Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, November 02, 2013

As through a mirror darkly

I never really thought of this before but a recent comment on one of my blog articles set me thinking. The reference is to this text:
  For now we see through a glass, darkly 1 Corinthians 13:12
 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Due to the invention later about 100 AD by the Romans we think of these verses as talking about glass some kind of clear glass but not of course cloudy in the case of 1 Cor 13:12. But we have been wrong all this time in that assumption...or at least I have been wrong and I can't imagine why if others knew the correct meaning I was never told in all those years, so I think it is a pretty wide misunderstanding.

First here is what the comment on my blog article said:

"...all "see darkly, as in a glass". The apostle Paul was referring to the volcanic glass mirrors of his time that rendered an image in some places perfectly but in others flawed and distorted due to the uneven cooling of the liquid volcanic rock..."

This is probably not what Paul was referring too. As one website writes of Obsidian:

Other Uses of Obsidian Freshly broken pieces of obsidian have a very high luster. Ancient people noticed that they could see a reflection in obsidian and used it as a mirror. Later, pieces of obsidian were ground flat and highly polished to improve their reflective abilities.

 From the pictures of Obsidian mirrors you can see the image is indeed quite dark. Paul was likely not referencing obsidian mirrors but it is pretty sure he was referencing mirrors. Obsidian is a pretty delicate glass and to achieve the kind of polish necessary to be a good mirror would be difficult and probably not very long lasting.Still obsidian is very likely the first man made mirror, and certainly more convenient then a pool of water.

Most sources I have recently looked at think that Paul is referring to the mirrors of his day. Which were bronze mirrors. As a good article on 1 Cor. 13 says:
A good example is the phrase through a glass darkly, which centuries of English speakers have interpreted as peering through a clouded windowpane. But when the King James translation was made, a glass was the standard word for a mirror, since the new mirrors of that time were like ours, with a silvered coating applied to the back of a sheet of glass. The original Greek text has dia spektrou, or by means of a mirror, but Greek mirrors were made of highly polished brass which have a weak and imperfect mirror-image, so the figure has an entirely different thrust. Now you see yourself as if you were looking in your brass mirror, but THEN you will have a perfect mirror-image of yourself, you will see yourself as you really are. Of course there is an error in this too, since mirrors reverse right and left, but in the mirror of Heaven you will come fact to face with your real self, see yourself truly as you really are. It is singularly difficult to translate this passage from the Greek, since modern mirrors do give the impression of perfect reflection, and the original meaning is lost.
The oldest such mirrors appear to be bronze, Some have noted that Corinth was famous for the production of brass mirrors which make it the most likely mirror that Paul is referring to. Silver would have been another good choice but probably too expensive for most people as well as copper. If you were well to do you probably had a mirror. As you can tell by the pictures of ancient mirrors they are going to tarnish.So they required polishing to be used and if they were tarnished and in need of polish which would probably be often then they could be said to see darkly the reflection.

As this site says:
...The mirrors of the ancients were of polished metal, in many cases they were of brass and they required constant polishing, so that a sponge with pounded pumice-stone was generally attached to it. And it was  the apostle Paul who wrote this famous passage from the Bible in a letter to a church in Corinth, which was famous for the manufacture of these kinds of mirrors. The images reflected in these brass mirrors were indistinct in comparison to our modern mirrors. They were seen Darkly Which, literally translated from the original Greek language in which he wrote, means, “in a riddle or enigma…that the revelation appears indistinctly, imperfectly.”

Be sure and read the rest of the article found here and referenced above for some other interesting things about what may have been different by Paul's meaning then we normally think of today.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Ted Wilson on the 3 Angels Messages

Normally I like to reference as close to possible the actual words of someone but since I can't find a copy of Ted Wilson's NAD Year-End Meeting sermon I will reference the report from Spectrum. For quite a while I have told people that when Adventists use the term Three angels messages or thrid angel's message they are using the phrases as code words for the primary beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist church (SDA). It is hard to find any Adventist leaders who will come right out and say that, but it does appear that Ted Wilson came pretty close in his sermon recently.

"Wilson argued that a correct theological understanding would drive a correct approach to mission. "Seventh-day Adventist theology and mission are inseparable," he said. He added his contention that the three angels' messages are the most important messages Adventists have to share. "They are our theology and our mission," he said, "and the reason for God's wonderful Remnant Church."
Most of us know that the three angels messages are found in the book of Revelation and have been messages given since the second century. So we now have a pretty good reference that Adventists see themselves as the embodiment of the three angels messages. 
"Wilson sprinkled the message with what have become familiar talking points during his tenure as president. The first came around seven minutes into his sermon when Wilson asserted that the first angel's message that the hour of God's judgment has come includes a call to recognize God as creator: "The one who created this earth recently, in six literal days," capped off by the seventh day Sabbath, Wilson intoned. "That literal seven-day cycle has never been broken since the creation of this world," he said."
Revelation does not say anything about 6 literal days, or the Sabbath, those are read into the text so that Adventist theology can be shown to be the three angels messages.
Revelation 14:6
And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. “Fear God,” he shouted. “Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.” NIV
There was once a time in the Adventist church where the judgment was the big issue with this text. Now it appears to be a pretext for a recent literal 6 day creation. I still prefer the good news about God as our judge, that we are not simply left here on our own, but that is just me.
"Next, Wilson focused on the Sabbath-Sunday divide that Wilson argued would separate God's people from the others. "During the time of trouble that is coming, and immediately preceding the Second Coming, the seventh-day Sabbath will be the central issue of the Great Controversy," Wilson said. He went on to add that in addition to keeping the Sabbath, worshiping God as creator also requires "willingness to reject false theories about the origin of life, such as evolution or theistic evolution." Here, Wilson pivoted to focus on another recurring theme that has marked his presidential agenda. "It is impossible to believe in evolution or theistic evolution and say that God is creator of heaven and earth and all the life they contain," he announced. "The two concepts simply do not mix." Wilson then stated his view that evolution is not a science, but "a false form of religion - not only a religion, but also a part of spiritualism, which will play a major, negative role in the final events."
When someone such as Wilson tells people it is impossible to believe in evolution or theistic evolution and yet believe in God as creator, it does not so much prove his contention as prove he knows little about other peoples beliefs. Which is not really something that you want in a religious leader in my opinion. If the two concepts do not mix then we have to pretend that there is no such thing as evolution. But scientifically we know that all kinds of organisms change and that evolution is an integral part of science. Things that have had huge successes in increased knowledge such as genetics use evolution as one of their key components.

