 FBs to the three or four issues that consume Spectrum, takes a certain creative genius - that genius to see things that the non-creative types just don't see. Just like a sculptor, who sees the figure of a man in what other people see as just a slab of rock, the spectrum blogger can see the issues of homosexuality, woman's ordination, and Darwinism, in other issues that other people would consider...well, other issues. This piece was particularly masterful. How many people would read the great controversy and think of Women's ordination? Some of us view these issues as a family disagreement between fellow brothers and sisters in Christ about how to interpret Scripture. But now we know those who oppose the Spectrum party-line on culture-war issues are simply on the wrong side of the Great controversy and fighting against God. And in the professional and nuanced words of Mr. Carpenter, that's just "weird."

This is good to know, now that it's been settled that Spectrum's opinions on the culture war are one and the same as God's opinions we can stop all this debate about such issues and just decide to be on God's side and stop being weird. After self-congratulatory declarations that your ideological opponents are weirdly on the side of evil, we have a little discourse on how the greatest evil is the self-deception of thinking your ideologically opponents are on the side of evil, this is immediately followed by more declarations that your ideological opponents are on the side of evil. Not only that, but apparently the denomination you choose to identify with and remain a member of, started out as the very epitome of evil (but this was probably before the clear headed thinking demonstrated by blogs like this). In the imitable words of this article: huh? what?

In fact I do rather agree with Alex on the irrelevancy of the Adventist Great Controversy motif. But he has not really advanced the argument in any way other then brought some attention to the idea that there are those that find it faulty.  Which he could have done years ago simply by referencing one of my earlier articles on the subject such as:  The Great Controversy View, and The Great Controversy if it only worked, and the short article on Is the Great Controversy Really Unique which shows that the idea of a battle between good and evil is common in Christianity but when Adventists use the term they really mean the extra's that Ellen White inserted into her Great Controversy view.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

When and why is something a Prophetic statement?

There is an interesting article on Spectrum by Alden Thompson entitled Rediscovering Lost Adventist Literature The subject is not really what interests me but rather this information from the article:

Lost-and-Found #1: An Astonishing Ellen White Quote on Conditionality
The astonishing Ellen White quote on conditionality is this one:

The angels of God in their messages to men represent time as very short. Thus it has always been presented to me. It is true that time has continued longer than we expected in the early days of this message. Our Saviour did not appear as soon as we hoped. But has the Word of the Lord failed? Never! It should be remembered that the promises and the threatenings of God are alike conditional.

Her treatment of this quotation is tantalizing. First, it is part of a longer manuscript in which she responds to a critic who quoted this 1851 statement as proving her testimonies false: “I saw that the time for Jesus to be in the most holy place was nearly finished, and that time can last but a very little longer.”5

After addressing the question of conditionality at some length (the point of the quoted paragraph), she then refers to her critics in vivid language, declaring that heretofore she had “not felt at liberty even to notice their vile speeches, reproaches, and insinuations.” She goes on to say that she “would not now depart from this custom, were it not that some honest souls may be misled by the enemies of the truth who are so exultantly declaring me a deceiver. In the hope of helping the minds of the honest, I make the statements that I do.”
But she apparently had second thoughts, for there is no evidence in the White Estate files that this response (Ms 4, 1883) was ever sent to anyone and the critic is not identified. The manuscript was found in the Ellen White files after her death. Apparently she never used any part of it while she was still alive. A number of such manuscripts were brought to light in the1930s and then step-by-step brought to the attention of the church. In this instance, part of the statement was published in Evangelism in1946. In1958, it was published in full in Selected Messages, Bk. 1, 59-73.

Now I have used the phrase “astonishing” to refer to this quotation because of the reaction of a retired pastor with whom I have had extensive email correspondence in recent years.  He is devout and thoughtful, conservative, but open to new perspectives. I had used the quote several times in dialogue with him, and more than once he read through the SDABC article, “The Role of Israel in Old Testament Prophecy,” described here as lost-and-found item #2.6 “I had read it before, but enjoyed it again,” he said. I finally told him that I would answer no more of his questions until he gave me a straightforward answer to my question about Zechariah 14:

I know this is a volatile question, but if Scripture includes an end-time scenario which no SDA would now affirm, shouldn’t we conclude that specific end time plans, including the specifics in the book The Great Controversy, may not happen exactly that way? I have pressed you on that point because if that conclusion is wrong, I would like to know why. If it is correct, shouldn’t we take steps to educate the church – including those ancient preachers who would rather not come to that conclusion?...

I have to admit I did not know that she never published or even sent out her statement "It should be remembered that the promises and the threatening of God are alike conditional." I have to give her more credit then her followers because if that statement were true then the promise of a second coming becomes no longer a surety but a conditional promise. It may or may not even happen because when phrased the way the quote is "are alike conditional" there is an implied "all" in the statement. It probably would have assured her position as a false prophet. Particularly in light of the context which was to try and explain why her own predictions did not come to pass. Because if a so called prophet is allowed to explain away why their predictions failed then there would no longer be any objective test of prophetic ability. They simply say that the conditions were not met. Which is way to easy if you say that everything is conditional and what those conditions are is never given. (in his article Thompson mentions the Jonah parable, don't put a whole lot of wait on that since it is highly unlikely that Jonah only said those eight words to the people of Nineveh, it is a greatly misused book by those trying to defend Ellen White and condition-less conditional prophecy).