As the TTC Guidebook on Understanding Genetics says:
 Three major ideas tie biological science together.
a. Mechanism. Many societies have believed, and many people continue to believe, that the rules thatgovern life are different from the inanimate universe. They propose a“vital force”to explain this.Examples of this are the chi of Chinese philosophy and traditional medicine. Biological science rejects this idea, proposing instead that the same rules of physics and chemistry that govern the lifeless world (e.g., rocks, the air) govern life. 
b.Cell theory. Since the microscope was first used to visualize living things, biologists have agreedthat cells are the building blocks of life (just as atoms are the building blocks of chemistry). All living things are made up of cells, and all cells come from other cells. 
c. Evolution. Organisms are related by common ancestry, and there has been and continues to be change through time, or descent with modification. In 1859, Charles Darwin proposed natural selection as a way to explain how organisms with different characteristics change through many generations
When a religious leader simply denies evolution he is denying the science of most of the biological sciences. History has shown us pretty well that when religion butts head with science the science will win. Usually by religion realizing that it's presuppositions were not based upon reality but upon tradition. Tradition though it may last for quite a while seems to also lose in areas of the world with significant educational systems.

"Discussing the second of the three angels' messages, Wilson stated that Babylon as described in Revelation refers to all those churches that did not heed the warning message first given in 1844, and that teach the theological errors passed down through the church of the Middle Ages. Intense anger and fierce opposition will result from exposing Babylon, Wilson predicted."
 Babylon in the book of Revelation had nothing to say about the churches after 1844. The idea that Babylon had no meaning until church rejected the incorrect end of the world prediction of William Miller is quite a leap in logic and interpretation. You can see why in his sermon he had to rely heavily on Ellen White to make it even seem like he had a case to make.

As Wilson continues to the third angel we see that again it is just to produce Adventist theology into the messages:
"The message of the third angel, Wilson said, is based on the prophecy of the preceding chapter, Revelation 13. The beast, Wilson said, represents the Apostate Church, which will negatively affect Adventists' religious liberty. He was referring to Adventists' ability to worship freely on Saturday, and predicted that, in accordance with Bible prophecy, that ability will be diminished. This will happen because religious entities will take control of governmental powers, and the Apostate Church will have free reign, he said. Wilson referenced several statements in The Great Controversy to bolster his assertions.

"The Mark of the Beast, which is the observance of any day other than the seventh-day Sabbath is an institution that clearly sets forth the authority of the Beast because the Sabbath is God's mark of his authority," Wilson said.

"One church boldly boasts that she has changed the seventh-day Sabbath, instituted at creation, from Saturday to Sunday," Wilson said, making a reference to the Catholic Church."
Does the Roman Catholic Church boldly declare they changed the Sabbath. There are some rare printed statements to that effect but that is not the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. So it can't really be boldly if they don't even do it. See the National Catholic Register:
You sometimes encounter the charge that the Catholic Church wrongly "changed the sabbath" from Saturday to Sunday. This claim is often made by Seventh-Day Adventists, for example. But even if one isn't accusing the Church of wrongdoing, the question can still arise: Why do Catholics worship on Sunday rather than Saturday? Here's the story . . .

 What Day the Sabbath Is
First, let's clear away a potential source of confusion. While it's true that people sometimes speak of Sunday as "the Christian sabbath," this is a loose way of speaking. Strictly speaking, the sabbath is the day it always was--Saturday--though it should be noted that traditionally Jewish people have celebrated the sabbath from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Sunday is a distinct day, which follows the sabbath. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
2175 Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ.
In any case when one looks at the Early Church Fathers it becomes clear that their desire to celebrate the day of Jesus resurrection well predated the actual Roman Catholic church. The whole concept of the Sabbath representing God's authority could also be used for Sunday observance. Since that was the day that Jesus showed His power over death. It is a pity that people like Ted Wilson cannot let everyman be convinced in his own mind, but again the purpose in Ted Wilson's sermon is not to spend time on interpreting and reasoning from scriptures but to assert that Adventist theology is the fulfillment of the three angels messages.
If you want a sermon that puts Adventism into the Bible rather then reading what the Bible is trying to say to you, then this is the kind of sermon you will like.