Which leads to the second area of concern which is why her followers and supporters use the quote that she herself did not publish or send out. What gives it any authority or truth to be used at all if the prophet in question did not feel it to be a worthy piece of instruction for people? That strikes me as the assumption that everything someone believed to be a prophet said has to be inspired. Something which in fact even the supporters of EGW say is not true. It does appear to me to be something that should have in fact never even have been published at least not until there is a change in the understanding about how to view her writings and the removal of her writings as "a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction." (Fundamental SDA belief 18)

Monday, June 17, 2013

The year day principle reexamined

In 2006 I put up a blog article on the year day principle. I linked to an article published on the Adventist Today website. I was recently contacted by the writer of that article as he has a revision of the article entitled The Year-day Principle Reexamined by Eduard C. Hanganu B.A., M.A. Linguistics Lecturer in English UE
I updated my blog article links and the author wanted me to help him publicize his revised article. That article is about 93 pages with the references so I could not publish it here but I uploaded the file to my website and you can download the PDF file and read it.

So you get a flavor of the article here is the conclusion section.
VIII. Conclusion

We have shown in this paper that the YDP is not a consistent, reliable and scientific method of prophetic interpretation, but a theological assumption without a biblical foundation that has been designed in order to authenticate an unbiblical interpretation of the apocalyptic prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. This conclusion is based on the empirical evidence submitted in the paper. This evidence is summarized below:

Failed, Unscientific Definition

The historicist definition of the YDP is not a descriptive linguistic rule but a prescriptive theological invention with multiple, dissimilar labels and vague application parameters. The data sample is drawn from non-apocalyptic biblical texts, but the definition limits and restricts the YDP application to apocalyptic prophecies which is illogical, unempirical and unscientific because a generalization or rule cannot be drawn outside the reference pool. Certain definition formulations contain ambiguous and discordant application parameters that reveal the weakness of the principle.

Fabricated Defense Evidence

The SDA historicist support and defense for the YDP is based on the concurrence of the terms day and year” in certain biblical texts. The SDA theologians interpret this rhetorical concurrence as a day-year relationship” claimed to be the precursor of a year-day principle,” rule, or equation, in willful ignorance of the empirical evidence that this day-year tandem concurrence is due to Hebrew idiomatic language and poetical parallelism that cannot be generalized into principles or rules.

Selective Application of the Principle

The YDP is applied in a selective, inconsistent and unscientific manner to the Bible as a whole and also to the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. Some SDA interpreters have restricted the YDP application to apocalyptic prophecies, some have included historical narratives and poetic passages in the application pool, some have extended the application to classical prophecies, and some have declared that the YDP should be applied to certain time prophecies. These vague and inconsistent YDP application parameters confuse the readers and reduce their confidence in the YDP as a reliable method of prophetic interpretation.

Bizarre, Absurd Text Interpretations

Because of the illogical, inconsistent, and confusing YDP definition parameters, the principles application to the Bible texts has generated a wide assortment of results. Some results have been strange, some bizarre, and some altogether absurd. The more the SDA historicist exegetes follow the YDP definition, the worse the results of the principles application to biblical texts become. The SDA historicist applications of the YDP and the dogmas that have resulted from these peculiar applications have become notorious in numerous theological circles and have discredited the SDA historicist theologians.
The Year-Day Principle Reexamined 77

YDP is Not a Linguistic Rule

When we compare the phonetic, morphological, syntactic, and discourse rules or maxims that occur in the English language with the claimed year-day pattern that is assumed to occur in the Bible, we notice that the YDP does not function in the same manner as the above rules. In fact, there is no universal year-day linguistic pattern in the Bible that could be generalized as a year-day rule or law because as a whole the year-day tandem concurrences are rare in the biblical text. As shown in the discussion on the YDP application in Daniel and Revelation (section V in the paper), the rate is less than 30% for each book, which indicates that the statistical average is too low for a generalization. This means that the year-day concurrence pattern is random and could not be formulated into a rule or law. The logical conclusion, based on established linguistic evidence, is that there is no linguistic support for a year-day rule or principle in the Bible.

The Unavoidable Conclusion

The ample empirical data submitted in this paper has provided the evidence for the unavoidable conclusion that the YDP as an SDA historicist hermeneutical method of prophetic interpretation is not a divine rule, biblical principle, or scientific method of prophetic interpretation, but a theological assumption that is not grounded in the Bible and cannot be defended with the Bible. The SDA theologians have no legitimate support for the YDP. All the claimed evidence proposed in support and defense of the principle is unbiblical, unempirical, and unscientific, and therefore untenable. The actual support for the YDP appears to derive from misread and misinterpreted biblical texts. The principle is illogical, unsound, and unreliable, and must be discarded as a hermeneutical method of prophetic interpretation.